is the 20th anniversary of the last general election held in Burma in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory. It seemed like the dawn of a new era in a country ruled by a brutal military junta since 1962, but the generals did not allow the NLD to form a government. Since then the party’s iconic leader, Nobel Peace Laureate , Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent 15 of those 20 years under house arrest.
Again the generals are to hold elections towards the end of this year, not because they have had a Pauline conversion to the ideals of democracy, but in an attempt to give a veneer of legitimacy to their totalitarian regime. Recently promulgated election laws, together with the flawed constitution of 2008, are designed to cement the junta’s grip on power. These Machiavellian machinations bar Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners from taking any part in the election, guarantee 25 per cent of parliamentary seats to the military and give them control over key ministries. In addition, the commander-in-chief is given power to take over government during a state of emergency and veto power over future constitutional amendments.
A significant clause gives blanket immunity to the military for all past human rights violations. To compound the travesty further, the electoral commission members are handpicked by the generals and media are subject to strict censorship laws in relation to election comment or reportage.
Such undemocratic provisions left no option to the NLD but to refuse to register for this patently unjust election, for to do so would have required them to expel Aung San Suu Kyi and many hundreds of their jailed leaders and activists and give credibility to an utterly flawed election.
The proposed elections, if they go ahead as planned, will be but a mockery of democratic values and must be seen for the sham that they clearly are. For any democratic government or international agency to recognise them, or support them in any way, would give comfort and reassurance to a discredited and ruthless regime and demoralise those activists working within Burma for a return to democratic rule. Instead, they should be calling for an official United Nations Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Burmese military dictatorship as recently recommended by UN special rapporteur on Burma, Tomas Quintana.
We urge our own Government to support Mr Quintana’s call for a long overdue investigation. It is time that the uniformed thugs who have so cruelly misruled their people for 48 years were brought to heel. – Yours, etc,