The NLD’s Internal Debate
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The NLD’s Internal Debate

By WAI MOE Friday, October 16, 2009


Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has adopted what it calls a “survival policy” for years. But, ahead of the 2010 election, the issue of whether the party continues to apply that policy is being brought into question within the party’s ranks.

Following Suu Kyi’s incarceration in 1989, some NLD leaders, mainly ex-military officers, introduced a party line known as the “survival policy,” which would ensure that despite arrests and the threat of disbanding by the military authorities, the NLD party would maintain its position within Burmese society.

Members of the National League for Democracy listen to speeches during a ceremony in February to mark the 62nd Anniversary of Union Day at the NLD headquarters in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

Others, most notably Suu Kyi loyalists, known as the “intellectual group,” introduced what they called the “principle policy,” which encouraged members to remain active within the democracy movement even if the NLD is abolished by the military regime. 

NLD sources recently told The Irrawaddy that more and more ideological debates and peripheral discussions concerning participation in the upcoming election have been occurring regularly among NLD members.

Last week, NLD members from Pegu and Mandalay divisions sent a joint letter calling for the NLD to hold a national conference to debate the issues surrounding the NLD’s role in next year’s election.

“We have called for a national conference because this is an important time in our country’s history,” said Myint Myint Aye, an NLD organizer from Meiktila Township in Mandalay Division. “But so far, headquarters has not responded or made any comment about a meeting.” 

Khin Maung Swe, a member of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee, said the involvement of more townships was required before a national conference could be tabled.”

He told The Irrawaddy that the NLD would call a conference involving representatives from across the country when the electoral laws are announced and political parties are free to form and associate.

Khin Maung Swe was one of the NLD’s executive members who met with a 20-strong delegation from the EU on Wednesday. At the meeting, European diplomats asked the NLD representatives to clarify the party’s stance on various issues surrounding the 2010 election, the lifting of economic sanctions on Burma, and a review of the 2008 Constitution.

Though Khin Maung Swe toned down suggestions of a party convention, veteran NLD leader Win Tin said the convening of a party convention is important. 

Senior NLD members said that despite ongoing debates on various election issues among its members, the party’s official line was still the three conditions for participation in the election that the party announced in April in its Shwegondaing Declaration.

The three conditions are: the unconditional release of all political prisoners; the amendment of any provisions in the 2008 Constitution “not in accord with democratic principles”; and an all-inclusive free and fair poll under international supervision. 

However, some NLD members have said that they want to take part in the election whether through the NLD, a splinter group or even independently, even though they recognize the 2008 Constitution is undemocratic.

“Yes, there are debates over elections,” said Ohn Kyaing, a senior party member. “But since democracy values debates and different opinions, we must accept that some members want to take part in the election while others do not.

“However, for the present moment, the party policy is aligned with the Shwegondaing Declaration,” he said. 

He added that the NLD would be able to decide clearly on the upcoming election and the future of the party after Naypyidaw announces the electoral law. 

Although she has spent most of the last 20 years in detention, the NLD’s general secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi, is still the most influential person in the party, and no one doubts her opinions will be vital in deciding how the party approaches the election and how it sees its future.

The NLD leadership recently requested permission from the junta to arrange a meeting between Suu Kyi and the other party leaders to discuss the party’s policies, including those regarding the election. The junta has reportedly not responded to date.

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Nathaniel, Rangoon Wrote:
The NLD internal debate is the right formula, the NLD should take into account this matter seriously. NLD members should stay united and let no one come in between and try to asunder the NLD party and the members themselves should stay united. Remember "United we Stand Divided we Fall." The junta is watching like a tiger to see that the NLD is disbanded so that they can have an upper hand.

Now is the time for everyone to be together, no matter how many parties are formed, the junta wants the votes to be split, the people are for the NLD. The NLD should contest the election and I am dead sure that it will again be a landslide victory for the NLD.

The people of Burma really wants a change in the government. No matter who comes, they want to see a change, not military personnel.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
The NLD should adhere to "principle policy" until a democratic ruling body is in place in Burma.
Unconditional release of all political prisoners, the amendment of any provisions in the 2008 Constitution “not in accord with democratic principles" and an all-inclusive free and fair poll under international supervision should be the NLD line and policy of course.
Likewise, Than Shwe has also publicly stated no scrutiny, much less revision of the military-drawn constitution and he is going ahead with his farcical 2010 elections.
Hence the NLD's stand and future is in a quandary, no doubt.
In lieu of US stand on engaging with Than Shwe's regime based on NLD's policy largely, US-SPDC dating spell would soon be over as well.
Hence at this juncture NLD should be taking steps to hold the fort only instead of calling for national convention to discuss participating in Than Shwe's farce.
Trust me Daw Suu and NLD will be history and out of political picture if Than Shwe gets away with his 2010 elections.

DASSK Supporter Wrote:
The NLD has not proven itself to the people of Burma. It cannot stay relevant into the election year if it is just a knee-jerk opposition group instead of presenting a positive platform.

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