Saturday, March 03, 2012

Can Malaysia’s leaders emulate the Myanmar political reform?

by Koon Yew Yin

One of the leading papers in the region, The Nation recently conducted an interview with Burmese President Thein Sein’s chief political adviser, Ko Ko Hlaing. In that exclusive interview, Ko Ko Hlaing told the Bangkok paper that Myanmar’s political reform is “irreversible” because of the president’s strong will.
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He stressed that the specific constitutional provision towards democracy, the Burmese people’s taste of new found freedom, and the need for the country to follow the international trend ensured that the reforms would have to proceed.
In the interview, he also gave an insider’s glimpse into the thinking and philosophy of the former strongman who ran of Myanmar for close to 20 years. According to him, senior General Than Shwe, following his resignation as head of state in 2011, was not running the country from behind the scenes as commonly alleged and would not be making a comeback.

“As a Buddhist, you can understand the mentality of an elderly Buddhist. You should understand also the mind of an old soldier – which is always the desire to accomplish his mission. After the mission is accomplished, he can take a rest. 

“[Than Shwe] had undertaken the responsibilities of the state for a long time, and there were many hardships, pressures and difficulties… He also laid down the conditions of democratic reform – the seven-step roadmap. He is now enjoying his retirement with his grand children.”

What was also striking to me was the way that Ko Ko Hlaing responded to the question of whether the military strongman was afraid to be taken to trial by a civilian government.
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Ko Ko Hlaing said: “This is a Buddhist country. Forgiveness is our principle. Also, Aung San Suu Kyi and the other opposition leaders, young and old have talked about forgiving, and forgetting the past and trying to do the best for the nation.”  

It may be necessary for me to explain why I am focusing on the subject of Myanmar’s political reform road map.  In a few weeks on April 1, my own road map for Malaysia contained in my book ‘Malaysia: Road Map for Achieving Vision 2020’ will be launched in Ipoh. The book details can be viewed at the publisher’s website shortly.

At the time that I wrote my book I did not refer to it as the Burmese reform process was still evolving. I also did not understand the situation in Myanmar as I was an outsider with little contact with its system of government.
During the last few months, that situation has changed dramatically for me. 

Arising from several visits to the country and my involvement in a development-cum-philanthropic undertaking I am pursuing there, I have been in personal contact with some of Myanmar’s top leaders and have been impressed by the remarkable progress of their political reform process as compared with Malaysia’s.

Now that I also have the benefit of this remarkable interview to draw upon in addition to my own personal experience in interacting with Myanmar’s leaders, I would encourage all Malaysians – especially our political leaders, including Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister Najib Razak and the opposition leaders to read carefully the interview and distil from it the lessons that are necessary for our own political reform process to have any chance of success.
To sum up, some of the lessons from Myanmar for us to follow are:
·         Reform must come from both a top down as well as a bottom up process.
·         Old leaders should give up trying to retain power or maintain influence after leaving office.
·         The ruling party must abide by and not undermine the constitutional provisions to a democracy
·         Media freedom and the end to censorship need to be placed in the forefront of the political reform agenda.
·         Lastly and most importantly, the nation’s interests should come ahead of individual or group interest.
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In the Buddhist philosophy, the feeling of a separate ‘I’ which we call ego consciousness is directly related to the strength of ignorance, greed, and hatred.

The deepest meaning of ignorance is the believing in, identifying with and clinging to the ego, which is nothing but an illusionary mental phenomenon. But because of this strong clinging to ego-consciousness, attachment/desire, anger/hatred arise and repeatedly gain strength. 

This ego and self-interest manifested in the material greed and weakness of leaders needs to be conquered if our country is to survive well. 


Suara Ampang Puteri said...

Thé myanmar government is now systematically persecuting thé muslims. Malaysia dont need reform. We only dont need chauvist party Like DAP

Mohammed said...

As long as politicians see their profession as a gold mine and the people put up with it there is not hope for this country. Recently Harison Holdings was in the news for not paying many tens of millions in dues to the Customs & Excise Dept. And the stock tanked in reaction to the news. Guess who is the politician behind this company?

Malaysians have themselves to blame if they keep electing such people. If and when Malaysians unite to throw out every politiican on either side of the divide with even a whiff of a scandal or scam, that will be the pinnacle of reforms.

Let the message ring loud and clear to the current and future Nazris and Shahrizats of this country.

jeremy tan said...

Dear Suara Ampang Puteri,

I don't see how DAP is a chauvanist party at all.

In Penang, more than 50% of the contracts awarded are to Bumi contractors. We have never sidelined our Malay counterparts, everything here in Penang is based on merits. If you can build the same thing with the same quality at a more competitive price the contract will be given to you.

DAP does not support the HUDUD law but that does not mean we do not respect it.

If the muslims chooses to implement it, we are okay with it provided they manage to get enough votes and support to push through these reforms. As long it doesn't affect other races and other religions we are fine with the laws as well.

Whether Malaysia needs reform or not is not based on an individual's remark or self interest. It is based on the voices of the majority. If we think change is imminent we will vote for it.

I personally visited Myanmar as well recently, I am impressed with the country and the potential it has to offer. They are slowly opening up the doors to foreigners. The country is full of natural resources and it is an agricultural haven.

Live Long MU Fan said...

Dear Suara Ampang Puteri,
Please do NOT just listen to fear-mongers like UMNO and Utusan Malaysia. Go visit Lim Kit Siang's blog, attend their ceramah, read on DAP's reign in Penang. In other words, get an alternative view then judge for yourself!

LGE dared to speak up for the rights of a Malay girl and was imprisoned for that. How many of us dared to do that?