12 May 2011
For Immediate Release
BURMA’S 100 DAYS
OF PARLIAMENT: MORE ‘NAYS’ THAN ‘YEAS’
Canberra, Thursday: Australia’s
Foreign Minister, MPs, senior government officials, and foreign
diplomats were today warned that Burma’s political, economic,
and humanitarian crises persisted despite the convening of the
Parliament. A video message from Burmese pro-democracy leader
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and statements from a leading ASEAN legislator,
an economist, and a female activist drove the message home at
a conference to mark 100 days since the convening of Burma’s
The event was held at the Australian
National Parliament and hosted by the Australian Parliamentarians
for Democracy in Burma, a cross-party group of Australian MPs.
The group is co-convened by MP Laurie Ferguson, Senator Scott
Ludlam, Senator Marise Payne, and MP Janelle Saffin.
In a video message to the conference,
Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi highlighted
the urgent need for the release of political prisoners. She
said that the release of political prisoners was an essential
benchmark to measure the regime’s progress toward democracy.
“If political prisoners are not released, then I think
we can say that we shall need many, many more hundreds of days
before we will see the light of democracy,” Daw Suu said.
[Burma has more than 2,000 political prisoners including several
imprisoned after the November 2010 elections].
Indonesian MP and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary
Myanmar Caucus President Mrs Eva Kusuma Sundari said that under
current conditions, there was little hope that significant change
in Burma would come through parliamentary channels. “Instead,
as we experience in Indonesia, change is more likely to occur
because people will be fed up with misrule and mismanagement.”
Mrs Sundari warned that Burma’s 2008 constitution that
was modeled on Indonesia’s discarded dwifungsi model was
designed to secure the military’s control of national
politics. “It took the Indonesian democracy movement almost
30 years to convince the military to withdraw from politics.
Let us do better now and not condemn Burma to yet another generation
of military rule,” she urged.
Sean Turnell, Associate Professor
of Economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, said that there
had been no change in Burma’s economic situation despite
the elections and the convening of the Parliament. He pointed
out that the regime published the national budget for the next
two financial years before the Parliament convened. Such a move
deprived the Parliament of its prerogative to debate the budget.
As a result, the current year’s budget, which allocates
51% to military expenditure and only 3% to healthcare, was not
subjected to parliamentary scrutiny.
“Surprisingly, the regime
failed to send a signal to the world that ‘we are open
for business’ by promoting reforms designed to give a
semblance of normalcy and make foreign investment more attractive,”
said Mr Turnell. He pointed out that Burma’s chronic economic
woes would continue because of the regime’s irresponsible
approach to the management of the economy.
Ms. K’Nyaw Paw, a female
activist from Burma’s Karen State, reminded the conference
that despite the elections and the convening of the Parliament,
Burma’s military regime continued to commit widespread
and systematic abuses against the civilian population. “The
regime has forced over 1,200 villagers in Eastern Burma to work
as porters for the military,” she said, “Rape as
a weapon of war continues with impunity in ethnic areas.”
She urged Australia to increase its overall aid to Burma, and
to channel it to vulnerable populations in Eastern Burma’s
conflict zones by financing cross-border relief programs.
Enquiries: Zetty Brake - Tel:
+ 6141 628 9235