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 Parliament.
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
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
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.
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