Abdullah never ordered withdrawal of Myanmar motion in Parliament - Call for the fullest turn-out of ASEAN Parliamentarians for the next AIPMC meeting in Singapore on June 2 to strategise an international phase of the campaign to deny the ASEAN Chair 2006 to Myanmar

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The next meeting of the six-month-old ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) in Singapore on June 2 is an important milestone, as it coincides with the launch of the Singapore parliamentary caucus on Myanmar marking the completion of the setting up of such a caucus in all the five  founding  ASEAN countries.

The AIPMC  was established last November at the Kuala Lumpur Workshop on Democracy in Myanmar, hosted by the Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar which was formed in May last year -   with individual parliamentary caucuses  formed in different ASEAN countries in the following months, viz Indonesia in  February, Thailand in March and   Philippines in April.

There should be  the fullest turn-out of ASEAN Parliamentarians for the June 2 meeting of AIPMC  to strategise a step-up and new phase of the campaign to deny the ASEAN Chair 2006 to the Myanmar military junta without meaningful and acceptable democratization in Burma, such as the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the thousands of political prisoners.

The AIPMC  should not only continue to mobilize parliamentary and civil society support in the ASEAN countries for the cause of democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar but should consider internationalizing its programme of action by working with like-minded people, whether legislators or civil society groups, in East Asia such as China, Japan, South Korea and in South Asia such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, as well as with countries further ashore, such as European Union, Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

The first East Asian Summit, which  will be held and hosted by Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur at the end of the year, should learn the lesson of the Bandung 50th Anniversary Asian-African Summit in Jakarta last month, which was completely overshadowed by the China-Japan crisis arising from the revisionist Japanese history textbooks “white-washing” Japanese war crimes and atrocities.

Proactive actions must be taken to ensure that the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur  will not be overshadowed by the issue of Myanmar taking over the ASEAN Chair in 2006.

All the other ASEAN nations should be fully conscious that ASEAN runs the risk of being regarded as a “rogue organization” if it allows a rogue nation like Myanmar to take over the ASEAN Chair in 2006, with grave and far-reaching implications for ASEAN collectively and the member nations individually.

Last month,  the United Nations Commission on Human Rights named Myanmar as one of the four “rogue” nations for its long list of   blatant violation of human rights.

In the past six months, AIPMC had made considerable headway among ASEAN parliamentarians and civil societies  to gain support for the stand that the Myanmar military junta should be denied the ASEAN Chair 2006 unless there are acceptable and meaningful proress in  democratization and national reconciliation.

The failure to get such a motion debated and adopted by the Malaysian Parliament last week  is a disappointment and a setback, but it is not because the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had directed the withdrawal of the Myanmar motion in the Malaysian Parliament, as reported in some international media.

I should know because I have been personally involved in  working out an arrangement  with the Barisan Backbenchers Club Chairman Datuk Shahrir Samad to enable the Myanmar motion to be debated in Parliament on the last day of its meeting without involving the Malaysian government in any manner.

The Myanmese military junta had put pressure on the Malaysian government by accusing it of violating the ASEAN principle of non-interference in supporting the move of Malaysian parliamentarians to mobilize ASEAN-wide parliamentary support to deny the 2006 ASEAN Chair to Myanmar. This was  because the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz was a founding member of the  Malaysian parliamentary caucus on democracy in Myanmar last May, but this was  in his parliamentary and not Cabinet capacity.

As a result of the complaint and pressure form the Myanmar military junta, Nazri had been directed by the Prime Minister to withdraw  from the Malaysian parliamentary caucus. This was  fully explained by Nazri in Parliament on April 27. 

Until this new development caused by Myanmar complaint and pressure, there was legitimate expectation  that the government would allocate time for the debate on the Myanmar motion in the Malaysian Parliament on the last day of the meeting, such as extending  time beyond the normal 5.30 p.m. adjournment time.

Following the complaint of the Myanmar military junta and the directive by the Prime Minister to him to resign from the caucus, Nazri  explained in Parliament that  the government could not be seen to be giving support to the motion by extending parliamentary time to debate the Myanmar motion, but there is nothing the government could do if MPs completed all government business with still time left to debate the Myanmar motion.

Under the circumstances, Shahrir and I worked out an arrangement, with the support of MPs from both sides of the House and without any  involvement of any Minister or the government,  to make time for debate and passage of the Myanmar motion by ensuring that all outstanding government business could be completed before the normal adjournment time.   

This historic arrangement to create Malaysian parliamentary history so that MPs from both sides of the House, without involvement of the government, could demonstrate powerful Malaysian parliamentary desire  for democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar by giving overwhelming support to the  Myanmar motion was however scuttled when Parliament had to be prematurely, ignominiously and unceremoniously cut short before proper adjournment time because of the RM85 million “leaking” Parliament scandal.

The Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar would have to consider the next course of action in the Malaysian Parliament at the next meeting in June, as part of the ASEAN and even international programme of action over the issue of Myanmar as ASEAN Chair 2006, not only for the sake of the people of Myanmar but the interests of ASEAN collectively and the individual ASEAN member nations.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman