By Rammar Kyaw Saw
“We just worked together. We didn’t join the State Administration Council. For example, Daw Aye Nu Sein joined the State Administration Council because of offers from some people close to the Tatmadaw,” U Thar Tun Hla, chairman of the Arakan National Party (ANP), told reporters at a press conference on May 5.
Regardless of the nature of the affiliation, the ANP has a recent history of participating in the activities undertaken by the Tatmadaw’s State Administration Council since the coup. This is an undeniable fact.
If the military junta’s offer to Daw Aye Nu Sein was truly personal, the ANP should have made that clear. Or the ANP should have announced that Daw Aye Nu Sein’s party responsibilities were being temporarily suspended.
However, after the appointment of Daw Aye Nu Sein as a member of the State Administration Council, the ANP also demanded ministerial positions, including the chairmanship of the Arakan State Administration Council. Given this, to what extent is it true that the State Administration Council made a “personal” offer to Daw Aye Nu Sein? Even if Daw Aye Nu Sein was personally offered a seat on the State Administration Council, would she accept it as a top party leader without submitting it to the party for its consent? And why did the ANP initially welcome and support the offer? Another point is that the ANP was fully involved in the posts and statements on social media that were posted by some of the party’s top leaders after Daw Aye Nu Sein joined the State Administration Council.
In fact, it is questionable whether the ANP is blaming Daw Aye Nu Sein alone for her participation in the State Administration Council. So, will the ANP extricate Daw Aye Nu Sein from the State Administration Council? There is as yet no answer on the part of the ANP. Daw Aye Nu Sein, one of the party’s top leaders, will have to resign or be expelled from the party once it ceases to be associated with the State Administration Council. Daw Aye Nu Sein is a member of the military’s State Administration Council and the ANP neither expels nor supports her. This is not the way a political party works; it has to decide something clearly.
Under the ANP’s current organisational structure, the nine-member policy steering committee is the party’s highest body. Why was a member of the policy steering committee allowed to join the military’s State Administration Council?
It is unlikely that the party’s highest authority was unaware of this. If Daw Aye Nu Sein did not petition the ANP’s policy steering committee before joining the State Administration Council, it would have been her fault.
The policy steering committee, which includes veteran politicians who have gone through a difficult period of political turmoil, must also consider whether the decision to join the military’s State Administration Council is a departure from their tenets.
The Right to Criticise
The Arakan National Party is a name that seeks to represent all the ethnic groups in Arakan State, so every Arakanese has the right to criticise. Whether you are a member of the party or not, you have the right to criticise the ANP.
I do not like the fact that Daw Aye Nu Sein is on the military’s State Administration Council, even if for the benefit of the Arakanese people. From the era of parliamentary democracy when U Nu served as prime minister until today, no ethnic group, including the Arakanese people, has fully enjoyed equal human rights and democracy. Even under a democratically elected government, human rights have been violated and equal rights have not been achieved, so looking for human rights and democracy from this coup regime is like looking for an oasis in the desert.
The strength of the Arakan National Party to this day can be attributed to the student and youth forces that have entered the political revolution since 1988. Most of the party members, who are now in middle age, are from that revolutionary political arena.
There are many people in the ANP who have witnessed how successive junta regimes have been, and have rebelled in various ways. They did not engage in party politics during the junta’s rule, but fought in various ways, and in the open era, they worked hard for nationalism. We need to be strong in politics and adhere to party policies.
The ANP’s top leaders have ignored the criticism that the merger with the military would be counterproductive and would only tarnish the party’s image. Due to these factors, the student youth movement has become involved and some members of the party have resigned. If the party wants to revive public support, it will have to give more space to middle-aged and young people who are more ideologically active and have a consistent attitude and stance.
The Importance of Youth
One of the most important tasks of a political party is to nurture young people. We must create a future political generation. The ANP is the strongest youth party in Arakanese politics. There was a lot of campaigning throughout the election. However, there is not much involvement in party criticism today. I think the voices of young people are silent.
In any case, I think the new generation of young people who will play a leading role in Arakanese politics in the future should also express their views. If there is anything to criticise within the party, it should be openly pointed out to the public. Only then will the position of future leaders change. It will be up to the public to decide whether they can be trusted.
The people welcome and support the termination of ties with the military council. However, the party has been stigmatised over the past three months as a result of the military council’s crackdown on protesters, the dismissal of Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) staff, and human rights abuses.
Because people are fallible, the party may make wrong decisions. So how do we rebuild the party? To be sure, top party leaders have not yet admitted that it was wrong to allow Daw Aye Nu Sein to be a member of the State Administration Council. Daw Aye Nu Sein said that she had been tied to the military council because she wanted to promote the interests of Arakan State. The demand for cabinet posts in Arakan, Yangon and Ayeyawady governments, including the chairmanship of the Arakan State Administration Council, raises questions about the interests of the Arakanese nationalist party.