Address to the Committee for Democracy in Burma Dinner
9th Anniversary of multiparty general elections in Burma
by Amanda Zappia, NCGUB, FTUB, ABC
29th May 1999
The Hon. Justice Marcus Einfeld A. O., Senator Tierney, Reverend Bill Crews, Mr Desmond Than Naing, Honored. Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please accept my sincere apologies for not being with you tonight. It was a great honor to be invited to attend this important annual event and to be included with guest speakers all of whom are held in such high esteem. My congratulations and appreciation go to all members of CDB for their ongoing commitment to the people of Burma and the restoration of human rights and democracy in the country.
I will side track for a moment and say that when I heard The Hon. Marcus Einfeld was speaking I thought perhaps God was smiling down on me by rendering me unfit to travel. A breathtakingly brilliant speech by the Hon. Justice Marcus Einfeld is an event that no body in their right mind would want to follow. Thank you Marcus for your continuing commitment to our cause and a belated congratulation on being awarded the AO by the Australian Government. This, I would say, is an honor well earned and long overdue.
You are all gathered here to celebrate the landslide victory of the NLD at the 1990 general elections in Burma. By winning 82% of the seats the NLD proved that in all corners of Burma, in every village and township, in army constituencies and in many non-Burman ethnic areas, people considered the NLD to be the most appropriate political party to represent them in government. The NLD has been denied the right to do so and after many years of frustration they have formed a committee to represent the parliament until such time as the military allow a full parliament to be convened. Known as CRPP, Committee Representing the Peoples Parliament, the Committee has received full recognition from the governments of Canada, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and the EU. Perhaps most significant is the recognition given to CRPP by the International Parliamentary Union (IPU). The IPU is a body representing the majority of parliaments in the world and, therefore, has a great deal of international authority. Alas, many governments of the world have failed to officially recognise the Committee, among them, Australia.
While the Australian community must know that our Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has worked tirelessly for Burma and he has embarked on endless diplomatic missions in a bid to see political and human rights reforms in Burma, he has not yet recognised CRPP. Senator Tierney, we are honoured indeed to have you here tonight representing Minister Downer and we thank you for your support and interest in Burma. Would you please take this message to the Minister. "Minister, we are most grateful for your efforts and support to the people of Burma, however, we put to you, that if governments such as Australia do not give direct political support to the NLD, then the massive task which is theirs, will be so much more difficult". "Please, heed the calls of the NLD".
Reading daily reports of murder, rape, torture and repressive brutality initiated by the military of Burma I ask myself, "Why in God's name, does the world not respond adequately and why are most countries in the world not responding to the humanitarian tragedy that is Burma today"?
I watched an interview the other night with a man who had been in Kosovo working for Care Australia and had returned home to Canberra. Like the world over the man was devastated and emotional about what he had witnessed. When asked why the humanitarian crisis had impacted so dramatically on experienced aid workers the man responded, "Perhaps it is because they look like your grandmother or the lady down the street". I was shocked and bemused.
Meaning no harm, just being honest, this white Australian man alludes to what may well be a horrifying reality. The illusion that the people of Asia do not demand or desire the same human rights standards as those of the West. This is absolute rubbish and should be denounced at every possible opportunity. I am telling you nothing when I say that there is no such thing as Asian human rights and there is no such thing as Asian democracy.
Every child, man and woman on this earth, regardless of race, colour, creed or geographic location has the fundamental right of self respect, international protection from butchers, adequate health care, education and the right to life. They should have the right to choose their own government and in doing so, their own destiny. It is up to countries like Australia to take every possible action until this is the reality, not just for Burma, but for all the world's people.
There is no point in condemning governments of the world for their failure to act. There is no point in shifting the blame onto others for it is the responsibility of all of us who care about Burma and dedicate our lives to the cause to convince our governments to act. In a democratic society we have the right to lobby and we have the right to be heard. If we are not being heard then it is our responsibility to change that. It is up to all of us to create a situation in Australia where the government is convinced that our chosen options for Australian Government policy are indeed, what the majority of Australians would see as appropriate.
On behalf of the Australia Burma Council, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Federation of Trades Unions, Burma , I thank CDB for organising this wonderful dinner and give total commitment that we will not rest until the people of Burma live in peace and with full democratic rights.
Working on behalf of the:
National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
Federation of Trade Unions, Burma (FTUB)
Australia Burma Council (ABC)
PO Box 2024, Queanbeyan, NSW 2620
Tel: (612) 6297 7734 Fax: (612) 6297 7773