Monday 23 September 2013

Suu Kyi: Leaders must value, respect people to win support

Nobel laureate urges Myanmar people to embrace change, be a part of democratic process
By Woo Sian Boon, TODAY, 23 Sep 2013

Leaders should value and respect their people and fulfil their needs, but it is not only those in governance who need to embrace change — “those who are governed (should) change as well”, said Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

The democracy icon and opposition politician said that as Myanmar begins to gain its footing in reconstructing itself and seek the “right kind of leadership”, a mindset change is needed, in a country where the people have been used to being governed under a military dictatorship for over two decades.

“I do not believe that achieving democracy is the responsibility of a particular party or a particular leader or a few leaders. I don’t think this is democracy. If we want democracy, we have to be determined that we are going to be part of the process,” said Ms Suu Kyi, who delivered a lecture on leadership at the Singapore Management University yesterday, on her first bilateral visit to an ASEAN country.

Addressing an audience of 600 that included Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, Senior Minister of State (Transport and Finance) Josephine Teo, business leaders, academics and students, Ms Suu Kyi said: “What we want now is not a military dictatorship, but a democratic mindset that values the people, that understands that whatever we achieve, we have to achieve with the willing support of the people.”

One way of winning the people’s support is by treating them with respect and “as equals”. Giving an example of a road-widening project in her constituency which required some farmers to give up some of their land, Ms Suu Kyi said it was not her offer of compensation that won their support. “They like the fact that they were consulted and we were not going to ride roughshod over them and take their land away as had been done over the course of the past few decades,” she said.

Asked during the Q&A session whether a leopard “can change its spots” — in reference to the military junta that governs Myanmar — Ms Suu Kyi quipped that “leopards are rather beautiful creatures in their own way” and in many countries, the military is admired by the people. The aim, she said, is to change the constitution, which currently provides the military with a privileged place in the government. “That’s the first step towards assuring that the leopard will find its real rightful, beautiful backdrop.”

On the issue of fear in the country and the violent unrest between the Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar, Ms Suu Kyi said it is the responsibility of the government — through proper laws and enforcement — to “diminish” the “physical fears” people have.

She said: “If you are in fear of your life ... people won’t sit down and talk to one another and sort out their problems. Security has to be provided by the government, and then you’ve got to make sure people understand that in a democratic society, people talk over their differences, you don’t fight over them.”

Noting that national reconciliation is the “centre” of the National League for Democracy’s aspirations, Ms Suu Kyi admitted that reconciliation between the military regime and “those who wanted democracy” has not happened in Myanmar. “In the end, the best way for leaders with differing views to work for the country is to sit down and talk,” she said.

Asked how the political elite in governance can bridge the gap between them and the common people, Ms Suu Kyi said leadership “is not about being popular all the time”.

“You can’t expect everyone to agree with you, that is simply not possible ... if you believe that what you are doing is good for the country, then you must be prepared to lose the next elections,” she said.

Suu Kyi urges those overseas to contribute knowledge back home
By Woo Sian Boon, TODAY, 23 Sep 2013

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday urged Myanmar nationals living overseas not to wait for “favourable opportunities” before returning to their homeland, and instead create the opportunities themselves.

Addressing more than 5,800 Myanmar nationals living in Singapore at the Resorts World Convention Centre, Ms Suu Kyi, Chairperson of Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy, acknowledged the need to offer a sense of security for those living in Myanmar, but said this is something she cannot do alone.

Speaking in Burmese, Ms Suu Kyi shared that she had a short discussion with some Myanmar students, and they had told her they valued the choices and career paths available to them overseas. She appealed to the overseas Myanmar community to use what they have learnt overseas to contribute back home.

When asked how she would tackle corruption if she becomes Myanmar’s President, Ms Suu Kyi said it would take laws and proper enforcement.

She pointed out that citizens can do their part, giving the example of how it is common for people to attempt to skip long customs lines when entering Myanmar by bribing officials. This should not be perpetuated, she said.

Although weighty topics were discussed, the atmosphere in the ballroom was celebratory, with the audience often laughing or applauding during her speech. Some began queuing as early as 5am to snag good seats at the ticketed event, and many were dressed in their national costume of longyis.

Speaking to reporters after the event, of Myanmar Club Committee Member Myat Maw Tun said organising Ms Suu Kyi’s visit has strengthened the community’s unity.

He said: “In Singapore, we have several small Myanmar groups ... some have different views and objectives. I think we never ever worked together on such a large scale … we found unity, under her name.”

Constitutional changes key to improving Myanmar's economy: Aung San Suu Kyi
By May Wong, Channel NewsAsia, 21 Sep 2013

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Myanmar's government is committed to improving the country's economy.

However, she emphasized that a key part of that will be changes to the constitution and improving the rule of law to boost inclusiveness and unity in the country.

Suu Kyi was speaking on Saturday at the Singapore Summit conference held in Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel.

She noted that only by establishing unity among its citizens, can Myanmar achieve genuine success for reforms.

Suu Kyi was speaking to some 350 invited conference participants, comprising government officials and business leaders.

Myanmar has been experiencing huge investment inflow into the country since it started opening its doors about two years ago.

The government is committed to improving the country's economy as part of its reform.

However, Suu Kyi emphasized that genuine reform will depend on how much inclusiveness and unity Myanmar can achieve.

The key to that is changing the constitution and improving the rule of law.

She said: "A lot of our problems in recent months have arisen from the fact that we have been lacking in transparency. Business deals that have turned sour, the demands of the people for their wrongs to be put right so transparency is very important.

“But transparency is linked to confidence. We need a leadership that has enough confidence in themselves to be transparent and enough honesty to accept criticisms and to meet it in the best way possible which is to say by redressing what needs to be redressed but by standing up for what they believe is worth preserving or worth pursuing."

Indonesia's former vice-president, Yusuf Kalla also weighed in on how Myanmar can work towards resolving the conflicts among its different communities.

"It is how to make compromise. We should compromise to make prosperity for each other. What we can do in any country or Myanmar is to improve in the equality of life between the others," he said.

As many are also keen on investing in Myanmar, Suu Kyi called on businesses to insist on transparency in order to help the country develop.

However, she sounded a word of caution.

"This is what the international community can do for us. To be honest in their assessment of the situation and not to let their hopes colour what they really see. You must not see what you want to see. You must see what there is to see. It is not by painting an over optimistic picture of our country that you can help us. It's only by being realistic about what we need to do that you'll be able to help us."

Some have questioned whether such views may deter investors from entering the market but Suu Kyi is cognizant that Myanmar needs foreign funds.

Singapore Summit’s chairman George Yeo said: “She did say that businesses have got to make profits and if you don't make profits, you shouldn't be in business. But please aspire to higher goals and not just be concerned with making money."

Suu Kyi certainly did not mince her words when she said that Myanmar is a nation that's still divided.

What she said is crucial is that the people in her country must come together to discuss and resolve the differences for the sake of living together in a society which has to be at peace with itself.

Resolving deep-seated issues in Myanmar will be a challenge, but substantial reforms must be seen by next year before the country's elections in 2015.

Crowd gathers to catch a glimpse of Suu Kyi
By Jeremy Au Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Sep 2013

A CROWD of Myanmar nationals waited for hours in the searing heat outside Changi Airport yesterday afternoon, all to catch a glimpse of their country's charismatic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Many were carrying signs and wearing T-shirts bearing the Nobel Peace laureate's photograph. Ms Suu Kyi touched down in Singapore shortly after 1pm to begin her five-day visit here.

This is her first visit to Singapore and the reception so far is an indication of the level of interest in the Myanmar democracy icon.

Later in the afternoon, Ms Suu Kyi, who heads the committee on rule of law, peace and tranquillity of Myanmar's Lower House of Parliament, called on Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Grace Fu.

A Foreign Ministry statement said Ms Fu reaffirmed the longstanding friendship between the two sides, and conveyed Singapore's continued commitment to support Myanmar's economic and social development.

Ms Suu Kyi spoke about her work as an MP and the challenges faced by the Myanmar people in this critical period of transition.

She was also briefed by the Economic Development Board on its role in creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign investments.

Ms Fu wrote on Facebook that the two had a good discussion and Ms Suu Kyi "spoke with conviction about her hopes for the country and the people".

Myanmar's development was also on the agenda earlier this week when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was interviewed by regional journalists at the Istana.

To a question on how Myanmar can solve its economic and corruption problems, Mr Lee said that the country would need to take things one step at a time.

"You have to build up your capabilities, educate your people. Build up your civil service, build up your administration to be able to implement the laws and the policies which will enable the country to grow. It is not something you can do overnight. But I believe it is something which your leaders are very focused on and want to happen," he said.

He added, however, that he did not want to try to tell Myanmar what to do: "I think one of the problems which Myanmar has had is that many outsiders tell you what to do without knowing what is happening inside the country, without really understanding the complexities of the country. And I do not think I should add to your problems by doing that."

He said that Singapore is interested in investing in Myanmar although where those investments go would depend on where Myanmar develops its economy and what sort of investments it will be encouraging.

Asked about what would happen if Ms Suu Kyi became the leader of Myanmar, PM Lee said Singapore would work with whichever is the legitimate government of a country. He added that, if elected, she would be a "capable leader of her country".


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