Political parties rail against Rakhine State commission
FURTHER buttressing complaints about the Rakhine State Advisory Commission, 11 political parties put out a joint statement calling for the disbanding of the “illegitimate” new body.
On September 16, the political parties – including the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the Arakan National Party – met in Yangon to discuss objections to the newly formed commission.
Eleven of the 13 parties present at the meeting agreed to support the Rakhine State parliament’s vote to reject the committee, a symbolic decision made last week.
The commission was formed by the state counsellor last month as an impartial body with a mandate to propose concrete measures for improving the welfare of all people in Rakhine State. The crux of opposition to the nine-member commission, amplified by nationalist protests, has hinged on its inclusion of three foreigners, including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
U Khin Yi, a spokesperson for the USDP, said the political parties had resolved to urge the government to respond to mounting concerns over the advisory commission. He added that they also staunchly oppose self-identifying Muslim Rohingya being given their own state, an idea which has not been proposed by the government, the commission or members of the Rohingya community.
“We are concerned the commission will agree to give them their own state in the country,” he said.
Two of the parties present at the meeting – the Democratic Party (Myanmar) and the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) – declined to sign the joint statement.
But the New National Democratic Party, the National Unity Party, the National Democratic Force, the National Democratic Party for Development, the Wa Democratic Party, the Kayin State Democracy and Development Party, the Wunthanu National League for Democracy, the Modern People’s Party, the People’s Democracy Party, and the Democratic Party for a New Society joined the USDP and the ANP in supporting the statement.
Commission member U Aye Lwin told The Myanmar Times yesterday that the commission convened on September 17 to formulate a response to the joint statement.
“We want them to know we will be working together with people from all communities. Our commission will only be offering advice to the government,” he said.
The commission has been tasked with recommending solutions to the protracted inter-communal divide between Buddhists and Muslims since violence between members of the two religions wracked the state in 2012, leaving more than 100,000 Rohingya displaced. Members of the commission, which has established a base of operations in Sittwe, have already pledged to keep in mind a development-centred approach and will be submitting recommendations to the government in the second half of 2017.
Responding to the political parties’ statement while on a visit to the United States, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she found it “very upsetting” that political organisations would try to interfere with the commission.
“The commission is trying its best to benefit the people, but there are some who do not want it to be successful in its aims,” she said at a September 17 meeting with Myanmar citizens at the Myanmar consulate in New York.
She added that those opposing the commission stand in the way of attempts at national reconciliation.
Members of the advisory commission toured Sittwe at the beginning of September and were greeted at the airport by protesters. Mr Annan, who heads the commission, welcomed a dialogue with the objectors and pledged that his team would not be looking to conduct a “human rights investigation” in the state.