Dis­crim­i­na­tion hardly guar­an­tees a fair elec­tion

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Mark Yang

As cam­paign­ing con­tin­ues for 8 Novem­ber elec­tions, wide-rang­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion con­tin­ues to be a se­ri­ous con­cern as Ro­hingya Mus­lims, Myan­mar Chi­nese and Myan­mar In­di­ans are not al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in the po­lit­i­cal process even though they were al­lowed to vote in the 2010 elec­tion and the 2012 by-elec­tions.

In­dica­tive of such dis­crim­i­na­tion is the case of Ro­hingya MP U Shwe Maung, a sit­ting mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, who was re­jected as a can­di­date in the 8 Novem­ber elec­tions on cit­i­zen­ship grounds. Although he made an ap­peal to the Rakhine State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion on 22 Au­gust, it was re­jected by the com­mis­sion as were the doc­u­ments prov­ing his el­i­gi­bil­ity. His re­mon­stra­tions in re­gards to his cit­i­zen­ship were also ig­nored.

Re­ject­ing U Shwe Maung was quite an ab­surd de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to Charles San­ti­ago, the chair­per­son of ASEAN Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans for Hu­man Rights (APHR). “U Shwe Maung is an elected mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from 2010. Now, they claim that he is not a citizen. His par­ents are not Myan­mar cit­i­zens. If we talk about Rule of Law, one must be con­sis­tent to the Rule of Law. It is clear that 2010 is one law and [there is] another law right now,” he said.

“In deny­ing a group of peo­ple be­cause of their iden­tity, be­cause of their eth­nic­ity, gen­der [say­ing] they can’t par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion process is a fun­da­men­tal vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights,” Mr San­ti­ago con­tin­ued. A num­ber of Mus­lim can­di­dates have also been banned from stand­ing for elec­tion in Rakhine State. The en­tire world is look­ing at Myan­mar now and hop­ing that Myan­mar will be­come the shin­ing ex­am­ple that other coun­tries fol­low. “In deny­ing a group of peo­ple [their can­di­dacy] be­cause of their eth­nic­ity will cause [a] le­git­i­macy cri­sis,” Mr San­ti­ago said.

Pre­vent­ing U Shwe Maung from stand­ing for re-elec­tion ques­tions the in­tegrity of the com­ing elec­tions. Tem­po­rary ID card hold­ers (White Card hold­ers) are pre­vi­ous Union of Myan­mar ID card hold­ers (NRC). White cards were only is­sued in 1994. “White Card hold­ers and their an­ces­tors are all pre­vi­ous NRC hold­ers. Although White Cards hold­ers are not al­lowed to vote, in my con­text, the NRC hold­ers should be able to vote. In UEC’s guide­lines, it’s clearly writ­ten cit­i­zens hold­ing the NRC cards can vote. It’s still of­fi­cially true,” U Shwe Maung claims.

U Shwe Maung sub­mit­ted his ap­pli­ca­tion at the dis­trict level and it was re­jected on 22 Au­gust. He ap­pealed to the Rakhine State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, they re­jected it on 1 Septem­ber. “On Septem­ber 3rd, I sub­mit­ted a let­ter to re­view the de­ci­sion to the Union Elec­tion Com­mis­sion,” U Shwe Maung said. “UEC has power ac­cord­ing to Sec­tion 53 of the elec­toral law. UEC has power to re­verse the de­ci­sion and also to look into the de­ci­sion whether it is fair or not. How UEC will de­cide and when, it’s to­tally up to the UEC.”

Cam­bo­dian Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and APHR board mem­ber Son Ch­hay who trav­elled to Sit­twe

to sup­port U Shwe Maung at the ap­peal hear­ing said: “We urge the UEC Chair­man, who has ex­pressed his com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing the suc­cess of elec­tions, to make the right de­ci­sion. Grant Shwe Maung the free­dom to stand for re-elec­tion, and al­low all can­di­dates their right to run for of­fice.”

Mr San­ti­ago said they would def­i­nitely make a for­mal com­plaint about this process. “In the con­text of ASEAN dec­la­ra­tion, we can do that. We can also make rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the em­bassies in the ASEAN re­gion say­ing that what hap­pened to Shwe Maung and oth­ers is not ac­cept­able,” he said.

“It does not ad­here to the high­est stan­dard that ASEAN wants. By the end of this year, ASEAN will be­come a com­mu­nity that must set the high­est stan­dard, not the low­est stan­dard. Myan­mar with the di­rec­tion it is go­ing in right now, deny­ing peo­ple the right to stand as a can­di­date, even to vote in the case of the Ro­hingya shows that they are not any­where close to meet­ing the re­quire­ments. There­fore, ASEAN has to deal with this is­sue.”

U Shwe Maung, who quit the USDP on 4 Au­gust, stated: “I will wait for the de­ci­sion of the UEC as it holds the high­est au­thor­ity in the com­ing elec­tions. I would need to wait for its de­ci­sion.”

In fact, U Shwe Maung does not view the Rakhine State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion’s ban­ning of him from stand­ing for elec­tions as the main is­sue. What dis­turbs him more is the fact that his par­ents and his late an­ces­tors are not con­sid­ered Myan­mar cit­i­zens. “It is not that big that I could not con­test in elec­tions, but they say my par­ents, grand­par­ents and great grand­par­ents are not Myan­mar cit­i­zens. That is­sue is quite big,” U Shwe Maung said.

He brought all the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments show­ing his an­ces­tor’s Myan­mar cit­i­zen­ship and tried to sub­mit them to the Rakhine State Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, but he was re­fused each time he re­quested them to re­view the doc­u­ments. He re­quested the com­mis­sion to look at the doc­u­ments three times, and it over­turned all his re­quests.

U Shwe Maung is bit­ter. “When they say my par­ents and an­ces­tors are not cit­i­zens, I deeply feel that if my par­ents are not cit­i­zens, there would be no other Mus­lims who are Myan­mar cit­i­zens. One ques­tion abruptly ap­pears in my mind. Do they want to make all Mus­lims in Myan­mar be­come coun­try­less peo­ple?” he said.

Ro­hingya MP U Shwe Maung. Photo: EPA

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