RINGING IN 2014
“Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see—-”
But the year 2014 is just around the corner and its preceding year has foretold what may follow the next year.
I shall not waste readers’ precious time by trying to summarize the events of 2013, instead, I may quote the events only where necessary.
Everybody knows that 2014 is the last year to make changes, either partial or total, to the 2008 constitution if you want to see a sensible election in 2015. The committee for the amendment of all undemocratic provisions from the constitution has been told to submit its report before the 31st January, 2014 and political parties must submit theirs before the end of this month. According to the December 8 newspapers, the parliamentary constitution review committee has already received 440 suggestions of the sort and that number does not include those of the NLD, USDP and the 88 Generation group who have not submitted their proposals yet.
The one time opposition in Burma has become disunited over this question and to the delight of the generals, we have started to hear bickering among the non-ruling parties on this matter. On the other hand, various leaders of the regime have now and again expressed quite frankly that they would not tolerate any attempt to rewrite their constitution. Some leaders of the USDP (the ruling party made up of former and serving military personnel) even warned that a coup might follow if people tried to repeal what is said to be one of the world’s most rigid and most difficult constitutions to amend. In any case, by the beginning of next year, the quasi-civilian government will reveal which articles from the constitution are up for debate and which ones remain untouchable. How will the parties and the masses respond if the provisions considered amenable to amendment do not satisfy their appetite for more? When the time comes to face this question, political parties will have to show their true colours and that may help the longyi wearing generals to pick out whom to add to their blacklist.
Definitely, rivalries among the political parties will be brought to light during this year. One unique feature of current Burmese politics is that every party has to try to be orderly and lawful so as to avoid the disapproving scowl of the generals. But, preparing and campaigning for elections is a time for fighting with the gloves off. So, new alignments and break-ups can be considered not impossible. Up till now, the two most powerful parties, the USDP and the NLD have not put all their cards on the table yet, perhaps waiting for a last minute surprise, but they have already expressed their differences over the question of handling the constitution problem.
The one time opposition is now divided over the question of the constitution, and organizations and individuals such as the NED, OSI, NGO’s and domestic cronies are becoming more and more active behind the scenes. The sad thing is that we have had to witness many of the political parties and politicians accepting “donations” from foreign institutions and cronies without so much as a blush or batting an eyelid.
Federalism and internal peace are also hard nuts for the generals to crack, and the issue will no doubt become hotter in the coming year. If conditions get out of their control, the Thein Sein-Shwe Mann-Min Aung Hlaing trio may have to take some harsh measures and this will take the lid off Pandora’s Box. The trio may stick to their policy of agreeing to minor issues and offering sweeteners for the armed ethnic groups. However, this ploy also has its limits and relations may turn tense or sour when they come to the end of the tether. In fact, there are many issues between them where they are unable to see eye-to-eye, and nobody is prepared to give in. At the same time, the fragile unity among the ethnic forces will be put to the test.
The army-backed confiscations of farmlands and other similar activities by cronies will by no means abate, and protests and demonstrations of people at the grass roots level like Letpadaung and most lately, Mijaung Kan, may intensify. Peace marches, and environmental issues are also headaches for the generals.
Possibly, the successors of the former M.I.S. suppose they have a box of tricks to deal with situations like those. Igniting religious or race riots for one has proved quite effective for them in diverting the attention of the people from the vortex of national politics. Hatred, engendered by such riots, can prevent the people venting their anger against the generals and their cronies. Fabricating rumours of various kinds is another handy ploy for them.
If those tricks still proved unsuccessful, they might produce their last trump card. That is the proportional representation system, more widely known as PR, the idea of which they introduced to the public about a year ago. To them, juggling with the election laws comes easiest when they occupy the majority of seats in parliament and that time is now, the period before the 2015 elections.
Given the complex and hectic situation, foreign governments will stay above the conflicts and bide their time to pour down their support on the winner of the elections. One shouldn’t forget that these foreign governments, except Britain, gave the cold shoulder to Aung Sann Suu Kyi when she went around the world with a golden begging bowl and complained how she was snubbed by the generals. Instead, some of them prefer to talk with the generals rather than others over this question.
We may see everybody taking up positions in their trenches in the coming year and fighting of all kinds escalate.