Full text of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
The U.S.-Myanmar Engagement Conference
IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN, USA
May 29, 2019
I would like to begin by thanking the Burmese American Community Institute of [and] Indiana University for inviting me to deliver this keynote address. It is always a pleasure for me to address fellow Burmese overseas, because although they are no longer living in our country, I feel very much they’re still a part of us and that they would like to do everything they can— not just to maintain their ties with our country but to help us to develop in the best possible way. I understand that the main topics of this conference will be constitutional reform and economic development. Both development in its own way—the political development, economic development.
We have always put a lot of emphasis on political development because that has been lacking sadly in our country for the last few decades, and because of the lack of political development, we have not been able to develop economically either.
I think a lot of you would be more interested in Business than in the politic, but as a politician I can say very frankly that my greater interest is in politic, because I think that good, sound, honest politics lies at the foundation of a good, sound economy. If we do not have rule of law, if we do not have a government that is transparent and accountable, and that manages to gain the confidence of the people, we shall never be able to develop in the way that will benefit our people. Development is not simply growth. I think I don’t need to explain this anymore, everybody now accept that development has to be more than just growth. Development has to be a better life for the great majority of our people,
not for just a small privileged elite. I fear that this is where we seem to be headed at the moment. All the economic reforms that some people have tried to focus on have done more to help the already privileged, rather than to help those who are suffering from poverty, who are suffering from the ill effects of an authoritarian regime that was in place in our country for half a century.
If we have to start with reform anywhere, it should be with the constitutional reform. The 2008 constitution under which the elections in 2010 were held, and under which the elections of this year are going to be held, too, was not drawn up with a practicing of democracy in mind.
It was drawn up with the intention of preserving the status quo as far as possible while making the minimum concession to democratic demands. Because of that, our people, under this constitution, are not in a position to exercise full authority over the government, and if it is not the government for the people, by the people, of the people how can we say that this is democratic. So constitutional reform comes first, and particularly we should have some constitution reforms pushed through before the general election this year. I don’t know how many of you are aware that the constitution of this country cannot be amended if the military representatives within the legislature are against it.
In short, the military representatives and elected who make up twenty five of all the legislatures in our country—meaning to say not just the national legislatures, but also the regional and state legislatures—they have the right of veto over amendments to essential parts of the constitution. If the elections later in this year are to be free and fair, the constitution has to be amended, in a way that would give the people full right to choose the kind of government they wish to see in their country. Economic reforms can be fair, only if the elections this year are free and fair. Free and fair are two very short and simple words, but they cover adequately all that we need for our elections. Not just free elections, but fair elections—
which means a level playing ground; which mean a constitution that will allow our people to choose the kind of representatives they want, freely without interventions from any privileged group. So, I would like all of you to focus on this crucial issue for the year: the elections of 2015. Changes that might be necessary in order to ensure that the elections are free and fair and held under circumstances that will promote stability and peace in our country. Not only should elections be free and fair, the results of the elections must be respected, and there must be reassurance for everybody concerned, for all concerned, that after the elections, there will be stability, there will be peace,
there will be not just respect for the will of the people, but a genuine will to implement that will as expressed through the elections. If these conditions are met, the way we will be open for the kind of economic development that would benefit not just my country, but all of you who are interested in investing in Burma. Investments can be safe only if there is stability and peace within a country. We have not yet achieved peace in our country. I am sure some of you are aware that peace negotiations have not started yet, although ceasefire negotiations have been going on for the last several years. Only if we take the necessary political steps, will we be able to go forward to take the necessary economic steps
that will make our country once again one of the leading Nations of Southeast Asia. I am confident that with your help, that is to say, you, Burmese who are living abroad, as well as you, friends of Burma, interested in helping us in grow and develop in the right way, that we will be able to achieve our goals. The NLD [National League for Democracy] will be producing its economy policy paper before long. So those of you who are interested in knowing what they can expect under the NLD government will, I am sure, be very very interested in studying this. Concerns have been expressed that an NLD government would not honor contracts signed with this President’s Government. I would like to make it quite clear that the NLD believes in the rule of law. And all contracts
that have been signed in the right way, and in accordance with the best practices will be honored. We do not want people feel insecured in Burma. Our people must first feel secured, and all those who are participating in the development process of our country—whether they be businessmen, whether they be simply friends of Burma—I want all of them also to feel secured. So through you, I would like to send this message, we are now at the important point in the history of our country. The next few months will decide whether we are going forward to democratic governance and genuine economic development, or whether we are going to stagnate in a facade of democratic rule which is in fact not much better than an authoritarian administration. I would like to ask all of you to help us to achieve our goal, which I believe is, the goal that you would also wish to achieve. Thank you.