(Mizzima) – The Elders, an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights, have congratulated Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of her assuming membership in the Burmese Parliament, saying they hope that the minority share of parliamentary seats obtained in the by-elections will lead to a robust democratic system.
Desmond Tutu, the group’s chair, said, the by-election was a moment “when Burma/Myanmar embraced democracy.”
“But for this to be true, Daw Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and all other political parties need to be given the space to play a meaningful role in the Parliament. If not, it will be such a disappointment for citizens across the country, and indeed for us all.”
The Elders welcomed the reforms undertaken in Burma since the inauguration of President Thein Sein in March 2011, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners, changes to labour laws, the lifting of media restrictions and the re-registration of the NLD.
Positive progress has been made and the Elders encourage further steps towards the unconditional release of the political prisoners who still remain in detention and the lifting of restrictions on political prisoners who have already been released, the group said in a statement.
It said it remained concerned about reports of persistent human rights abuses and poor humanitarian conditions. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar recently stated that there remain “serious challenges”, such as lack of access to health care and education, land grabs and confiscations, forced labour and portering, and other widely documented human rights violations related to on-going ethnic conflicts.
The group welcomed the government’s efforts in reaching a resolution to ethnic conflicts in the country’s border regions. They urged the government and ethnic groups to maintain talks and take further steps to build lasting peace to promote a genuine process of national reconciliation.
The Elders also welcomed the government’s willingness to establish a dialogue with the international community, as demonstrated by the numerous official visitors to the country in recent months. They advised the international community to find ways to further encourage the reform process, maintain direct engagement with the government and members of parliament, and lift barriers to financial and technical assistance to support human development and help tackle the country’s humanitarian challenges.
As she assumes political office, Suu Kyi will be standing down from her position as an honorary Elder, in line with the requirement that members of The Elders should not hold public office, the statement said.
Tutu said: “While Daw Suu Kyi was under house arrest, we would leave an empty chair for her at our Elders meetings, to symbolise our solidarity with her struggle for freedom and democracy.
“When she was released we hoped we could stop doing this, since she might be able to be with us. Now our reason for ending the ritual reflects an even greater joy – her election to parliament. We pray that Daw Suu Kyi and her country are now on a path to freedom.”
The Elders is a grouping of independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, includes Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela is an honorary Elder.