RANGOON— Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi broke her silence on the assassination of National League for Democracy (NLD) party legal advisor U Ko Ni, calling him a “comrade” of hers and said that losing him was a “deep loss” for the party.
The prominent Muslim lawyer U Ko Ni was shot dead in broad daylight by a gunman on Jan. 29 outside Yangon International Airport. Taxi driver U Nay Win was also fatally shot as he tried to apprehend the assassin.
U Ko Ni was an expert on Burma’s 2008 Constitution, which he referred to as undemocratic, and was very critical of the country’s military.
The country’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made a rare public appearance at the memorial service for U Ko Ni and U Nay Win, organized by the NLD on Sunday in Rangoon.
“Losing someone like U Ko Ni is such a deep loss for the NLD,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said. “The fact that he worked together with the party for many years through his belief is also something that our party is proud of.”
“I respect and value [U Ko Ni] a lot,” she added.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that U Ko Ni and the taxi driver U Nay Win had the same fundamental attitude and beliefs despite their different backgrounds, referring to the way they refused to accept an injustice.
She also urged the packed hall of Rangoon’s Royal Rose Restaurant to always remember the contributions the two “martyrs” made to the party and to the country.
Such a sense of responsibility by a normal citizen is more valuable than that of a government official, she said.
“The attitude that [U] Ne Win had is a good example for our citizens. He gave a good inheritance to our country,” she said.
U Ko Ni’s eldest daughter Ma Yin Nwe Khaing said that Sunday’s memorial service made her feel very “proud” of her father.
After the memorial, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a private meeting with the families of U Ko Ni and U Nay Win.
Details of the meeting were not made public but Ma Yin Nwe Khaing told The Irrawaddy that the State Counselor consoled the two families and asked questions about the families’ situations.
When asked her opinion on a press conference held by the home affairs ministry and the police chief regarding the investigation into her father’s assassination on Saturday, Ma Yin Nwe Khaing said that her family will comment on the case “only when the whole investigation is completed.”
Police Maj. Gen Zaw Win said the police force has arrested three suspects who are allegedly connected to the assassination of the lawyer and had issued a warrant for the arrest of one suspect who remains at large.
NLD patron U Tin Oo, senior NLD leader U Win Htein, Lower House Speaker U Win Myint, Rangoon Division Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, and central executive committee members of the NLD also attended the ceremony.
U Ko Ni was also a strong opponent of the country’s Race and Religion Protection laws—the controversial legislation proposed by the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha and approved by the previous U Thein Sein government.
Many people criticized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence over U Ko Ni’s death and noted her absence at his funeral late last month.
U Ko Ni is believed to be the one who advised forming the position of State Counselor for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she is barred from the presidency under Article 59(f) of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.