McCain Calls for Lifting of Sanctions

By Lalit K Jha 4 April 2012

WASHINGTON D.C.—A leading Republican Senator has called for steps to be taken to lift crippling US economic sanctions on Burma in the wake of Sunday’s by-elections.

Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential hopeful, said that the weekend ballot proves Naypyidaw’ s democratic aspirations and called for restrictive measures to be repealed in order to hasten reform.

“The US should now work with its international partners to begin the process of easing sanctions on Burma. This will be a gradual and incremental process, and the US Congress will have a critical role to play,” said McCain.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and with the administration on a coordinated strategy to begin easing sanctions in a way that improves the lives of the Burmese people and strengthens the democratic and economic reforms that the Burmese government and Parliament are undertaking,” he said, adding that he hoped that a delegation of Burmese parliamentarians can visit Washington in the near future.

McCain also praised the efforts of the Burmese government. “I commend the government in Naypyidaw for the conduct of the election and for allowing international groups, including US organizations, to observe the voting, which largely appears to have been free and fair,” he said, while also congratulating pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi for her victory in the election.

“This is a historic moment for Burma, as ‘The Lady’ finally takes her rightful place as an elected leader of her fellow citizens,” McCain said, adding that the recent election should be an important milestone in Burma’s relationship with the international community, including the US.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said on Tuesday it has adopted “cautious optimism” regarding the landslide win of Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD).

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the US expected the Burmese government would honor the results of Sunday’s by-elections in contrast to the 1990 general elections victory for the NLD which the former military junta quashed.

“Our expectation is that the government will honor the results as they are certified,” Nuland said. “Then she has 42 other members of her party who appear to have won their seats. So our expectation is that these results will be honored and that the Parliament will now reflect the results of these elections.”

It is now going to be critical for the Burmese authorities to continue to work on reform of the electoral system so that it fully meets international standards, including transparency, and it expeditiously looks into any irregularities, she said.

“But we are obviously hoping for a continuing evolution of the Burmese political system heading towards the next scheduled elections, which I think are 2015,” Nuland told reporters.

Responding to questions, Nuland confirmed that the US is looking at ways and means to match Burmese democracic reforms. Many observers believe this will come in terms of lifting economic sanctions.

“We are prepared to match positive steps of reform in Burma with steps of our own. We are now looking at what might come next on the US side. I don’t have anything to announce, but I would look for more movement from us on this in the coming weeks,” she said.

Nuland said the US is in constant communication with the European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations members in this regard, but declined to go into further details.