USDP Complains of ‘Democratic Bullying’

By Htet Naing Zaw 16 March 2018

NAYPYITAW — The opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Thursday that it has been subject to “democratic bullying” by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

U Pike Htwe, secretary of the USDP central executive committee, claimed that the NLD-dominated Parliament has restricted the USDP’s parliamentary actions and also turned a deaf ear to the opposition party’s recommendations.

“This has raised the question of whether Parliament is ignoring the needs of people today because of partisanship, personality cults and egoism,” said U Pike Htwe, at a USDP press conference on Thursday.

“To put it simply, it is democratic bullying,” remarked U Pike Htwe, referring to the fact that the legislature is dominated by the NLD.

This is not the first time that the USDP has used this term. In April 2016, both the then-ruling USDP and the military bloc cried “democratic bullying” when the Lower House passed the ‘State Counselor Bill’ which gave NLD chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a position ‘above the president’ as she was barred by the military-drafted 2008 Constitution from the presidency.

Military lawmakers claimed that the bill was unconstitutional, and they boycotted the proceedings by refusing to cast ballots during the session.

The press conference on Thursday was attended by senior members U Pike Htwe, U Hla Thein, Dr. Nanda Hla Myint, Dr. Pwint Hsan and U Thein Tun, all of who criticized the actions of the NLD-led government.

“Our party’s attempts to ask questions about the interests of the country and citizens were restricted [by the NLD] in Parliament for various reasons. Our proposals were also rejected by vote because of their numerical superiority in Parliament,” said U Pike Htwe.

He called Parliament “unreliable” and said that the negligence of the NLD-led government had led to economic decline, hardship for the poor, an increase in crimes, and worsened problems in northern Rakhine State.

“In fact, it is they who have bullied since they staged a coup,” said Monywa Aung Shin, a spokesperson of the NLD, referring to the military coup in 1988.

“It is quite funny that they say we bully them. Who was really bullied?” he asked.

He said there is no ‘bullying’ in a democracy. “Democracy is about the minority yielding to the majority, and the majority respecting the minority,” he said.

Though the NLD said time and again while it was still the opposition that there should not be state-run media, the party is now using it as a propaganda tool, said U Pike Htwe, who served as deputy information minister under U Thein Sein’s government.

He referred to the speeches of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi aired and published on state-owned television and newspapers just before the by-election in April 2017.

“They don’t report the news that the public should be informed about. And they say different things in Myanmar and English language papers. This is real cause for concern,” said U Pike Htwe.

“It is time the media pointed out what the government, which called itself a democratic government together with the people, is doing today,” he said.

Unlike the NLD, the USDP organized stakeholder meetings between the government, Parliament, Tatmadaw and ethnic groups as well as meetings with other political parties from time to time under former President U Thein Sein’s government, he added.

“The USDP set aside differences and cooperated with other parties for the interest of the country,” he said.

“We presented recommendations to the president [U Htin Kyaw, to hold such meetings]. But, we are sorry that he has not made any reply,” U Pike Htwe said.

The USDP’s membership has increased by 30,000 since 2015, and the party now boasts a membership of more than 5 million across the country, said Dr. Nanda Hla Myint.

However, he declined to answer The Irrawaddy’s questions about the party’s financial sources. “The economy of our party is its internal affair. No party will tell what it does [for financing],” he said.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.