What is Wrong With the NLD’s Policy?

By Nyein Nyein 15 March 2017

When taking office, the National League for Democracy (NLD) government declared its first priority was to achieve national reconciliation and build peace in the country.

But the NLD’s actions in the Lower House of the Union parliament on Tuesdayhave deeply undermined that promise by renaming a bridge in Mon State after Burma’s late independence hero Gen Aung San.

Despite local protests against the proposed name, the Lower House made the decision to go ahead with the name General Aung San Bridge. The motion was passed with a majority vote of 217. There were 43 lower house parliamentarians who voted against to the proposal, while 116 abstained.

Lawmakers said the name of the 1.5-kilometer bridge linking Moulmein (Mawlamyine) and Chaungzon townships on the Salween River was to honor Gen Aung San’s integrity, to remember his legacy, and to commemorate the spirit of the Union which he launched.

Plowing ahead with a controversial decision—which many people believed could be easily resolved with negotiations between the local people and the government—the NLD-dominated Parliament and the administration turned a blind eye to the desires of many local residents.

Originally, the structure was simply named “Salween Bridge (Moulmein)” during its inception under the former government; the state government led by former chief minister U Min Min Oo had agreed on it.

For weeks, the issue has been widely criticized by locals, both on the ground and on social media.

Minority ethnic groups’ growing lack of trust towards the NLD, and antipathy towards the Burman majority, is plain to see—though many Burmans have also expressed distress at the Parliament’s decision.

Omitting locals’ desires does not reflect a democratic state and results in further division.

Burma has more important and pressing affairs to deal than naming a bridge, which should purely be the task of the government ministry.

The NLD-dominated Parliaments have failed to fulfill their responsibility to listen to the local voices (a pledge made by all parliamentarians) in the case of the Salween Bridge.

It is sad that many NLD members have not spoken out against the decision and have instead shown blind obedience to the NLD bureaucracy.

This case should never have been brought to the legislature.

General Aung San has always been in the heart of the people of Burma and the act is like killing him again, observers have said.

It has been reported that NLD lawmakers are strictly under the control of the party’s central committee and that they must seek approval from NLD secretariat member U Win Htein before submitting proposals to Parliament.

The decision on the Salween River bridge reportedly comes from the top.

It is time to reflect on what has gone wrong with NLD policy. Steps towards national reconciliation must not be approached by only the armed forces of the Burma Army and the ethnic armed groups, they should involve the public.

The NLD government got the name of the bridge that it wanted, but it will be remembered for the dispute it caused.The government is losing the trust of minorities—trust that is absolutely key for national reconciliation and building unity.