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Choose Capable Leaders, Suu Kyi Tells NLD Congress

Kyaw Phyo Tha The Irrawaddy

RANGOON—During the second day of the National League for Democracy’s first ever congress, its chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi urged party members to choose Central Committee leaders who could best serve Burma and its people.

“You have to choose someone who could make the best contribution to the country and people, rather than someone who wants higher positions just for their own interests,” Suu Kyi said in an opening speech on Saturday.

About 900 representatives of Burma’s main opposition party assembled for a three-day national congress in Rangoon in order to vote in 120 Central Committee members and 30 Reserve Committee members, according to party officials.

Suu Kyi said the NLD should be revived by choosing new leaders who meet the party’s requirements and who are effective in the current political situation. “We want someone who loves to take responsibilities, not positions,” the 67-year-old leader added.

After being repressed during most of its 25-year history, the NLD needs to strengthen its political organization ahead of the 2015 national elections, as many in its leadership are in their 70s and 80s, while questions remain about the effectiveness of its lower and mid-level organization.

Suu Kyi admitted that in the past the NLD had acted somewhat undemocratically as some decisions were solely made by its central committee, but this was due to restrictions imposed by the former military government, which also prevented the party from holding a congress.

“We were criticized for being centralized. It’s true to some extent. But, now today, I think it’s over,” she said.

In a sign of the NLD’s intentions to have harmonious relationships with all groups in Burma, it also invited ethnic minority leaders, as well as a vice-chairman from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USPD), Htay Oo, to its congress.

The NLD was founded during the 1988 pro-democracy movement and it won a landslide victory in the 1990 election. But the then military government refused to honor the outcome. Instead it sent Suu Kyi and many party members in detention for years.

In 2010, the military formed the USDP party and put a quasi-civilian government in power as part of political reforms leading to the 2015 elections. During free by-elections in April 2012, the NLD won almost all available seats and Suu Kyi and 42 NLD colleagues entered Parliament.

During her speech on Saturday, the Nobel Laureate advised party members to have strong principles while doing politics and said that honesty is the best policy.

“Don’t make any promises to people that you can’t keep, just to gain their support. Plus, be loyal to fellow members. Don’t be ungrateful to anyone who was good to you,” she said. “With these three things, we will be able to overcome any obstacles we will face.”