By Robin Gomes
The 2020 elections in Myanmar, scheduled for Nov. 8, will be the nation's second democratic elections since the end of almost half a century of strict military rule in 2011.
Democracy, the only hope
In an appeal, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon reminds his fellow citizens about their sacred right and duty to vote, saying it is crucial for any democracy.
“The flowering of a robust democracy is the only hope for curing this nation, bleeding with fraternal conflict,” says the Cardinal, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences.
At the start of his appeal released on September, Cardinal Bo clarifies that he was addressing them “not as a politician but as a religious person” who desires “only the common good and the welfare of the whole community of Myanmar.”
He thus offers a 10-point guideline to help the Myanmar people make responsible choices for the common good and the prosperity of all, especially the poor.
The environment, the poor
Arguing that all religions affirm there is “no peace without justice,” the Cardinal urges people to vote for peace. “Peace in this bleeding nation,” he warns, “will not arrive until the resources of this country are kept at the service of all, especially for the poor and marginal communities.”
“Judge your candidates, avoid those looters and cronies who ravaged all our resources and made us poor,” he exhorts. “Thieves cannot represent us,” says the Cardinal, who also serves as co-president of Religions for Peace International.
The outspoken churchman denounces the “supporters of foreign mafias” who, he says, are helping foreign elements to loot the country. He urges voters to watch out against many of these "unpatriotic persons" who are standing for elections.
The 71-year old archbishop comes down heavily on the “the merchants of hatred” who resort to communal hatred and scapegoating to gain votes. These merchants of hatred who masquerade as protectors of religion and race, he says, have been aided by Facebook.
He adds that they “are in collusion with the looters of our nation, not guardians,” the Cardinal warns, urging voters to “identify them and consign them to the garbage of history.”
Underscoring the importance of human development, Cardinal Bo regrets that previous regimes have “sadistically denied the development” of the people, reducing the “once-rich country into a low developed country”.
Hence, he urges his fellow citizens to elect candidates who have a clear plan for human development.
The country, he says, is in need of intelligent leaders animated by a sense of “servant leadership”, with great values of honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency.
“Power comes from service,” the Cardinal says, adding the country needs “servant leaders” and warriors who can fight its multiple pandemics, such as hunger, conflict, displacement, unsafe migration and low-quality education.
The Archbishop of Yangon concludes urging for a true political and economic federalism, saying General Aung San, who was instrumental in securing Burma’s independence from Great Britain, lived and died for this dream.
The November elections are seen as crucial since Myanmar is passing through a transitional phase to democracy, after emerging from 5 decades of brutal military rule.
Despite the National League for Democracy (NLD) party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s winning a landslide victory at the 2015 election, the military still retains significant power.
The 2008 constitution drafted by the army mandates that a quarter of all parliamentary seats must be reserved for the military. It also gives them control of the three key portfolios of home affairs, defence and border security, as well as the power to suspend the constitution at will.