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Stirring call for substantial matte

Call for a path-breaking 30th Anniversary ASEAN Summit Declaration in
Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 14-16 to adopt and implement a regional social
plan to specifically deal with six  key issues  of good governance,
poverty,   sustainable development, human rights,  corruption and
information technology 

The 30th Anniversary ASEAN Summit would be held in Kuala Lumpur on
December 14-16 and this occasion should be made into a historic
milestone in the realisation of the vision of an ASEAN Community in
the year 2020.

The ASEAN leaders should commit their governments, nations and peoples
to the development of a peaceful, democratic, prosperous and just
South East Asia in the new millennium.

Towards this end, ASEAN leaders meeting for the 30th ASEAN Anniversary
Summit in Kuala Lumpur  should issue a path-breaking 30th Anniversary
ASEAN Summit Declaration on ASEAN Vision 2020 to adopt and implement a
regional social plan to specifically deal with six  key issues  of
good governance, poverty,  sustainable development, human rights,
corruption and information technology.

Let the words go out from the Kuala Lumpur ASEAN Summit, loud and
clear, to be heard not only in South East Asia but in the whole world
that concerns about good governance, poverty,  sustainable
development, human rights, corruption and information technology are
now no more individual local or national concerns but have become a
regional agenda of the ASEAN community of nations.

It is precisely for these reasons that I have criticised the admission
of Myanmar into ASEAN, for the military junta, whether the State Law
and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) or the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) which it now calls itself, is not committed
to anyone of these six issues - whether good governance, eradication
of poverty, sustainable development, human rights, elimination of
corruption and information technology.

In the past five months since its admission into ASEAN in July this
year, except for a change of name on Nov. 15 after nine years of the
terrible-sounding  SLORC, the Burmese military junta has absolutely
nothing to show in genuine political, economic or social reforms  -
with Burmese Opposition Leader and Nobel Peace-Prize laureate and her
party, National League for Democracy which won the  1990 Burmese
general  election by a landslide, continuing to suffer persecution,
while Burma is one of the few countries left in the world where the
possession of modems is a serious crlminal offence involving long
periods of imprisonment.

The SPDC should be required to submit a report to the ASEAN Summit as
to the progress in political, economic and social reforms in Burma
since its admission into ASEAN, and ASEAN should not hesitate to
suspend Burma's membership if the military junta refuses to co-operate
to make meaningful progress  of ASEAN's policy of "constructive

ASEAN leaders cannot close their eyes to the dismal fact that under
the rule of the Burmese generals, the health care delivery system in
Burma had collapsed, the education system had collapsed and the
economy  had collapsed.  The only areas seeing growth were the number
of prisoners held under inhumane conditions, the infant mortality
rates,  HIV/Aids, the number of tons of opium harvested, hectares of
mature hardwood forests subjected to clear
cutting, and incidents of gang-rape, torture, forced relocations, and
extrajudicial executions.

One reason for the change of SLORC to SPDC could be related to
worsening economic problems  and  the presence of  unskilled and
corrupt  ministers in important ministries.  Furthermore, there is a
strong likelihood of a food shortage next year because of heavy floods
in the Irrawaddy delta as well as in Pegu and Mon states, setting the
stage for   another possible uprising as people grow increasingly
frustrated with their daily hardships.

The Burmese military junta should be told in very clear terms that  it
risks expulsion from ASEAN if it embarks on any crackdown of human
rights and democratic freedoms in the country.  ASEAN should also
bring pressure to bear on SPDC to enter into a dialogue with Aung San
Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to pave the way for the
restoration of a democratically-elected government.

When she met  Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon at the
Rangoon residence of the Filipino ambassador to Burma  on Oct. 17,
Aung San Suu Kyi agreed that ASEAN  arrange  a dialogue between her
and  Burma's military government. 

 Siazon was  the highest-ranking government official from any ASEAN
country to meet the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and it is most
unfortunate that the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi
had not insisted on the right to personally establish contact and meet
with Aung San Suu Kyi when he was the previous  Chairman of the ASEAN
Standing Committee. 

 The ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur should set up the mechanism for
ASEAN to arrange for such a dialogue between SPDC and Aung San Suu Kyi
to show the people of ASEAN and the world that ASEAN's "constructive
engagement" is not just an engagement with the government of Burma,
but also an engagement with the people of Burma and their genuine
leaders.  In fact, ASEAN should encourage SPDC to hold general
elections by before the year 2,000, so that Burma's membership in
ASEAN would not be inconsistent with the aspirations of the people in
South East Asia for democracy where the people have the right to
choose the government they want.

The SPDC must show that it is more open and democratic than the SLORC
and that the change is not just in name only.  If it is to be a full
member of ASEAN, it should permit the people from the other ASEAN
countries to have free contacts with the people of Burma, including
Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy activists in the National League
for Democracy and in other organisations.

Members of Parliament from other ASEAN countries, for instance, should
be permitted free travel to Burma and to visit Aung San Suu Kyi and to
meet with democracy activists.  I would be contacting the Burmese
Ambassador to inform him of my wish to visit Burma and to meet with
Aung San Suu Kyi together with other interested MPs and political
leaders and the response of the SPDC would be a test as to whether the
Burmese military junta is ready for political, economic and social
reforms to bring Burma into the modern era.
Malaysia should allow the holding of NGOs' "People's Summit" to
coincide with the APEC 1998 Summit in Kuala Lumpur next year to show
the country's commitment to the development of a global civil society

At the end of the APEC summit in Vancouver last week, the Prime
Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Malaysia, which
would host APEC 1998 in Kuala Lumpur next year, would allow NG0s to
stage protest meetings if it was satisfied they would conduct their
activities peacefully and politely. 

In the case of the APEC 1997 which had just concluded in Vancouver,
the British Columbia provincial government in Canada had allowed a
"People's Summit" to be held in a nearby venue for participants to
speak on issues ignored by APEC, ranging from human rights to women's

The NGOs' Alternative People's Summit has become an indispensable and
integral part of important international conferences, which is a
recognition of the emergence of a global civil society. 

In his speech at the launching of the National IT Awareness campaign
last month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said
the ultimate goal of Malaysia's national information technology agenda
is to create a civil society. 

In the global village of today, where distance and time have been
dissolved by the information revolution, no national civil society can
be secure without the support and strengthening of a global civil

Malaysia must not only work towards the creation of a civil society in
the country, but for the emergence of a global civil society - and
this is why Malaysia should take a bold and courageous step to openly
commit itself to allow the holding of a parallel NGOs' People's Summit
to coincide with the holding of the APEC 1998 Summit in Kuala Lumpur
in November next year. 

Malaysia would suffer grave and unnecessary damage to our
international reputation if we are so insensitive as to ban to holding
of such a NGOs' People's Summit in Kuala Lumpur or to treat the large
number NGOs participants and representatives in a heavy-handed or
brutal manner such as arrests and deportations. 

In fact, Malaysia should be ready for the largest gathering of NGO
representatives in the history of the country during next year's APEC

At the Vancouver APEC 1997 Summit, about 2,000 chanting demonstrators
protested outside the Apec summit, calling on leaders to put human
rights and other social issues higher on their agenda, seeking to
highlight a host of causes ranging from workers' rights to the
environment and the perils of
free trade. Organisers of the People's Summit presented a declaration
to Canadian officials urging greater focus on human rights. 

The Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy  even praised the NGOs'
efforts.  He said: "We think the People's Summit has been a
constructive exercise. The issues they raised about looking at the
social and economic consequences of trade and economic development
were seen as matters that need to be addressed." 

Let Malaysia show that we are equally mature in our positive response
to the role of NGOs, both national and international, in the
development of a global civil society.

Lim Kit Siang
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Malaysia
Speech in Parliament, Malaysia - 3.12.1997