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India lends a helping hand to Myanmar in government formation

India advised National League for Democracy to control information ministry to have a say in government communications

world Updated: Mar 29, 2016 01:28 IST
Ashis Ray
(Reuters file)

The National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar is said to have accepted India’s advice relating to the composition of their government, which is scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday.

A high-level source revealed India had played a helpful role in suggesting to the Aung San Suu Kyi-led party that they would be well advised to control the ministry of information, so as to have a say in the new administration’s “communications”. A doctor-turned journalist, Pe Myint, is expected to be the minister for information.

There is some anxiety on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar’s bustling metropolis, after comments by the country’s Senior General, Min Aung Hlaing, over the weekend, confirming that the NLD-led government would only establish a largely civilian government, not pure democracy.

Hlaing specified that the armed forces would “co-operate to bring about prosperity” if “obstacles” like “failure to abide by the rule of law and regulations” and “armed insurgencies” are overcome. Then only “will there be advancement on the path of democracy”, he asserted.

Suu Kyi’s remarks to BBC after her landslide election victory in November were an attempt to throw a spanner in the works “would sabotage the will of the people”. Suu Kyi, 70, did not attend the parade.

Representatives of the armed forces will continue to retain the home affairs portfolio. It is not only responsible for maintaining peace and internal security, but all civil servants, right down to district level, report to it.

A western diplomat remarked the armed forces could indirectly “impede implementation of policies” of ministries being administered by the NLD.

At the same time, Suu Kyi’s choice of finance and commerce ministers has triggered a controversy. Both are said to have fake degrees from American universities, one of these allegedly a Pakistani scam.

The country’s constitution debars a person with foreign children from becoming the country’s president. So the NLD administration will have an economist and close associate of Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, as president-elect, not Suu Kyi.

Yet Daw Suu has made no bones about who will remain the boss.

“I will make all the decisions. It is as simple as that,” she categorically told BBC after the elections.

While this has not been officially announced, it appears to be an open secret that Suu Kyi may control as many as four departments in the government – foreign affairs, president’s office, education and energy & electric power.

Thant Myint U, a Cambridge and Harvard educated historian and grandson of U Thant, once secretary-general of the United Nations, in his book, Where China Meets India, portrays Myanmar as a battleground between India and China.

Pertinently, Suu Kyi is on record saying: “Myanmar can play an important role in improving ties between India and China.” Time will tell whether this comes true.