BY Sugeeswara Senadhira
In South Asia, we have already witnessed daughters of slain political leaders assuming power years later. 'Bangle Bandhu' Shaikh Mujibur Rehman who was killed on 15 August 1975 just after completing three years as Prime Minister of the newly liberated independent Bangladesh and his daughter, Shaikh Hasina is now in her third term as premier.
In our own country we saw Chandrika Kumaratunga becoming Prime Minister in 1994, 35 years after her father S.W.R.D Bandaranaike was assassinated in September 1959. That is in addition to Indira Gandhi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Khalida Zia and Benazir Bhutto who came to power after their husbands or fathers.
Another Asian daughter has been elected by the voters of Myanmar to lead them, but this charismatic leader Aung San Suu Kyi will have to govern by proxy. Although her political party, National League for Democracy (NLD) recorded a resounding victory at the general elections held on 8 November 2015, she will have to surmount several hurdles laid by the military rulers before she takes office. She will have to wait for a major constitutional amendment for her to become President as the military rulers have adopted a constitutional clause to prevent a person married to a foreigner from becoming President.
Her nominee Htin Kyaw has been chosen to be the country's new President. Htin Kyaw, 69, was elected president on Tuesday by Parliament as the opposition NLD prepares to take power on 1 April. Although Suu Kyi is constitutionally unable to become President, she will be in charge of the government.
Until last week, Htin Kyaw was hardly a household name and most people in Myanmar would not have seen him becoming President of the country's first democratically elected government in more than a half-century getting 360 votes in the Assembly. The military nominee could get little over 200 votes, but he will be one of the Vice Presidents.
There are speculations that Aung San Suu Kyi may become Myanmar's Prime Minister - a position that does not currently exist - which could cause friction with the powerful military. If she becomes Prime Minister she would be able to travel the world and meet world leaders, basically fulfil the role of being the President without actually having that title.
New President Htin Kyaw gave up a career in the Foreign Ministry to help Suu Kyi, his childhood friend, with her political party. When Myanmar was under military rule, Htin Kyaw ended up in the junta's prison along with other pro-democracy activists.
"With your historic victory you brought Myanmar into the international family of democracies," President Maithripala Sirisena said in his message of congratulations to the leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi when she won the election. He also referred to her fearless campaigning for democracy in Myanmar for decades. The bilateral, religious, cultural and trade relations between our two countries existing for over hundreds of years, he said.
Suu Kyi's father Aug Sang was to be the leader of Burma, as the country was then named, after Independence in 1948. But he was killed in 1947 when he was the leader of the interim cabinet, together with six other cabinet ministers. Aung San was the founder leader of the modern Burmese army and led the Burmese team that negotiated with the colonial rulers to obtain independence to Burma. After he was killed, the country gained independence on 4 January 1948, exactly a month before Sri Lanka became free from the colonial yoke and the Speaker of Parliament U Nu became the Prime Minister. Under the leadership of Prime Minister U Nu, Burma supported the Panchashila principles at the Bandung Conference in 1955 and followed a middle path foreign policy.
For a while, Suu Kyi studied in New Delhi as her mother Khin Kyi, wife of Aung Sang, was the Burmese Ambassador to India in mid 1960s. A devoted Buddhist, Aung San Suu Kie was seen by this columnist, as a young student, at the Buddhist functions at the Cambodia Buddhist Vihara at Mehroli, near the famous Kuthab Minar in New Delhi in late 1960s. Later she moved back to Rangoon where she studied at the Methodist School.
The military has a strong presence in all key points and there is a 25 per cent reservation of Parliamentary seats for the military. Despite the democracy movement's triumph, the police, army and large parts of the bureaucracy will remain under the military's direct control. All political commentators are unanimous in the opinion that the key to a functioning government is a healthy cooperation between Suu Kyi and the military. The extent to which that is possible remains to be seen.
Suu Kyi made it very clear that she would be calling shots from now. Although the military-drafted Constitution prohibits her from serving as President, she announced that she would be taking all the decisions as the leader of the victorious NLD. At the same time she gave a signal that she would cooperate with the military. Referring to large scale abuses of human rights in the past, she said her party would not seek vengeance. "We are not going in for vengeance, and we are not going in for a series of Nurembergs."
General Ne Win
Popular military leader, General Ne Win captured power five decades ago and adopted a convenient Constitution for perpetuation of military rule. The Constitution was written by the generals, who have governed the country in one form or another since 1962, and it was devised for them to retain significant power even in the case of electoral defeat losing the majority in Parliament.
Suu Kyi, Opposition Leader in Myanmar, became an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression as a result of her 15 years under house arrest. The 70-year-old spent much of her time between 1989 and 2010 in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to military-ruled Myanmar.
Sri Lanka has a special relationship with Myanmar. Ramanna Nikaya, one of the three major Buddhist sects in our country has originated from Burma.It was founded in 1864 when Ven. Ambagahawatte Saranankara Thera returned to Sri Lanka after being ordained by the Most Ven. Neyyadhamma Munivara Sangharaja of Ratnapunna Vihara in Burma.
It is expected that the people of Myanmar will be able to end the constitutional crisis peacefully living up to their serene and compassionate image.