Aspiring to hidden govt

Writer: 
Dr. Thein Myint
Aung San Suu Kyi delivering her speech at the Forum 2000 held in Prague, the Czech Republic, in 2013. (Photo-Forum2000.cz)

Aung San Suu Kyi told the Forum 2000 Conference in September 2013 in the Czech Republic that the best governments go about their business without being noticed.

Speaking under former president Thein Sein’s administration, she spelled out what she hoped for in Myanmar.

The Voice of America said that good governance involved making the most of opportunities but also providing freedom, security and numerous services, which instilled a sense of cooperation with the people. The people must be willing to comply and be a willing party in a reciprocal relationship with the government.

Myanmar lacks the experience required for good governance after years of incompetent rule. In an ideal society, citizens join hands with the government to fulfil their ambitions because the administration is accessible, transparent, makes good on its promises and has capable leaders.

Suu Kyi says some governments are hated and some are feared but the best go unnoticed.

The government that all of us want is humble but performs its duties and responsibilities, where citizens have their needs met before they take notice of the efforts. It is like having a good parent. They wake before the children and prepare breakfast for the family without anyone noticing.

Under good governance, citizens should be free to criticise, think and decide.

The late president Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic founded the Forum 2000 to help push for global democracy. He also nominated Suu Kyi for the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

So how does our new government shape up to the ideals?

Yangon’s regional government needs to become more proficient in administration rather than just paying lip service to reform. It should strive to minimise erroneous projects, doing everything in a careful manner. In June the government formed a committee to scrutinise high-rise projects, which must be kept non-corrupt as it deals with huge projects. The committee is chaired by Nilar Kyaw and includes Hlaing Maw Oo, secretary of the Yangon City Development Committee, geotechnical expert Dr Yu Maung and structural specialist Dr Toe Toe Win. But there are limits to the knowledge and understanding of experts.

Do the members pass the town-elder test? To become an elder we look for wisdom and morality. It is questionable whether Ye Min Oo, who is a member of the committee, fits the generally accepted benchmarks for a town elder.

On July 11 the scrutinising committee issued a statement urging construction companies to abandon plans for large projects and reduce the number of floors in their designs. Some companies have had to remove half their floors, causing difficulties, financial losses and labour disputes. The government faces its largest barrage of criticism yet.

Meanwhile, Maung Maung One, part of the 88 generation, was reportedly prohibited from entering the country and sent back in the week to the USA. The Myanmar Embassy in Washington had issued him a business visa but immigration officers at the airport barred him entry.

After a social-media campaign, it was announced that the US citizen would be allowed to return for the 8888 anniversary on Monday. While many celebrated this apparent U-turn, others questioned whether the decision had simply been made because Maung Maung One was well connected, asking if it was a return to the old system of favours for friends. Will other, less-well-known exiles get the same treatment?

We voted to get rid of the system of favours based on personal relations. Nothing will change if only the faces change but the system does not.

There is a desperate need to be rid of such a terrible system. Administrators should remember Suu Kyi’s words in 2013.

We are impatiently awaiting the arrival of a government that, according to Suu Kyi, governs without the people being aware of its presence.