The drumming in of a new year is always an occasion for an expression of hope and a time to look back at what has been and could have been. We welcome the arrival of the year 2012 on an optimistic note and look forward to some pleasant days, which are becoming a scarcity during our troubled national life. Hope and profound expectations form the core of thoughts of people across the world.
For us in Burma, the hope is simply that life take a more progressive turn through a turning away from everything negative that held us back in the year just ended. In Burma, the long-ruling military junta was replaced this year, many prisoners- including democracy icon Aung Sung Suu Kyi- were freed and a series of reforms were adopted to end decades of international isolation. The reformist pledge was awarded by the US as its Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made a landmark visit to Burma.
In terms of politics, let 2012 be a forerunner of change in political thought and attitudes, change that should usher in a time of cooperation and accommodation between the current ruling regime and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party.
The regime kicked off the dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, made changes in the electoral laws paving way for NLD to re-register as the official political party, released some political prisoners, suspended the controversial Irrawaddy dam construction, while negotiating peace deals with the armed groups and passing some laws allowing democratic freedom. However, despite the ongoing fighting with the KIO (Kachin Independent Organization), the regime is also trying to negotiate peace with insurgent groups of several ethnic nationalities.
Burma must work without dithering to restore democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Burma must establish an independent judiciary system. It is very important to review the controversial 2008 constitution which gives supreme power to the Military Commander in Chief, which is still a major concern for the people of Burma.
Burmese citizens must be able to practice fundamental democratic rights, including freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Burma must work to promote religious freedom in Burma, to release all political prisoners and to stop corruption and to stop abuse of power. Energy is essential for development so that the regime has to provide sufficient electricity and gas for all the citizens.
Across the world, this was a year when people took to the streets, often overthrowing their leaders in the process. That was true in the Arab world, in Russia, in India, in Western Europe, in the United States and even in China.
And everywhere, this year the conventional wisdom was turned upside down by people who turned out to be angrier than the ruling elites suspected and who were able to channel that dissatisfaction into mass protest and even revolution.
The year which ended on December 31 was, like previous years, marked by both good cheer and disappointment, not only in Burma, but also, in the rest of the world.
Around the world, the vision of people rising up in spontaneous revolt against their thoughtless governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya only reinforced the old belief that nations have the capacity and the courage to take on the powerful and the arrogant.
The present ruling regime in Burma cannot claim that it had a very successful year on the socio-economic front, as the problems usually faced by common people are becoming more severe. The utility services are showing no signs of improvement and the hike in the cost of fuel and other essentials has made things worse.
The Rohingya have been subjected to various persecutions under the Burmese government on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity. They are subjected to forced labor, rape, torture and imprisonment. The authority confiscated their land, imposed restrictions on marriage and movement, extorted money and killed many.
As a result, many people were forced to risk the very dangerous journey by boat to Malaysia or Thailand, suffering horribly along the way, some being lost at sea.
So, we hope that in 2012, these events will be stopped forever.
People celebrated the New Year as they always do with great fervor and high expectations.
As we said good bye to 2011, we knew that every sunset is followed by a sunrise that promises a new day, inspiring us to be rejuvenated and reinvigorated to face the challenges ahead. A year lost is a year gained, as the perceptive among us become wiser with age and experience.
May all the people of Burma be happy, peaceful and auspicious in this New Year!