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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6806


Mr RUDDOCK (7:00 PM) —Australians often comment about the adversarial nature of the parliamentary process. I would like to remind people that a great deal is done by agreement. I second this motion, but I do so because I very much respect the work of the member for Page in relation to human rights issues generally. I think she has been quite remarkable in the way in which she has motivated many of us to become engaged in the issue relating to Aung San Suu Kyi. I commend her for her effort last Friday to record the 64th birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi and for coordinating the messages that could be sent to her because of the inspiration that she has been to so many people. I commend her on that.

This motion was proposed at an earlier point in time, before Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent arrest. Although it observes, towards the end, something of the Security Council processes, it was intended to note 27 May as the 19th anniversary of the National League for Democracy’s overwhelming victory in Burma’s first democratically-held elections. I commend those who are interested in this matter to read the text of the motion, because it outlines much of the history of Aung San Suu Kyi’s circumstances and some of the efforts that are being made to secure her freedom.

I wanted to spend a little of my time tonight noting what a special lady Aung San Suu Kyi has been. To have spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention, her commitment to democracy and her country have been inspirational. During the past 19 years she could have left Burma. She could have been free. However, she chose not to be. It meant that she did not get to see her husband before he passed away—something that she was prepared to endure for her cause.

I think it is very important to commend the activities of organisations like Amnesty International. I also commend the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, whose op-ed I read last Friday, and I support the efforts to bring about change. I noticed some commentary in an interesting website called ‘Moreorless: heroes and killers of the 20th century’. It had this to say:

The military dictators of Burma have turned a country that was once known as the “rice bowl of Asia”, and which is endowed with many natural riches, into a basket case. They have cynically manipulated and brutalised the country’s ethnic minorities, and suppressed those fighting for democracy.

Suu Kyi is the symbol of the Burmese people’s struggle for freedom. Her poise, humility and integrity stand in stark counterpoint to secrecy and self-interest of the junta. The SPDC’s treatment of Suu Kyi is the yardstick of its commitment to democracy and human rights. So far it is not measuring up. Under its current leadership it is unlikely it ever will.

The only hope for Burma appears to be the development of a fracture within the junta that leads to its collapse. This is unlikely while Burma’s neighbours—China, India and ASEAN—continue to either support Than Shwe and his cronies or condone them by their silence.

That is a very short but perspicacious piece. I would encourage members to read the speech by Aung San Suu Kyi’s son in accepting her award of the Nobel Peace Prize, because it says something about the family’s commitment and about her. I noted in particular her son’s comment:

I know that if she were free today my mother would, in thanking you, also ask you to pray that the oppressors and the oppressed should throw down their weapons and join together to build a nation founded on humanity in the spirit of peace.

He goes on to say:

Although my mother is often described as a political dissident who strives by peaceful means for democratic change, we should remember that her quest is basically spiritual.

I think she is a remarkable lady with a remarkable family. This motion deserves support. (Time expired)