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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6809

Ms REA (7:15 PM) —I, too, rise to support the motion put forward by the member for Page and, once again, in conjunction with others, I congratulate her on what is, I think, a very well-worded motion. I am very happy to endorse it.

When I gave my first speech in this place early last year, I used a quote from Martin Luther King which said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere—a sentiment that at the time expressed my personal view of the importance of fighting for justice and human rights across the world. As a statement I think that defines the issue that we are trying to confront in Burma by supporting the National League for Democracy by calling for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and for the brutal military regime in Burma come to an end. I did not know when I used that quote at that time that Martin Luther King actually said that on the day that I was born; I think it is an interesting coincidence that I chose it. Unfortunately, it is still a quote that is apt today.

We live in a global village. That is why democratically elected members of parliaments across the world should stand in unison to call for the end of brutal regimes wherever they currently exist. We should stand together, and I see that, in terms of democratic parliaments, there is a very strong move across the globe, led by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and many other leaders to call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and to acknowledge the democratic leader of that country.

Democracy is a very fragile beast, as we all know, and it does have its faults. But until we are presented with another form of government that promotes individual freedoms and support for the human rights of a nation’s citizens in a better way, we should all be calling at least for it to become much more widespread as a system of government.

The democratic rights and human rights of individual citizens in a democratic nation with a free parliament and laws do not only protect the citizens of that country but, indeed, have an impact on all of us, and that is why I believe that the Martin Luther King quote is so important. I also think it is a responsibility of all of us, as community leaders, to support, as I said, the many comments and the moves from the United Nations and other organisations calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. I think we should support the statements that have already been made by many ASEAN leaders who are calling on the Burmese military regime to release her and to acknowledge her position as a democratically elected leader.

I know I joined with others last Thursday in acknowledging her birthday. It was her 64th birthday. She has been in detention for 13 of the last 19 years, and has been the democratically elected leader of Burma for almost the last 20. It means that she was elected leader—and has since been in detention over that period of time—when she was just a year or two younger than me.

I hope by the time I reach my 64th birthday that not only will Aung San Suu Kyi be free but also the rights and freedoms of all Burmese citizens will be enshrined by their government, that they will enjoy the democratic freedoms that we enjoy and that we in this parliament will no longer need to move motions like this against the incarceration of democratically elected leaders. I hope that the world will have moved on. But unless the Burmese government releases the 2,000 political prisoners led by Aung San Suu Kyi, I fear that we are many years away not just from a democratically elected government in that nation but, unfortunately, also in others around the world. It is symbolic that they be released. It is important for the people of Burma but it is also important for us as global citizens. (Time expired)