The right to Vote is a privilege
As January 23, 06– the federal election is approaching day by day, leaders of the different political parties and their respective candidates across Canada are campaigning hard in order to get elected. In a democracy, the right to stand for office and the right to vote, or not to vote, in election is enjoyed by every citizen. Although in countries like Australia this is only half-true because voting is compulsory.
Growing up under one of the cruellest military regimes (Burmese military regime) in our day, I understand the right to vote is a real privilege and not the one to be taken for granted. In a country like Burma, where military dictators rule at gunpoint, people do not have a chance to vote for the government of their choice.
Even if the elections are held, the military regime will not honour the result of the election unless they win. Indeed, in 1990, two years after the Junta’s mass killings of thousands of demonstrators who were demanding the restoration of Democracy in Burma in the year 1988, the Burmese despotic regime held the general election, promising the citizens that legitimate power would be handed over to the winning Party. Believing that the regime would respect the outcome of the election, the people of Burma participated in the general election called by the military regime in 1990. In that election, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party led by a Noble Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi had won a landslide victory, attaining more than 83% of the seats in the Burmese Parliament.
Shameless and corrupt, the group of dictators flatly ignored the wills of the people clearly expressed in the general election. Contrary to their promise, instead of handing over power to the winning party, NLD, the military dictators imprisoned those Political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the ongoing pro-democracy movement.
Still today, the regime refused to give power to the winner of the 1990 general election. Beside their flagrant refusal, more than 1500 political prisoners including the Noble Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi are still in detention.
By looking at the example of Burma, I hope my Canadian friends will understand that the democratic right, particularly the right to vote in elections, is a real privilege, and a rare one that so many people of the world do not enjoy.
I understand that some people might disagree with me for comparing a democratic country like Canada, where we enjoy our fundamental freedom and democratic rights, and un-democratic country like Burma where there is no freedom or democratic rights whatsoever under the current military junta. Regardless of whether or not one country is democratic, the point I want to make here is how fortunate people here are to have the right to vote. Let us appreciate the fact that we have a right to vote and make use of it for the sake of our nation’s well being.
Out of my interest, I talked to some of my local friends both at school and at work regarding this coming election. Most of them are quite cynical about the term ‘politics’ and ‘politicians’. I am disappointed by the fact that some of them intend not to vote. To them, it seems that there is no party they want to vote for. “I don’t care about politics” and “All the politicians are corrupted”, is what I was mostly told.
Given the sponsorship and Income Trust scandals, it is understandable that some of my local friends are cynical about politics. I think many might share this feeling of frustration about politics. I understand the frustration discouraging people not to participate in election, but am worried that not enough attention is paid to the reasons WHY we should participate in elections.
Even though I fully respect individual’s right not to vote in elections, the notion that concerns me personally is the question of being a responsible citizen. No matter how much corruption is going on or how messy politics is, I believe that we are owe it to our nation to fulfill our responsibility as a citizen through our vote or other means.
Let’s be aware of the impact of our vote and our obligation as a responsible citizen. Whether we have alternatives or not in this coming election, I think we should choose to get out and vote for the party from the alternatives available to us. As responsible citizens, we should care about the future course of our nation. I believe that elections are the time when we collectively can alter the course and future direction of our nation. This is the moment allowing us, especially well-informed students, to make the right choice by making use of our individual right to vote which so many people all over the world, like students and other people in Burma do not have at all.
(Note: This article by Salai Za Ceu Lian, was published by the University of Winnipeg Student Weekly “Uniter”, Canada on 19th January, 06, five days prior to the actual federal election of Canada.)
By Za Ceu Lian