Democracy and Equality: the True Spirit of Chin National Day
20 February 2011: [CG Note: Chin communities in Malaysia today celebrate their national day in Kuala Lumpur, marking its 63rd anniversary of the historic 1948 mass conference held in Falam Town of Chin State in Burma, where people from across Chin State voted for the democratic system of government.
A decennial commemoration ceremony that marks the year in which a community-based organisation to provide social services for Chin refugees in Malaysia was first initiated with the formation of Chin Refugee Committee (CRC) in 2001 is also held.
The following is a speech given on this special day in Kuala Lumpur celebration today by Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Director of Chin Human Rights Organisation that has been actively involved in dealing with issues facing Chin refugees in Malaysia.]
63 years ago today, our forefathers from all over Chinland gathered at Falam town for the purpose of laying the foundation of the future free Chinland administration system. At that gathering on February 20, 1948, our forefathers chose democracy over the feudal system.
Our people treasured democracy and freedom so much that two years later, the Chin State parliament adopted February 20 as our national day, the day that our people abolished the old system and adopted a new system that guarantees freedom and equality. After 63 long years, we still treasure the day on which we chose democracy over feudal system.
Our forefathers were looking forward to developing a democratic Chin society with optimism and full of determination. However, their dream was unfortunately short-lived. The very reason why we are here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today reminded us that we are not free and we have not achieved a democratic society which our forefathers had envisioned.
We need to remind ourselves today that while you and I are now celebrating our national day in a foreign land freely, our sisters and brothers in our own homeland are not allowed to celebrate Chin National Day as it is. Instead, they are forced to put up banner saying ‘Chin State Day’.
Let us take a moment to look at ourselves and examine why we are here today.
Before the British invasion into our homeland, we were always a free and independent nation, and people. During the independent movement from the British rule, we joined hands with other nationalities such as Kachin, Shan and Burman to build a union together with equal status at a historic Panglong agreement.
However, soon after independence from the British rule, our people have been put under great pressure on our language, religion, and our culture. In every level of our lives, successive Burmese regimes have systematically applied manipulations to our social, political and economic environment in order to wipe out our distinct national identity.
Our homeland is not free. Our people are not free. We are oppressed and the pressure imposed on our people by the successive Burmese regimes is unbearable.
We are not even allowed to learn our own language in our own homeland in school.
We are targeted and persecuted because of our religion as Christians. We are not even allowed to print the Bible in our own country. The Crosses we put up on our mountains to express our faith have been destroyed one by one and replaced with Buddhist pagodas and statues. Many of qualified government employees including the soldiers are pressured to abandon their faith in order to get promotion to a higher rank. We can’t even worship our God freely in our own homeland.
Our people have been forced to construct more than 50 army camps by the present regime since they came into power by killing thousands of peaceful demonstrators. Our people have been used as porters and forced to work in so many military projects. The recently published report by the Physicians for Human Rights say over 90% of Chins have been subject to forced labour.
When the military regime promised to hold election and transfer power to the winning political party in 1990, our people started forming parties and contested in the election. As you all know the election result was never honoured. Instead, elected MPs were arrested, and the parties abolished.
When our people are facing famine-like food crisis starting from 2008, the Burmese regime does not provide any help. Instead, they prohibit the flows and deliveries of any food aids from outside to the people.
These are the situations that make us to leave our homeland in search of refuge. The paths we take in search of refuge are not easy. We crossed the sea, and mountains risking our lives. Many of us have died in the sea, on the highways, in the jungles of no man’s land. How dangerous and risky our path is! Some fall prey to crooked agents and human traffickers; many young girls and women are humiliated and sold in the seas to the fishing boat and in brothels.
Because of that situation back home, we came to knock the door of UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur in 2001. How grateful we are to those who open their doors to provide us refuge and safety in these situations! We are so grateful to the UN and many other countries for your sympathy. We are comforted by your humility.
Today, we are also commemorating the 10th anniversary of Chin Refugee Day in Malaysia. Since its founding in 2001, CRC (Chin Refugee Committee) has done a wonderful job in support of thousands of refugees in a very difficult environment and situation. We are so proud of what you have achieved as a self-supported community organization. Congratulations to all the leaders and staff members from the very beginning to present. What you have done to our people are gratefully recorded in the hearts and minds of our people. You have set a good example of what the Chins could do and achieve even in a very difficult situation.
The experiences we have encountered here in Malaysia will remain as unforgettable events in the history of our people.
Sometimes, it is disheartening when we look at our situation at present. However, we still have hope that one day there will be peace, democracy and justice in our homeland if we continue to work hard. It is encouraging that the spirit of Chin National Day is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of our people.
Today, we remember our brothers and sisters who are working hard to materialize the spirit of Chin National Day risking their lives back home in a very difficult situation.
As we celebrate Chin National Day and enjoy the festivity with pride, this is the time for all Chins to renew our unity. This is the time to come together and work hard for our common desire and goal to restore democracy and freedom in our homeland. Because the true spirit of Chin National Day is to stand up for democracy and equality. The true spirit of Chin National Day is to stand up among the world community as a distinct people and nation, and to be able to contribute to the betterment of our people, our homeland and to the world community.
Congratulations and long live Chin National Day!