Interview With Salai Ngun Cung Lian, Chairman of Chin Youth Organization
Indiana University: May 7, 2002
Chinland Guardian: Thank you for giving us your time.
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: You are always welcome. But let me assure you one thing that whatever I am going to response in this interview is my personal opinion and not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations where I am involving with.
Chinland Guardian: We heard that you have been actively involving in drafting Chinland Constitution. Can you please tell us briefly about that?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: That’s true. Since I became a Co-convener of Chin Forum Working Group (I) in 1999, I have been intensely working for the initial draft of Constitution of Chinland under the leadership of Pu Lian Uk, an elected Peoples’ Representative from Haka Constituency, and Dr. Vum Son. There are over twenty peoples actively working on this project voluntarily. The second initial draft was published in early 2001 and dispatched to Chins in worldwide as much as we can afford.
As a Co-Convener, I have attended State Constitution Seminar, held in Chiangmai, Thailand in August 2001 with Pu Lian Uk. Under the sponsorship of NGOs, and follow up roundtable meeting also was held in Washington DC early this year. Pursuant to consensus concord we have, I was assigned to work on the 3rd Initial Draft of Constitution of Chinland, which is due to published in soon and be distributed after approval I got from Chin Forum Management Board and my fellow participants in WG-I. The reason I have a great interest on this process is that I am a Federalist and I believe that Federal Union of Burma must be build base on the State Constitutions of Nationalities. I also believe that as a Chin national, I have moral and natural duty to involve in this process.
Chinland Guardian: We have learnt that some Chin people had critically criticized over Chin Forum Working Group (I) for drafting Chinland Constitution without having any sort of mandate. What would be your response for that?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: Well, those who used such multifarious legal wordings in irrelevant situations should be very careful to criticize over something involve with legal issues in the future. If they know something about a Constitution making process, they would have not criticized instead cooperated with us. Any Constitution making process need to go through several distinct stages before it reaches ratification stage. What the Working Group (I) of the Chin Forum has been doing is only a primary step. Anybody who criticizes the task of WG-I should know that we are not writing actual Constitution; instead we are working on a sample draft Constitution for the future Chinland. In near future, there will be a chance and an opportunity for the Chin people to write and ratify their own Constitution by themselves. When our people are in that position, we may get some lessons and benefits from draft Constitution of Chinland. So, do we violate any mandate?
Chinland Guardian: When did you become president of Chin Youth Organization? What are you doing at present? Are you working on any specific project right now?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: I am a Chairman of Chin Youth Organization, not a President. I was first elected to serve as Chairman of Ad hoc Committee of Chin Youth Organization in 1999. During the Dallas conference, attendants of Conference elected me as Chairman of the CYO. The Chin Youth Organization has laid out several plans to be implemented in the first two years term and I am coordinating those plans as a Chairman. What I am doing at the present? Well, I am a student at Indiana University School of Law, and I am working on my dissertation. As an ordinary individual I have nothing special to say about my personal life. Regarding specific project, I am currently working as a Consultant of Technical Advisory Network of Burma and developing a concept paper for Transitional Justice in Burma.
Chinland Guardian: Can you please tell us the aims and objectives of CYO?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: The aims and objectives of CYO are:
1. to undertake and facilitate the emergence of a generation of youth, which will participate in reconstructing and strengthening of the social, political and cultural fabrics of the (future) Chin society;
2. to build enhanced unity, understanding, trust and solidarity among the Chins;
3. to promote and protect the Chin national heritage, culture, literature and traditional values;
4. to uplift and promote the social status of the Chins in the areas of education and welfare;
5. to regain our national self-determination; and
6. To extend support and cooperation with other organizations with similar interests.
Chinland Guardian: We heard that there are other Chin youth or Students organizations such as Chin Students and Youth Organization, Chin Students Union, Kuki Students Union, Zomi Students Groups and so on. Do you have any relationship with other Chin youth or students organizations?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: Well, that’s very important issue for all of us. Our General Secretary Salai Thla Hei, a student at Indiana University has been working on those issues and I hope he will bring his fact-findings, analysis, and recommendations on that regard to the Central Executive Committee Meeting, which is going to be held in June or July 2002. So far, we do not have so far any formal relationship with those Chin youth organizations yet but we do have informal relationship with them. We are currently paying all our efforts on foundation work of our organization and when this task is done, surely we will give serious attention to work together with other organizations.
Chinland Guardian: We have learnt that CYO represents only members of Chin Youths living in North America. Do you have any plan to make expansion throughout Europe, Asia, Burma, and Chinland?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: Our constitution does not restrict us to expand our organization throughout the world if the situation and condition allows us to do so. If any youth or student from anywhere in the world who share our vision and aims, and adopt our constitution as fundamental guideline, he or she can join with us. CYO does not discriminate any Chin youth and student to become a member of CYO as long as he or she adopt and accept our constitution as a fundamental guideline for organizational work. If certain numbers of Chin youth and Students from certain areas would like to set up CYO branch according to our constitution, they can set up CYO branch anytime in anywhere. But, as I said, we would like to build this organization solidly so that we are paying all our efforts in order to build a solid and lasting Chin Youth Organization. That’s the main reason we can set up our branches only in North America at the present.
Chinland Guardian: Do you think that all Chin Youth and Students Organizations will come together in the future under one umbrella or one body?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: I do certainly expect but we all have to meet three requirements in order to work together under one umbrella. First of all, doctrinally speaking, all Chin Youth and Students organizations must focus on our national common interests, and not certain particular issues when we our organization’s name represent the name of our people. Second of all technically speaking, all Chin Youth and Students organization must strike for restoration of self-determination right of the Chin people, and not for advancement of particular tribal groups’ concerns’ and interests’ and so forth when we are under the alien’s rule. Last of all, practically speaking, all individual members of any Chin Youth and Students organization must adopt and apply a theory called “unity in spirit, diversity in operation” into our practical life. If we all are focusing, striking, and adopting on the same issue, concern and theory, we can work together.
Chinland Guardian: As Chairman of Chin Youth Organization, what do you think is most important for the Chin people at present?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: As I said before, I should not response you as a Chairman of CYO but as a Chin individual when we talk about the concern of our people not our organization. I think we have many important issues for our people but the most important issue among is “our peoples’ freedom from aliens’ rule”. As we all aware profoundly, if there is no freedom, no justice. If there is no justice, no development. That’s why freedom is very expensive and never is a gift. To attain our national freedom, we must stand, work, and act unitedly.
Chinland Guardian: In terms of “unity”?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: If you don’t mind, I would like to reframe your question in this way saying “unity for what purpose”? I am not a linguistic so that I will not try to argue what really is the word “unity” mean. My concern is how we should apply the unity into the different levels of contexts. For the purpose of our peoples’ freedom, we all need to unite because that is the basis requirement to achieve freedom. A nation or people will not always unite on all issues. But, a nation or people must unite for “national or people’s” common interest because if they separate they will perish. If we are reluctant to unite with our own people on the cause of our national freedom, which means something is more important for us than our peoples’ freedom. How can our family, friend, village, track, party, organization, tribe issues could be more important than the benefit of our people? So, I think that for what purpose or reason we are seeking unity is more important than what unity actually mean is.
Chinland Guardian: So, what are the obstacles for the Chins unity for national freedom for aliens’ rule?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: That’s a great question. I think, we do not have a clear vision, understanding, and reasoning on the important of our national common and concrete interest, which I employ the term “national freedom from aliens’ rule” that’s why our particular interest comes first in every situation. Second, we do not have the courage, patience, and leniency because we do not understand the value of our national interest so that we are lack of convictions and fail to have steadfastness on our commitments for our national freedom. Finally, we are not free people and we do not have opportunity to pursue metal, physical, and ideological development so that we are very poor in mentally, physically, and ideologically. We are living, acting, and struggling according the will of our Masters and not our own. When we understand the importance of our national freedom we will unite. But, things are getting better these days because we are getting aware the real entities of our people. So lets hope for the best. Simply we could not differentiate our national interest and our personal or group interest.
Chinland Guardian: Do you have any further comments for our people?
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: I like to listen and learn from others, I am still an old student.
Chinland Guardian: Well, thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts and beliefs.
Salai Ngun Cung Lian: You are always welcome.