April 13, 2021

We will work together with the people: Interview with NLD Chairman Zo Bawi

19 January 2016 — Zo Bawi, chairman of the National League for Democracy in Chin State, contested the 2015 election and won a victory from the Hakha Township constituency No. 1 for the State Hluttaw.

There has been much speculation that he would be the next chief minister of the Chin State government. He is currently a member of the Central Executive Committee of the NLD.

Question: Why do you think the NLD was successful in the election?
Zo Bawi: It’s been 53 years that the country has been under the military rule and I think we won a victory with the help of the public as they clearly understand the fact that there needs to be a change in the country.

Question: Did you expect that the party would be able to achieve this much?
Zo Bawi: Yes, we did. We had even believed that we would be more successful this time than the 1990 election as people had completely understood the work and performance of the military government.

Question: According to the election results, it is likely that the NLD will be able to form the government in Chin State. If that is the case, how will it be different from the current government led by the Union Solidarity and Development Party?
Zo Bawi: They take orders only from the top and lead the public in a very centralized way. We will be using a federal system and will not be totally dependent on the central authority. Full authority will be in our hand at the state level. So, I think we will be able to do what is best for our people and state.

Question: This will only be possible after the federal system is fully allowed and practiced. What will happen before the federal system is in place?
Zo Bawi: At first, we will have to go in accordance with the 2008 constitution. But it will be amended in the Hluttaw (parliament) sessions after the election of the country’s president and we will be able to lead the country in accordance with the constitution we draft.

Question: When do you think the amendment can be made?
Zo Bawi: The president will be elected in the first regular session of the first Assembly of the Union. Then, the president will lead the Union government and will appoint the chief minister of all States and Regions. The State Chief Minister will then form the State government. After that, the amendment will take place in the second regular session of the first Assembly of the Union.

Question: Which ministries do you think are not necessary and should be removed?
Zo Bawi: Ministries such as Ministry of Religious Affairs and Ministry for Border Affairs.

Question: What if the military do not agree?
Zo Bawi: We will be the majority and I believe what the president decides will be accepted by the military. And they can become the military for the people.

Question: What will be your priorities on development issues in Chin State?
Zo Bawi: The first priority will be development on roads. A two-way road connecting between Cikha in the north and Paletwa in the south will be constructed. Paletwa can be our main door to Chin State in terms of export and import when the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project is finished. We will also try to preserve and protect our forests and animals, and replace our current farming with other income-generating sources.

Question: Speaking of the Kaladan Project, there are reports highlighting various human rights violations and lack of consultation with local communities in the process. How do you think it should be carried on?
Zo Bawi: Actually, when the military government take on something, the first thing they think about is what they can get from it for themselves. When the NLD leads the government, we will think first for the people. The current government said that the project would be finished in March 2016. Based on what has been completed, we will have to take a proper look at it and decide how best it can be continued.

Question: Tell us how you will keep your relationship with the public when you are in the government.
Zo Bawi: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said to us: “When we form a government, I want you to have this mindset that we are working for the people. As we will be working for the people, we will maintain a close relationship with the public and we will work together with the people. We will not do anything of our own accord alone.

Question: As you mentioned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, what will the NLD be like without her?
Zo Bawi: Since 1988, we have already had our constitution, princples and policies in place. We will keep going accordingly even if Daw Suu is not with us.

Question: You don’t have Vice President or Secretary in the NLD central committee. Is it according to the constitution?
Zo Bawi: Well, it is true we don’t. Daw Suu is the president and the rest are Central Executive Committee members. We are happy with the leadership. We haven’t got any issues or problems regarding the position and the authority. We all are responsible for our own duties and this is what has made us harrmonious. But some people get confused about this and say it is the same as dictatorship. In reality, it signifies equality.

Note: The interview was first published in the Chinland Post in Hakha dialect on 13 November 2015.

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