An interview for notorious 90’ elections with Gandhi Hall Declaration reader Khin Maung Swe and MC Sein Hla Oo

The current opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won 392 seats in 485 designated constituencies at the multi-party democracy general election held on May 27 in 1990 and the number of members of parliament accounted for more than 80 percent. Unfortunately, the parliament could not be called within 60 days. Meanwhile, the State Law and Order Restoration Council issued 1/90 Notification on July 27 in 1990. All elected parliamentary representatives from NLD gathered at Gandhi Hall in Yangon on July 28 and 29 and issued Gandhi Hall Declaration after holding the meeting. The following excerpt came from the interview with Gandi Hall Declaration reader Khin Maung Swe and master of ceremonies Sein Hla Oo:

“Military coup ruined Myanmar’s prestige and political reputation in the international aspect”    

An interview with Gandi Hall Declaration reader Khin Maung Swe and MC Sein Hla Oo

Q: The SLORC issued 1/90 Notification on July 27 in 1990. The notification says, “Nowadays, the elected representatives are responsible persons to draft Constitution for future democratic nation.” How did it have effect on the elected candidates?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that drafting Constitution would move ahead in use of the election results, but it remained deadlocked. We continued a process of negotiation put forwarded by Sein Hla Oo. Despite we insisted on the negotiation process, the SLORC was not happy with it. Depending on the election results, we demanded power transfer and it seemed to land a terrible blow to the military junta. We repeated the negotiation process. A special meeting should be called. But it was useless. In this state, we are required to enter the parliamentary politics first. If we do like so, we cannot enjoy complete power. Power and role must be shared. We considered whether the military junta could believe power share and role share. The next way was that we would play the part of legislative assembly and the military junta would play the executive role. It was the most suitable and the best way. Our main point was to enter the parliament. We would take up legislative power while the SLORC would hold executive power. We were drafting the Constitution but they (SLORC) did not agree as they wanted complete power. The SLORC took no notice of the 1990 election results. The Gandhi Hall Declaration was based on the results of the 1990 elections.

Q: Did the elected representatives hold the meeting expectedly or unexpectedly the next day after the announcement of 1/90 Notification?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that an advance plan was already made to hold the Gandhi Hall’s meeting. But on July 27, the SLORD deterred us from going on to do. We well understood it. On July 26, the SLORC held its emergency meeting, but we heard that disagreements arose at the meeting and it had a heated argument. Therefore 1/90 Notification came out on July 27.

Q: Did all elected candidates from the NLD attend the Gandhi Hall’s meeting? How many elected representatives?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that all the elected representatives attended the Gandhi Hall’s meeting. After the elections, the NLD did not know what to do. As far as I remember, the elected representatives dared not go back home after the general elections. No one could not answer the question-- “What would happen if they returned home”.  There was no answer for this question. Only 30 to 40 representatives went back home.

Q: Was the declaration of the meeting written in advance or was it written based on discussions of those present at the meeting?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that the Gandhi Hall Declaration was written in advance by EC members and political activists.

A: Sein Hla Oo replied that since then I was the declaration holder. I was not an EC. At that time, we faced a problem between the intelligentsia group and the patriotic group. The master of ceremonies was chosen. Ohn Kyaing was first chosen by the intelligentsia group. The patriotic group did not accept the choice of Ohn Kyaing. Tin Oo was from the patriotic group. We did not accept Colonel Tin Oo. At that point, Kyi Maung asked all if they agreed Sein Hla Oo. All answered “Yes”. So I became the MC. The Gandhi Hall Declaration was written not only by the intelligentsia group but also by the patriotic group. Since then, the military intelligences knew everything we did. We did not know what they [military intelligence] did. Later the SLORC issued several notifications. We had known about the military junta that would never transfer power.

Q: Was there any argument at Gandhi Hall?

A: Sein Hla Oo replied that both groups became united and there was no argument. Both sides held negotiations prior to the meeting.

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that both sides had different ideas on the writing of declaration and choice of the MC. Ohn Kyaing was originally chosen at the office, but on arrival at Gandhi Hall, the patriotic group declined him.

A: Sein Hla Oo replied that the declaration was already written in advance. Writing declaration saw a little difference between the intelligentsia group and the patriotic group. But before the meeting the declaration was complete. No difference was seen at the meeting.

A: Kaung Maung Swe replied that the meeting went as usual and the declaration was negotiated to write in advance. Therefore any disagreement did not arise. But our meeting seemed to be an ultimatum. The parliament (Hluttaw) would be called on September 30. While the meeting was being held, the CEC entered the back room and held the meeting. The deadline to hold the parliament was chosen. At last September 30 was fixed to call the parliament. At that time all were already united. There was a small room at the back of Gandhi Hall. 392 representatives submitted their proposals and we listened to them.  The people were over-anxious about the election results. Chan Aye explained why to draft the Constitution. It meant to take up legislative power regardless of executive power as the first step. Depending on the 1990 election results, the NLD would demand the legislative power. Then Myint Myint Khin explained about the masses. Maung Wantha explained about the replies of the CEC. After that I said about the attitudes on future prospects of politics and economy and demanded to call the parliament not later than September 30. The SLORC supposed it was an ultimatum. It had already known to the SLORC. Many armoured carriers surrounded Gandhi Hall. If we publicized the demand of calling the parliament, all of us would be arrested there.

A: Sein Hla Oo replied that when we entered the Gandhi Hall’s meeting, we had to use the path designed by the soldiers. The soldiers were deployed around the Gandhi Hall. We could see the solders on the roof of the building.

Q: Did the elected representatives frankly discuss despite the army surrounded the Gandhi Hall?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that there we could call the parliament. All the elected representatives already remained there. Top leaders did not have a wish to call the parliament. They said to call the parliament on September 30 by issuing an ultimatum. Later no plan was in sight. This is problem! All the elected representatives were brave to be arrested. I did not know about the patriotic group. The elected representatives of those days had courage of politics. They outdid those in 2015. They became the candidates representing the respective fields. They were involved in the course of changes in politics. They were not afraid of being arrested. The weak point was the problem of leadership. At that time Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not appear yet. There was no decisive leadership. They could not carry out power share and role share. Aung Shwe said that they were not leaders.

Q: Were the arrests made as soon as the meeting had finished?

A: Khin Maung Swe replied that they were waiting for the date when they were arrested. Meanwhile Peter Lin Pin and Kyel Kyel came near the Gandhi Hall and shouted to discuss the formation of a parallel government in Mandalay. The military intelligence arrested Thar Hsaing. And I was also arrested at the same place.

Q: The SLORC did not recognize the results of the 1990 elections and issued 1/90 Notification. The elected representatives were arrested. What is your opinion on such improper act of the SLORC?

A: Khin Maung Swe said that the SLORC broke its promise. Military coup ruined Myanmar’s prestige and political reputation in the international aspect. It was an improper act. If military-backed National Unity Party had won the elections, power would have been transferred to it. As far as I knew, the NUP planned to hold a dinner party with celebrity Mont Mont Myint Aung at the house of Maj-Gen Kyaw Htin. But the dinner party was cancelled because the NUP lost in the elections. The SLORC hated Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo and did not believe them until now. Tin Oo was a traitor. Aung San Suu Kyi could not be controlled. She was a danger for them. If they transferred power to the NLD, their profits and interests can be lost. That is the first priority. The country’s economy is the second.  So the SLORC seized the power. We cannot afford that. We had only the result of the elections. The SLORC controlled weapons, executive power, territory and international relations. Therefore, it was not easy to compete with the SLORC. I was imprisoned for 16 and half years. We chose and followed the confrontation method.   The SLORC wanted compete power. We wanted to use pressure and compromise. But they saw an exit strategy after drafting the 2008 Constitution. Kyi Maung and Aung Shwe were told to share power and role. But they thought that the SLORC would transfer power to the elected representatives, but in vain. At that time, we were from the CEC and they were from military field. They thought themselves that power would be transferred as they were former military high ranking officials. The SLORC did not believe Aung San Suu Kyi and it did not want to transfer power to the civilian government as well. They had already decided to hold the power. It was the problem of the 90’election. After 1988 uprising, the military junta dared not transfer power as the political attitudes of the students were still strong and tense. They dared not transfer power to the civilian government. Further improper acts must be avoided. It insulted the people. Insulting the people is the highest crime in the political field. We don’t want like so again.