Union Solidarity and Development Party’s secretary general Htay Oo sat down with DVB’s Khin Maung Win to discuss reform within the country and his party and how the USDP evaluated their losses in April’s by-elections
I think it was two months ago, the president said that ‘hardliners’ would be left behind and people must work with those who want reform. Regarding this statement, do you think the president was over the top? What is your opinion on the matter?
Those who are cooperating now want reform. If we did not want reform, we would join others in protest. We’ve had lots of chances to oppose [the process]. The reason this happened is because we wanted reforms, too. There is nothing to worry about, there is nothing to mistrust, but there will be many ways of carrying out the reforms.
Regarding ‘hardliners’ and ‘soft liners’, we do not have them. I am asked if I am a hardliner or a soft liner. For me it is best to stand with my beliefs. Parties depend on their beliefs. I believe in my party’s principles and taking responsibility. Other parties will do the same. You can’t say individuals are hardliners because they stand up for their beliefs. Regarding this, pay attention to what they are doing to help benefit the people. If you look at their actions, there will be no ‘hard’ or ‘soft’.
How does the USDP provide guidance to its representatives in the parliament?
The USDP was formed because we presume that it would be more successful to work as a group rather than individually. Moreover, we accepted the multi-party system with the understanding that there would be better discussion among many parties rather than with just one. So we have representatives in the parliament who come from various locations with various ideologies and knowledge, and when they submit questions [in the parliament] as a representative of their regions’ interests, we don’t restrict them.
Regarding proposals, we make sure to verify what their needs are clearly and we try to avoid overlap since there are a lot of [representatives]. Regarding bills, it’s difficult since laws can only be managed by those with expertise and experience in that field, so we decide on this as a group.
So when it comes to voting in the parliament, do the USDP representatives make decisions as individuals or do they follow the party’s [decisions]?
They decide individually but usually, we get information in advance so we brainstorm outside [of the parliament] and work out decisions based on the majority’s opinion. Then we go ahead with it.
The party is said to be reforming. How are you going to reform systematically?
The word ‘reform’ is too big regarding the restructuring of the party. It is not like [we’re] starting from the beginning. The party must always assess itself. We have to assess our own people. We especially need village and ward level leaders.
Some people are quite arrogant when dealing with other people. Some don’t know how to behave. Although some people are found doing things properly, they do not get [promoted]. It is not ‘reform’ – there has been no change in policy. Our policy is brief: there must be stability, peace, and development. We will only follow this.
What about the country’s ties with China – the whole world is interested in it. The people of Burma are also interested in it. Have China-Burma relations been damaged because of the temporary suspension of Myitsone Dam project? When a foreign journalist asked one of the party leaders U Aung Thein Lin about the situation, he said the president made the decision. Is this the individual view of U Aung Thein Lin or the party’s?
Our party Central Executive Committee (CEC) members have the rights to express their views. When the party wants to express their views, it is done through the CEC.
So have China-Burma relations been damaged? In my view it has not been damaged by the current situation. We are neighbouring countries with large borders. Our people already have a close relationship.
The relationship between the governments has been good for a long time. During this new government’s term, we have a multi-strategic cooperative [relationship]. When our party emerged, the Chinese communist party recognised us. The cooperation between the two parties strengthens the cooperation between the people and the cooperation between the governments.
We saw [Aung Thein Lin’s interview] in the newspapers, I was curious about this and wanted related party leaders to explain.
[What he said] was not a view sanctioned by our party. It is just what he said. The [readers] thought he said it in English. What was noted down in English was translated into Chinese. And that was translated into Burmese.
We discussed what ‘crazy’ means. It related to [his remarks about] the by-election. He said that people might be have been undecided/confused during the election, and undecided was [translated] as ‘crazy’ and it came to mean mad. I read it. I (looked it up) in both English and Burmese as I thought you might be interested. In Burmese ‘crazy’ is quite difficult [to describe].
U Aung Thein Lin said Ban Ki-moon and the UN are not trust worthy. What do you want to say about this?
As I do not know whether U Aung Thein Lin said it or not, I can’t criticise. I do not want to refer to what was published on the Internet. But the view of the party is that we are also a member state of the UN. The country must fulfill the duties sent down by the UN. I am also friendly with UN organisations. They always come (to visit us). They hold talks with us. The UNHCR came not long ago. We have no problem with them. I trust the UN.
How do you assess the USPD losses in the recent by-elections?
Firstly, the public cast their votes and we have to obey the decision of the people. After we learnt about the [election results], we decided that we will accept the decision of the people.
I said, do not be angry with the public, do not despair and do not bear grudges. Do whatever you have to do for them. At the time, we dug a pond for the people at Mayangon. We lost there too.
Therefore, we will obey the public decision regarding that. The main thing is the public elected people who they think might be better than us. We have no dispute with this. I always stated my view: it’s not important who does what, but rather it’s important what emerges. That’s why if there are better people than us, we must support them.