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message form Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi sent this text as a key note statement for an
international coference held at Asia Plateau, Panchgani, Maharashtra,
India. from January 3 to 7, 1997.
FOR US TO CHOOSE
By Aung San Suu Kyi
Visionary leaders of movements to free their peoples from colonial rule
understood that self-government was only a necessary first step towards
good government. Countries which achieved independence after the second
World War are approaching the fiftieth year of their nationhood as the
twentieth century draws to a close.
It is time to consider how far we have come along the road to genuine
good government, without which a nation cannot take its place in a free,
Many countries have achieved self-government only to find that the
rights and freedom of their people have come under restraint than in the
days when they were ruled by an alien power. It is a sad truth that
self-government does not necessarily entail good government.
Good government is not simply the result of a political system. It is
indissoluble linked to the values that prevail within a society. Unless
a nation can be reconstructed to enhance human values, independence will
not mean a more fulfilling existence for its citizens.
In Burma, despite half a century of self-government, good government is
still some where in the nebulous future. As Gandhiji wrote, 'In truth, a
government that is ideal governs the least. It is no self-government
that leaves nothing for the people to do. That is pupilage - our present
These words were written in 1925, yet could well be applied to the state
of present-day Burma, although it might be questioned whether 'pupilage'
is not too tender a word to describe the abject situation in which my
country finds itself today under a military administration that leaves
the people with no role to play in their own government. We remain a
nation in bondage after forty-nine years of independence.
There can be no real freedom unless the mind and spirit are free. It is
the duty of responsible leaders to nuture conditions under which the
minds and spirit of the people can reach a full flowering.
Self-government is meaningful only if it gives the people greater
confidence in their own worth. Self-government that results in a
crushed, intimidated people who have no control over their own destiny
constitutes a betrayal of the struggle of independence, a struggle
during which so mach was sacrificed by so many.
It is often the privilege as well as the duty of succeeding generations
to realize the dreams of those who sacrificed their well-being and
their lives for the freedom of their country. It could be said that the
youth of today have a more difficult task than those who conducted the
fight against colonialism.
When a struggle is directed against an alien people, the issues are
clear cut. When the struggle is directed against negative elements
within our own society, doubts and confusion creep in.
Therefore young people working for a better world need constantly to
assess and reassess the valves of their own society, as well as their
own motives. It is through continuous assessment that we learn how to
guard and preserve our freedom and how to make the best use of it.
Freedom means choice.
Young people of today have a far wider range of choice than those who
lived half a century ago. It is of the utmost importance to make the
right choice. We can choose either to gratify narrow, selfish interests
or to expand our hearts and minds to encompass the needs and aspirations
We are about to embark upon a century which will surely bring
developments that will change our world radically. The twenty-first
century could offer exceptional opportunities for creating an
environment that provides greater security and happiness for all
It could also be an era when gross materialism is let loose to trample
afoot the forces of justice and compassion. It is for us to choose which
path to follow. The young people of India can be proud that they have
before them the tradition of their great leaders to illumine the way
Once again to quote Gandhiji on the best kind of self-government:
Real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but
by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is
abused. In other words, Swaraj is to be attained by educating the masses
to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority.
Education is therefore the key to creating a nation worthy of the heirs
of men and women who dedicated themselves to the cause of justice and
freedom with the unstained passion of children and the fierce
determination of spiritual giants.
By education I do not mean just formal schooling but the cultivation of
the mental strength and courage to coup with both the known and unknown.
It is through the ability to evaluate the pass correctly and to face the
present bravely that we can build a future fit not just for ourselves
for generations to come.
There are enduring values that transcend national borders and centuries.
there are also values that has to be discovered for our own times. the
process of discovery is a challenge to young people who wish to mould
the world into a pattern that reflects the morning freshness of their
They have a unique opportunity to leave their impress on their society.
I would like to urge them to seize this opportunity with gratitude and
enthusiasm: missed opportunities could set back individuals and nations
As young people look forward to the new century with receptive minds and
open hearts, they can strive to build better lives not just for
themselves or their own people but for all humanity.
How fortunate to be on the threshold of life at a time when the world is
on the threshold of a new century! The future belongs to the young and
it is wonderful that is should be so. I would like to wish to the young
people of India and of the world happiness, love, wisdom and peace for
the New Year and the New Century.
Happy New Year
Aung San Suu Kyi
January 1, 1997.