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Address by DASSK delivered by Dr. M

Subject: Address by DASSK delivered by Dr. M. Aris

                            Address by
            Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Nobel Peace Laureate,
                on receiving  in absentia  the degree of
                  Doctor of Laws, honoris causa,  from
                      The University of Natal
           delivered by her husband Dr Michael Aris in Durban, 
23 April 1997

To receive an honorary degree from a foremost educational institution of 
South Africa is the equivalent of a cohort of legendary heroes coming to
the aid of our course. For those fighting for their belief in justice and
freedom, there is no weapon  more potent than an acknowledgment of their
endeavors by others who themselves have known- and  overcome - the trials
and tribulations of a bitter  struggle against the forces of inhuman

The story of  South Africa's victory over one of the most unjust systems
man has ever devised is an inspiration to peoples of all races and creeds
who accept that basic human dignity is inviolate. The young people of such
a country have just cause to be proud of their heritage. It is a unique
heritage that includes intense pain, unexpected  joys, ugliness and beauty,
unimaginable brutality and glorious  sacrifice. And, in the end, supreme

True, the struggles of South African nation are far from over, for it will 
take many years  to undo the effect of the wrongs that  were committed over
 centuries. But, I am confident that  you will be able to  conquer the past
and  build a future that will vindicate the blood and tears that have been
shed over  the long years of fighting  for your birthright to be a free
people, the equal of  all other races. In fact, because of your
achievements it can be  said that you are the first among equals in a
world, where , despite the cynicism and materialism of our times, courage
and steadfast commitment to a just cause are still highly valued.

Many of us in Burma know of your struggle against apartheid, and your 
victory has helped us  to face  adversity with fortitude, and to strengthen
our  faith that right will ultimately  prevail. It was through your
struggle  that I learnt my first practical lesson in the importance of
universal participation in the fight for justice in any society. As a very
new  student  at Oxford University, I was taken to shop for  fruit by an
English friend.  As I was reaching for a big , handsome orange she looked
at the label on the fruit, told me it come from South Africa and explained
why I should not buy it. I was stuck by the  strength of  her determination
to do whatever  she could to combat apartheid, particularly as she was  not
 at all politically inclined. For her it was a matter  of conscience, an
act of   common humanity to stand by  the black people of South Africa  in
their fight to live as full citizens in their own country. I am happy  and
proud to be able to  say that from that day  I never bought anything from
South Africa  as a protest against apartheid. Since apartheid collapsed  I
have not had  a chance to buy anything South African. It is a pleasure
which I hope  to enjoy one day, in  your own country.

You are perhaps not very familiar with our struggle to win basic democratic
rights for the people of Burma. Almost nine years ago, spontaneous  public
demonstrations across the country led to the  fall of  a single-party,
authoritarian  socialist regime. But the demonstrations were  put down by
force of arms; and a military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration
Council, or SLORC, took over the powers of government. The junta promised
free and fair elections to choose a democratic government, and a large
number of parties sprang up.  Of these, the National  League for Democracy
(NLD), of which I am the General Secretary, won the landslide victory in
the elections held in May 1990. However, the SLORC refused to honour its
promise of a change to democratic government and proceed to reward the
winning party with a campaign of intense persecution.

Today the persecution is worse than ever. Many of our elected  Members of
Parliament  have been  forced to resign or to flee into exile. There are
numbers of them  languishing in prison, while those still working for the
party are subjected to various forms of harassment. Although the NLD has
not-to date- been declared an illegal organization, its  torment is no less
than that  suffered by the ANC in the worst days of apartheid. We face the
same dilemmas of  a society where a minority section enjoys all powers  and
 privileges while the great majority  live in a constant state of
insecurity, both  political and economic. There are the same debates going
on about the  efficacy of  sanctions with regards to  Burma as went on in
your country  a decade ago. There are the same questions posed about
whether the people of Burma are in fact fit for the democratic system of

Democracy should not be the  preserve of any race or culture, because it is
a  system that seeks to protect the rights of  both the strong and the
weak. It is the system which attains, not a perfect ,but the best practical
balance between  security and freedom. Every fight for freedom  is  an
individual fight. It is  every individual fighting for his or her rights.
At the same time it is a universal struggle, the struggle of all who
believe that it is wrong to inflict  suffering  on others.

You in South Africa have known the iniquities of a society founded on the
conviction that the worth of human beings is decided by the colour of their
skins. Dividing the human race into good and  bad people  is no more
meaningful than deciding their worth according to whether  they are black,
brown, yellow or white. I believe that the only real division is that
between those who are capable of learning and those who are not capable of
learning. Those who are capable of learning are the builders and healers;
those who cannot learn are the  destroyers. You young people  who came to
this university to acquire educational skills that will enable you to build
respectable lives for yourselves, I hope you will take away with you the
capacity to build  for others  as well as yourselves, that  you will have
acquired the habit of learning from your encounters with the unknown and  
the unexpected along the way to the future.

Those who have to tread the long and weary path of a life that sometimes
seems to promise little beyond  suffering and yet more suffering need to
develop the capacity to draw strength from the very hardships that trouble
their existence. It is from hardship rather than  from ease that we gather
wisdom. During my years  under house arrest I learnt my most  precious
lesson from  a poem  by  Rabindranath Tagore, many of whose verses, even in
unsatisfactory translation, reach out to  that innermost , elusive land of
the  spirit that we are not always  capable of exploring by ourselves. The
title of the poem, Walk Alone, is bleak and its message is equally  bleak:

          If they answer not your call, walk alone;
          If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
          O thou  of evil luck,
          Open the mind and speak out alone.

          If they turn away and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
          O thou  of evil luck ,
          Trample the thorns under the tread,
          And along the blood-lined track travel alone.

          If they do not hold up the light 
	  when the night is troubled with storm,
          O thou of evil luck,
          With the thunder- flame of pain ignite thine own heart,
          And let it burn alone. 

There are no words of comfort in the poem, no assurance of joy and peace at
 the end of the  harsh journey. There is no pretense  that it is  anything
but evil luck to receive no answer to your call , to be deserted  in the
middle of the  wilderness, to have no one who would hold up a  light to aid
you  through a stormy night. It is not a poem that offer's heart's ease,
but it teaches that you can draw strength from  your harshest experiences,
that a citadel of endurance can be built on a foundation of anguish. How
can anybody who  has learnt to ignite his heart with the thunder-flame  of
his own pain ever know defeat? Victory is ensured to those who are capable
of  learning the hardest lessons that life has to offer.

We live, we make mistakes, we suffer and we learn. That is the cycle of
life that we have to follow. Where will you go from here, you with your
pristine  young lives ahead of you?  I have no words of wisdom to offer
you, no words of infallible advice that will enable you to avoid the
pitfalls of human existence.  I would wish you a happy journey, one that is
free from  trouble and defeat. But  such fortune is not ensured to all of
us. So for those of you who will have to face the usual- and at times  more
than the usual - quota of disappointment and sorrow, I would like to say
that the warmth  of my heart goes with you.  I would like you to remember
on the darkest nights of storm that there are those who do not know you but
who understand your trouble and who care , because they themselves have
known the absence of a comforting light.

And in those times when your lives are full of  light, I would like you to 
think of the ones who are deprived of the basic requirements of a
meaningful  existence, those who can not even dare to  hope that  salvation
is around the corner. South Africans have acquired  a moral standing 
without peer in the world today. I would like you to use this, your special
asset, to help others achieve what you have been  able to achieve, a change
to a just society. Your  voices will carry further than the  voices of the
other people. Please let your voices  be heard in the name of democracy and
 human rights in Burma and  elsewhere in the world.

No message to  a South African university  can be complete without  a
reference to two of  your great  freedom fighters: President Nelson Mandela
 and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. They are men whose stature towers over the
great mass of  humanity, who stand  "higher than hope " for the weak and
oppressed. May there be many more  South Africans who will be  as living
symbols of courage and endeavour. You have a proud tradition  to maintain.

May I end with the expression of heartfelt thanks to the senate and the
council of   the University of Natal and to the  Vice-Chancellor and
Principal, Professor B.M.Gourley, for conferring on me  the degree of
Doctor of Letters, honoris causa?  It is an honour  which I accept with
pride and joy and the  conviction that it is an augury of good things to
come for my country.

Thank you.