The National League for Democracy has been forced to delay a township assembly to select representatives for its upcoming national conference because of internal conflict, members said last week.
Seven members elected in ward assemblies in Mandalay Region’s Pyigyitagun township were temporarily suspended by the head office on December 28 for allegedly intimidating other members.
However, after meeting with the suspended members in Yangon last week, party patron U Tin Oo agreed to postpone the township assembly in Pyigyitagun until the complaints could be properly investigated, said U Ko Ko Aung, who took part in the meeting.
U Win Hlaing, U Zaw Win, Daw Mee Mee, U Myint Ko, U Saw Win and U Kyaw Kyaw Naing were suspended along with U Ko Ko Aung. Another member, U Aung Ngwe, was also suspended.
“We did not bully or threaten anyone at the ward assembly,” said U Ko Ko Aung. “When the assembly was held we all got over 90 percent of the votes from party members and were selected as representatives. The opposing group knew that there would be no place for them in the assembly and so created this issue.”
In a letter dated December 28, the party’s headquarters informed the members of their suspension, which was to remain in force until the national assembly is completed. The letter said they had threatened other members at the ward assembly.
Most of those suspended have been vocal critics of the way the assemblies have been organised, describing them as undemocratic and unfair.
The issue has sparked a significant amount of debate among NLD members over the fairness of the assemblies, U Ko Ko Aung said.
“Officials from the headquarters assembly commission did not investigate the allegations, they just handled it one-sidedly. We were selected by the party members and so the one-sided decision has made other members upset. This could ruin their belief and trust in the party,” he said.
Ward assemblies began in Pyigyitagun township in the last week of November, with about 65 representatives chosen for the township assembly. By late December assemblies had been held in 14 of the 16 wards, with the assembly in Kha Kway ward cancelled because of a dispute between members and the Ka ward assembly cancelled because of a lack of members.
Scheduled for December 22, the Kha Kway ward assembly was cancelled before it began after a district assembly commission official banned those without membership cards from participating, members said.
“Over 30 party members attended the assembly on that day and all are listed as our party members. The party officials should be happy that so many party members came. However, the secretary of the district assembly, U Kan, stopped those without member cards from taking part and then the rest were confused so they left. We tried so hard for our ward assembly but it was ruined. We don’t know how we should continue,” NLD Youth member Ko Zaw Min from Kha Kway ward said on December 31.
He said party members and the in-charge of ward assemblies sent two separate letters on December 22 to the headquarters assembly commission to take action against U Kan.
Several NLD members in the township involved in the assembly process said members without cards were allowed to take part.
“Party members in most wards haven’t got member cards. In other cases the ward assemblies were held just by using the member lists,” said U Win Nyein, chairman of Htein Kone ward assembly commission.
U Zaw Win, the head of the NLD office in Pyigyitagun’s Zagwe ward assembly, said there were also problems at his ward’s vote on December 19 because the chairman of Mandalay Region assembly commission interfered with the selection process.
“Most party members in our ward are entrepreneurs. They are so enthusiastic to support the party but most of them don’t have time to take on positions of responsibility. So all members united and agreed to appoint ward representatives rather than vote for them. But then the chair of Mandalay Region assembly commission came and told us we had to select them by voting. There were about 290 members here and they were unhappy about that interference. I talked to the chair and explained that there was no competition for the assembly spots and we managed to complete the assembly,” he said.