The Singapore Lecture is one of the highlights of intellectual life in Singapore each year, and the invitation to deliver it is as much an honor of recognition bestowed upon the speaker as it is a learning opportunity for the audience.
The problem for this year’s Singapore Lecture was the invited speaker, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 1st State Councillor of Myanmar, did not deserve such recognition, while her insights on her proposed topic, “Myanmar’s Democratic Transition: Challenges and the Way Forward”, were also highly dubious.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has been presiding over South-East Asia’s biggest humanitarian crisis over the past year. Almost the entire 1 million-strong Rohingya population in the north-western state of Arakan has been pushed over the border to Bangladesh by systematic clearing operations run by the Myanmar army since last August. Tactics used in the clearing operations have the systematic raising and burning of villages, systematic rape, the denial of the ethnic identity of the Rohingya by Aung San Suu Kyi herself, and a generalized campaign of dehumanization which her government aids and abets, and which is typical of genocide situations.
Meanwhile, in Burmese “democracy”, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, currently Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, retains the absolute power to veto anything the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi does or proposes, all matters of Defense, Foreign Policy, internal Security and related issues are controlled directly by the leadership of the Armed Forces without any input or oversight from Ms Suu Kyi, the same military leadership continues to own and control most of the country’s economic and natural resources, and a quarter of parliamentarians are directly appointed by the military.
As so many times before since she has come to power in Myanmar, she used the platform to deny the existence of the Rohingya, to deny that there is any excessive use of violence against them or the other borderland peoples, and to accuse the international community, humanitarian NGOs and the UN of spreading fake news.Azeem Ibrahim