Cardinal Charles Bo has issued a 10-point guide to Myanmar voters. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has urged people to fulfill a sacred duty of voting and choose candidates who work for peace and political and economic federalism in Myanmar’s upcoming general election.
In a written appeal to citizens released on Sept. 1, he called on everyone to assure that their name is on the voters’ list and they are there in the voting booth on election day as “active participation of citizens is essential in any democracy.”
“To vote is a birthright. Voting is not only a right but a sacred duty. This is part of our long pilgrimage to democracy,” Cardinal Bo said.
In a 10-point guide in the appeal, the cardinal said that as a religious person he guided citizens on selecting candidates who work for peace, empower the voiceless through democracy and ensure economic and environmental justice in a conflict-torn nation.
He said armed conflict has painfully killed thousands and displaced thousands more. “Our great religions promote the principle of peace — I urge you, vote for peace,” he stressed.
The 72-year-old cardinal urged citizens to judge the candidates and avoid those cronies who had ravaged Myanmar’s resources and made the country poor.
“Peace in this bleeding nation will not arrive until the resources of this country are kept at the service of all, especially the poor and marginal communities,” he said.
Myanmar has been bedeviled with civil wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Cardinal Bo noted that Myanmar needs more leaders with intelligence but who are animated by a sense of “servant leadership, embedding great values of honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency.”
He added: “Power comes from service. Myanmar has had enough strong leaders. It is time for servant leaders.”
The outspoken prelate also called for choosing candidates who have a clear plan for human development as previous regimes had sadistically denied the development of Myanmar people, reducing a once-rich country to a poor country.
He said Myanmar people have suffered the pandemic of hunger, pandemic of conflict and displacement, the pandemic of unsafe migration and the pandemic of low-quality education.
“Let this election bring warriors who can fight against all these pandemics,” he noted.
The cardinal’s appeal comes as 92 political parties vie for 1,171 seats in the upper and lower houses of the national parliament and in state and regional legislatures in the Nov. 8 polls.
Observers see it as a test of Myanmar’s democratic reforms as the country is in a transition to democracy after emerging from five decades of military rule.
Cardinal Bo has called on the country’s leaders to allow voting rights for religious people as the constitution bars them from voting.
State counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, retains strong support inside Myanmar, especially from regions with a majority of Bamar people, although her status as a democracy icon has waned in the West due to her perceived failure to speak out against military mistreatment of the Rohingya and other ethnic groups.
The generals still retain a significant role in Myanmar’s politics despite the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) winning a landslide victory at the 2015 election.
The 2008 charter mandates that a quarter of all parliamentary seats must be reserved for the military. It also gives them control of three key portfolios — home affairs, defense and border security.