Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dr Tu Ja tests political waters

Kachin politician Dr Tu Ja says he is confident the Union Election Commission will approve his application to form a political party, despite the commission blocking a similar request in 2010 because of his links to the Kachin Independence Organisation.

Dr Tu Ja. Photo: StaffDr Tu Ja. Photo: Staff

The former KIO vice chairman applied to the commission for permission to form the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP) on August 28. If it is given the green light, the party will begin preparations to contest the 2015 general election, he told The Myanmar Times last week.

“I submitted the application along with 17 members to the commission office in Nay Pyi Taw … We followed the commission’s rules and I expect that it will make a decision by the middle of September,” Dr Tu Ja said.

Prior to the 2010 general election Dr Tu Ja resigned from the KIO to form the Kachin State Progressive Party. However, the commission refused to approve his application because of his links to the KIO, which was at the time in tense negotiations with the military government over transforming its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, into a Border Guard Force under the Tatmadaw.

As a result, there was no major Kachin party to take on the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and the seats were mostly split between the USDP, National Unity Party and Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State.

Dr Tu Ja then tried to contest the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Mogaung in the 2012 by-elections as an independent candidate but voting was cancelled because of fighting between the Tatmadaw and KIA.

However, Dr Tu Ja said he believes the commission will approve his application this time because both the government and KIO have committed to the peace process.

“It is clear that both sides are willing to get peace and have talked about peace. It is quite different from 2010. We can see some progress in their relationship so I believe that this time they will approve my

application to form a party,” he said.

He said another reason for his confidence is that the party only has members in government-controlled areas, so it is harder to draw any link between it and the KIO.

However, the decision to register a party has drawn criticism from some Kachin, who say they were not consulted over the decision.

“It is different from when he tried to form the party in 2010. Then he held discussions with Kachin people before submitting the application to register the KSPP. The party was formed according to the public’s desire,” said U San Aung, a resident of Myitkyina township and civil society activist.

“We are going to wait and see whether he stands for the people,” he said, adding that Myitkyina residents “really have no idea whether the UEC will approve the party or not”.

Dr Tu Ja dismissed the criticism as politically motivated.

“Some people want to have the party’s registration blocked,” he said. “It’s not unusual that they have a different point of view … but we agreed to establish this party in cooperation with people who share our values and ideas.”