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Penny Sharpe

The Hon Penny Sharpe MLC
Australian Labor Party
Parliament House
Sydney NSW 2000
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DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI

Speech: 

Page: 52

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE
(Parliamentary Secretary) [5.25 p.m.]: Today I attended a function organised
by the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma and the local Burmese
community to celebrate the sixty-fourth birthday tomorrow of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The function brought together members of Parliament from all parties to show
solidarity and support for the world's only imprisoned Nobel Laureate. We
gathered to stand beside Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League
for Democracy and the people of Burma's only democratically endorsed leader. In
1990 Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stood as the National League for Democracy's candidate
for Prime Minister in the Burmese general election. The National League for
Democracy won in a landslide. But instead of her taking her rightful place as
Burma's new Prime Minister, the military junta refused to hand over power. The
brutal military regime has ruled illegally ever since. As a result of her
efforts Aung San Suu Kyi has been under arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. Her
supporters have been beaten, tortured and killed. Many live in exile. She has
made enormous personal sacrifices to stand up for a principle that many of us
take for granted. She has stood up for democracy to her great personal cost. She
lives under house arrest with only two other people. She is isolated and alone.
She is separated from the people of Burma and also from her family. As Prime
Minister Gordon Brown said:

  •  
      Aung San Suu Kyi's courage is the courage to sacrifice her own happiness and
      a comfortable life so that, through her struggle, she might win the right of an
      entire nation to seek happy and comfortable lives. It is the absolute expression
      of selflessness. Paradoxically, in sacrificing her own liberty, she strengthens
      its cry and bolsters its claim for the people she represents.

Aung
San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have the support of
governments and individuals across the world. Our own Federal Government has
called again for the unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi. As we gathered
today we knew that Aung San Suu Kyi faces even more difficulties. She is
currently facing trial in Burma and is being held in Insein Prison, which is
notorious for its terrible conditions and horrific treatment of prisoners. Aung
San Suu Kyi has committed no crime; she is the victim of crime. Yet she is
currently facing a sentence of three to five years detention. The United Nations
has ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi's detention is illegal under international law
and Burmese law. The United Nations Security Council has told the dictatorship
that it must release Aung San Suu Kyi. Once again, these calls have fallen on
the deaf ears of the paranoid and brutal junta.

It is very convenient
for the Burmese generals to have Aung San Suu Kyi out of the public eye in the
lead-up to the national elections in 2010. Desperate for electoral legitimacy,
the Burmese military rulers know that they stand their best chance of victory if
there is no competition from Aung San Suu Kyi—especially as 2010 will mark 20
years since Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory and
should have been the elected Government in Burma. As democratically elected
members of Parliament and supporters, we gathered in this building today to call
for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. In the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, we used
our liberty today to promote hers. We also sent our personal support in the way
of birthday wishes for her sixty-fourth birthday tomorrow. The Send a Birthday
Card to Aung San Suu Kyi Campaign is an international campaign. I encourage all
people who are committed to seeing a free Burma and a released Aung San Suu Kyi
to be involved in the campaign.

Today we were able to sign and send
several hundred more cards. That has been occurring in this place for many
years. My colleague and friend and former member of this Chamber the Hon.
Janelle Saffin held a similar gathering for Aung San Suu Kyi's fifty-sixth
birthday. It is very sad that eight years later we are still campaigning for her
release. Let us hope that next year we can gather to celebrate her birthday and
her freedom. Australia is a democratic country and on the eve of her
sixty-fourth birthday I believe we should turn our thoughts to the people of
Burma and Aung Suu Kyi and her struggle for basic human rights that would
guarantee a tranquil, dignified existence free from want and fear. Happy
birthday to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi—one of the world's true heroines.