U Nu was one of the best politicians and statesmen Burma had ever produced. He was a great student leader and author. But as all the best things in the world come with flaws, U Nu had his fair share too. Unfortunately some of those shortcomings were fatal and had contributed to ending of Burma’s brief enjoyment of parliamentary democracy. To be fair to the late Prime Minister U Nu, some of his flaws were being shared by great men of those era and this author is not attempting to single out him and criticize him; but, to discuss how to learn from mistakes so that history will not repeat again. 

First of all, U Nu made a serious mistake of mixing religion and the state. Enacting Buddhism as the State religion cost Burma the birth of separatist Kachin movements who were previously loyal to the Union of Burma. Although secularism has its own short changes, it is still undeniably the best approach for Burma. It will be especially in the times of religious extremism and terrorism. You cannot have double standards while purging the pukes of religious terrorism. You cannot fight a bigot while being a bigot.

Secondly, he was weak in handling Saw Ba U Gyi and KNU leaders who seemed to have assumed U Nu’s unimpressive handling as weakness. Had he shown more determined image to them, that Insein uprising could have been prevented. Precious lives and resources of a young nation might have been spared and Burmese armed forces might not have become infected with that saviour syndrome and superiority complex. If Burma did not have to buy shiploads of weapons from India to arm 10 battalions of federal forces, we might have had dealt differently with India and Adman islands may still be ours. U Nu seemed to trade those strategic islands in the Indian Ocean for those arms.

Thirdly, U Nu government’s Pyidawthar project was a Fabian socialist’s pipe dream. Although finance of Burman state was healthy with rising rice prices, Burma was not in a state to fulfill PyiDawThar dreams for all citizens. Burma did not have sustainable economy to model herself as welfare state and will never be for decades to come with current mindset and capabilities. He should not have listened to those foreign experts who preferred Burma as an agrarian state and not an industrialized nation. The best interest of those so call experts (nowadays they become top heavy, bottom empty NGOs expatriates) may not be necessarily good for Burma.

Lastly, in 1988 popular uprising in Burma, U Nu in the final years of his life did a brilliant strategic move but implemented it with tactical mistake by unilaterally declaring himself as the PM of Burma reclaiming the 1962 election results. He should have consulted Daw Aung San Su  Kyi, U Tin Oo and U Aung Gyi and other leaders. Had he done so, police might have been persuaded to come to the side of demonstrators. Judges and police force making up the judisiary branch was the only functioning branch of government at that time_ armed forces belongs to the executive branch (Burmese Socialist Programme Party BSPP government under the then President Dr. Maung Maung) had nearly collapsed, and the legalistive branch (Pyithu HlutDaw or the parliament) had already been resolved. If he had consulted other leaders and acted co-operatively and decisively, there might have been a power transfer. I mean BSPP government in chaos might have been replaced with an interim government led by U Nu, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, U Tin Oo, U Aung Gyi, and some good men from BSPP and the armed forces.

To be fair to our late Saturday Son U Nu, that move was not recognized, or rather ignored, by other leaders too. So a strategy was faulted and we are in this mess now. But it is always easy to criticize the mistakes; if we don’t learn from the history then the history will repeat again.

It is time for all Burmese citizens to learn as much as they could, gain as much qualifications (not tin can collectors or academic paper chasers), knowledge, skills and experience as possible to develop a working brain that can think effectively.

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