Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech at the NLD's First Congress held at Royal Rose restaurant in Rangoon on 9 March 2013. (Phoo: AP)

 Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the key opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), Saturday pronounced publicly towards her fellow members to be united in the midst of fuss that could weaken the league in the upcoming historic elections in 2015.The NLD is holding its first all-party congress in Rangoon this weekend.

Burma’s once outlawed opposition party has launched its first ever historic party congress in front of the diplomats, journalists and leaders of other political parties, on 8-9-10 March 2013 in Rangoon. There were all together nearly 900 delegates in the first NLD congress.

The First NLD congress, which opened Friday, is a major step toward making the party more close to the grassroots and more likely to become a democratic association. As Burma has been trying itself to be converted into an open society with a free market, the first NLD congress is agreed to convene without any limitation. It’s not only a test for the NLD, but also a measurement for the future of the country which starts changing itself from a military-dictatorship to a normal democratic nation ahead of the approaching historic General Elections in 2015.

Speaking at the congress’s opening ceremony at the Royal Rose restaurant in Rangoon, Suu Kyi urged the 862 party members assembled at the congress to use their vote in a right way. She suggested choosing the right representatives for the people to work for the country’s future without considering personal bias or prejudice.

 
Diplomats attend at the NLD First Congress at Royal Rose restaurant in Rangoon on 9 March 2010 (Saturday). Photo: [NLD Congress]

Even though the NLD has been under suppression for 25 years, it is the strongest opposition party in contemporary Burma. The party which has above a million members throughout the country was founded on 27 September 1988 and won landslide victory in the 1990 General Elections. Although the NLD swept the 1990 parliamentary elections, the junta refused to recognize the result. It has inflexibly refused the NLD representatives-elect to participate in the drafting of a new constitution of Burma.

After making a decision to re-register as a political party in November 2011, the NLD began its process of reform in January 2012. At that time, the Central Executive Committee of the NLD nominated Aung San Suu Kyi as the Chairperson.

The NLD had declared to contest all 45 vacant parliamentary seats in April 1-2012 by-elections, including four seats in capital Naypyitaw which is the stronghold of the military-backed government’s party. Suu Kyi had made a landslide victory in the 2012 by-elections. Although Suu Kyi’s party won 44 seats out of 660 lower house, it was not enough to challenge amending the undemocratic clauses of the 2008 constitution fortified by the government’s ruling party.

 
Leaders of other political parties attend at the NLD First Congress at Royal Rose restaurant in Rangoon on 9 March 2010 (Saturday). Photo: [NLD Congress]

After voting results showed the NLD’s big triumph, the party’s chairperson, Suu Kyi released a kindly statement intended for all NLD candidates and supporters to be polite in their success, and to be prepared to cooperate in the presence of other opposition parties and the ruling administration.

Speaking at the first ever historic party congress, Suu Kyi said that in her mind there was no idea of classifying her fellow members as bad or dull persons as well as good or intelligent persons. But, there may be people that can be educated and that cannot be educated, she said.

She also said that during 25 years under the junta, she heard criticism by members and non-members on the NLD as a centralized party. It’s true that the NLD had to make some decisions by central executive committee members in accordance with the situation under military rule, Suu Kyi confessed. But, situation has been changing now and the NLD has started choosing its ward-ship-and-village level leaders to central executive committee positions by democratic means, she emphasized.

But she accepted “there was some quarrelsome” within the party as expected in a way to democracy. According to the political analysts, democratic style politics is not a flawless one, but it is the most appropriate way for human beings so far, she explained.

Some observers said that there would be distrust between the veteran members and the impatient younger generation. The NLD’s chairperson told the party members that they should take part in the movement in favor of responsibility rather that hunting for positions.  She urged her party members not to exchange blows over positions.

Suu Kyi made three extraordinary suggestions to her delegates that they must be honest to the people, they must be loyal to each other and they  must not brush aside the value of the gratitude.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi meets the press after re-elected as chairperson of the NLD in the First Congress on 10 March 2013. (Photo: NLD Congress)

She also highlighted her thanks to the ethnic parties and organizations that strongly supported the NLD. She urged her members to keep “the spirit of unity” as a major strength for the country is being a union. The NLD has been tough and robust in the past as a result of this spirit, she said.

On Saturday, the congress elected 85 representatives for central working committee including many new well-educated members as well as female members. On Sunday, the congress has voted 15-member central executive committee. The CEC has re-elected Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 67, as chairperson of the party. She has been leading all for the democratization movement in Burma for a quarter of a century since 1988.

According to the NLD’s political report to the first congress, the party has decided to help addressing the problems in Kachin and Rakhine States. It has also made a decision to restore rule of law as well as peace and stability in Burma. It also says that the party will endeavor amending the undemocratic constitution as its first priority.

Suu Kyi is determined to win national elections in 2015 by adding up the party with “new blood” and spread out the power for decision-making.

The first ever congress of the NLD is the most up-to-date indicator of the remarkable changes appeared in Burma since ex-general Thein Sein took power as president in March 2011, expecting international aid and recognition to the pariah state.