State Counsellor discusses preparations for conducting elections during COVID period

State Counsellor discusses preparations for 2020 General Election with Union Minister U Thein Swe and officials concerned on 5 August.  PHOTO: MNA
State Counsellor discusses preparations for 2020 General Election with Union Minister U Thein Swe and officials concerned on 5 August. PHOTO: MNA

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson of the National-Level Central Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) held a videoconference yesterday at 10 am with senior officials from the conference room of the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw regarding preparations being made to conduct elections.
The following senior officials participated in the videoconference:
U Thein Swe, Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population; U Myint Naing, member of the Union Election Commission; and U Htet Aung, Deputy Director-General of the General Administration Department. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi first gave a few introductory remarks. She said that, she wanted to discuss two fundamental rights which were very important for citizens; the first was health and that the health of the people was the main responsibility of the Union Government and it was also the right of the people; the next matter was to have the right to participate and vote in the elections; this was also the right of citizens as well as their duty; in all this, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, the administrative sector and the UEC – Union Election Commission all played a critical role.
The second stage was to ensure that all the rules and regulations of the Ministry of Health and Sports for COVID-19 were being followed for the citizens to cast their votes in safety; the first stage was to make sure that the voters lists were correct for voters to be able to vote; during the last two weeks, a lot of news emerged saying that the voters lists were incorrect and incomplete; this is something that needed to be done with great care; all citizens born of parents who are from an indigenous race and are 18 years of age have the right to vote; it is her belief that just as citizens have the right to vote they also have the duty to vote; everyone must want to be dutiful towards the country; they should vote in accordance with their choice; to say “I don’t like this or I don’t like that” and to refuse to vote is a very irresponsible act; all citizens should perform their duties by voting which is a matter of only one day every five years; she believed that the majority would wish to vote; the three departments who have the responsibility should make sure that citizens would be able to vote.

Discussion of Union Minister U Thein Swe
Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe explained preparations for the successful holding of the 2020 General Election, the issuing of national scrutiny cards to a total of 5,720,000 people at schools, industrial zones and workplaces from 2016 to July 2020, the coordination of his ministry with the Union Election Commission, the General Administration Department in collecting accurate voter lists for the general elections at various levels. He added that some errors have been reported on the voter lists after announcing its first edition on 25 July, however, the second edition of voter lists will be issued in October with the cooperation of local election commissions and the administration departments while the respective immigration office will help in ensuring accurate voter lists.
He also said measures to follow rules of Ministry of Health and Sports to prevent COVID-19, repatriation programme for Myanmar migrant workers at the border crossings, arrangements for voting of the returnees in the respective areas and foreign countries, difficulties in collecting voter lists in rural areas for many reasons and variation of voter lists due to the internal migration. The Union Minister continued discussions about reaccepting Myanmar migrant workers at the border crossings with Thailand, China and India, as well as the returnees by relief and special flights in line with the directives of MoHS.

Discussions of UEC Member
U Myint Naing, the member of Union Election Commission, explained collecting voter lists based on the family registrations in 2010 and 2015, however, the accurate lists could not be received at that time; the recent collection of voter lists was focused on the actual data of residents, and that it is expected the list of voters would be more realistic; however, it was also found some mistakes in the lists of 37.5 million eligible voters; out of 6.6 million people who checked the voter lists, over 210,000 persons requested Form 3, about 66,000 asked Form 4 for objection and over 150,000 asked Form 4 (c) for corrections. He continued saying that the UEC will work together with the GAD and the MoLIP for accurate voter lists; explained COVID-19 measures at the poll stations and the process for free and fair elections.

Discussions of Deputy Director-General from GAD
Deputy Director-General from the General Administration Department U Htet Aung explained the works of GAD in working together with local UEC offices, the accuracy of voter lists, the plans to campaign for practising COVID-19 preventive measures, and the support of GAD staffs to the UEC offices in the electoral processes.
After that, in responding to the discussions made above, the State Counsellor said that efforts that were being made to conduct the elections successfully were not only for political reasons but because it was very important for the welfare of the State; it has been learnt that the UEC has made studies about elections held in Singapore and Korea (ROK); the whole world has accepted that the elections held in these countries were conducted very smoothly with a high level of competency; these countries were very rich countries; Myanmar was not a rich country like them; at the beginning when the COVID disease first erupted many were skeptical about how a country such as Myanmar with few resources would be able to control the COVID; later they accepted that Myanmar was able to control the COVID up to now; however the process to prevent, control and provide treatment for COVID-19 was not yet over; it was still not yet known when this would be over; she said, the elections have to be conducted during this time.
The State Counsellor said she wanted to show that Myanmar was able to conduct the elections successfully and safely from the health point of view, in accordance with the rights and duties of the citizens for the dignity of the country; she wanted to show that the calibre of Myanmar citizens did not depend only on financial wealth but also on being dutiful, being disciplined and being loyal towards the country and that they were able to pull this off successfully. She added this was why she believed that the UEC, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population and the GAD – General Administration Department would all cooperate fully for the success of the elections, and to ensure that the rights of citizens could be exercised to the fullest extent and in a dutiful manner.
In the life of a person, if this person started voting at the age of 18, because elections are being held every five years, if this person lived to be 80, this person would only have the opportunity to vote 12 times. Therefore during the 80 years, the right of a person to vote for the future of the country and the progress of the country would be only 12 times during the lifespan. She said she wanted the citizens to use these 12 days in the best possible way; it was the duty of the Union Government to make sure that this was possible; she wanted to thank all those who participated in the videoconference; she hoped that all would participate and cooperate to win the trust of the people and live up to their expectations.
The fact that a large number of people were checking the voter lists to see if their names were in these lists was a good sign; this showed that the people were interested in the elections and that they recognized the importance of these elections; that was why she believed that the elections would be held successfully. She concluded by saying that she wished to thank everyone because she has heard that everyone would participate and cooperate for the success of the elections.—MNA (Translated by Kyaw Myaing)

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