Sunday, September 30, 2007

Havel, Walesa and Tutu:Living proof that evil does not always triumph

Hi Friends,

Reading the article below brings back memories of events that seem just a heart-beat away.

When Havel, Walesa, Tutu and Mandela stood up against the onslaught of tyranny, no one gave them any chance of success.

Yet, the Czech republic, Poland and South Africa are now free and democratic countries able to help other countries break free from their shackles of slavery, in whatever form they take.

Burma, take heart. Evil does not always triumph!

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

NB: Incidentally, Singaporean Chia Thye Poh was the second longest political detainee after my all-time hero Nelson Mandela.

Ex-Dissidents Hopeful for Myanmar

Saturday September 29, 2007 5:31 PM

Associated Press Writer

Lech Walesa and Desmond Tutu speak of solidarity. Vaclav Havel hopes for another ``Velvet Revolution.'' Wei Jingsheng warns of a bloody sequel to Tiananmen Square.
Some of the globe's most prominent former dissidents - acutely aware of what can go right and wrong when a repressed society attempts to shake off tyranny - see shades of their own past struggles in Myanmar's drama.
In interviews with The Associated Press and other media, they offered insight and advice to the Buddhist monks and pro-democracy protesters who have defied Myanmar's military government - and to the world leaders and ordinary people watching it all unfold.
``If there's not enough international pressure, and China offers support in the background, then there will very likely be in Myanmar something like Tiananmen Square: a big massacre,'' Wei, China's best-known ex-dissident, told the AP in a phone interview from the U.S., where he lives in exile.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed in 1989 when the Chinese army cleared the Beijing square of pro-democracy protests.
Wei, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for challenging the communist monopoly on power, called for more international pressure on Myanmar's ruling junta and on China for its perceived backing of the regime.
Walesa, who founded Poland's pro-democracy Solidarity movement and became the nation's first post-communist president, said the only hope for Myanmar's monks and activists was to stick together - and for the world to rally around their cause.
``My advice for them is to build their own internal solidarity and to make efforts to win international solidarity,'' he said in an AP interview.
But Myanmar in 2007 is markedly different from eastern Europe two decades ago.
Isolated under a regime that has crushed dissent for the past 45 years, the country formerly named Burma missed out completely on the wave of reform and revolution that swept through the world in the late 1980s.
In 1989, when Havel's followers packed Prague's Wenceslas Square to denounce a regime he famously mocked as ``Absurdistan,'' their sheer numbers and determination prevailed over truncheons and tear gas.
When demonstrators tried the same thing in Myanmar in 1988, thousands were gunned down.
``If they have no solidarity today, they will lose and will have to approach the issue many times again,'' Walesa said.
Yet ``even if they fail, the price (they pay) will speed up the process,'' he added.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who marshaled tens of thousands of workers in 1980s strikes at Gdansk's gritty shipyard, says the showdown in Myanmar has rekindled a little of his own old fire.
``Maybe I will join in, too,'' Walesa said. ``I will certainly do something because I cannot remain indifferent. ... I like to win.''
Fellow laureate Tutu, who won his Nobel Prize for his role in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, was preparing to join a march in Sweden protesting events in Myanmar when he spoke by telephone to the AP Friday.
``In South Africa we had rolling mass action that covered the action taken by the people. We also had an alliance of faith-based organizations,'' Tutu said. In Myanmar, ``the important thing is that religious leaders have now put their lives on the lines and I admire them for that.''
Tutu said he would call on China to use its ``very powerful leverage'' on Myanmar's leaders. If China did not respond, he said he would join calls to boycott the Beijing Olympics.
Havel, the playwright-turned-president whose nonviolent movement toppled totalitarian rule in Czechoslovakia, said he's also ready to go to Myanmar if opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerges from longtime house arrest and takes power.
``You can't imagine how happy I would be to travel there as soon as possible,'' Havel, now 70, told the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes.
Two years ago, Havel joined the Dalai Lama and other dignitaries to write a poignant letter decrying Suu Kyi's ordeal. ``Neither walls nor weapons can silence even the most isolated voice of courage and truth,'' it said.
But today, asked about the specter of heavy bloodshed, he responded: ``I am afraid.''
Tutu said of Suu Kyi: ``I hope she knows how much the world supports her. She is a remarkable woman.''
In another letter last week, Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer, known for her works about the inhumanity of apartheid in her native South Africa, appealed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to do something ``in the name of shared humanity.''
``No one anywhere in our world who respects the sanctity of life, justice and the freedom of people to demand reconciliation of conflict through peaceful means can turn aside from the spectacle of Burma,'' she said.
Associated Press writers John Leicester in Paris, Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland, Celean Jacobson in Johannesburg, South Africa and Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic, contributed to this report.

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