To help democracy thrive, we must balance self-interest with public interest: State Counsellor

Following is the excerpt of the State Counsellor’s speech delivered at the International Democracy in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers the speech at the event to mark International Day of Democracy.  Photo: MNA
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi delivers the speech at the event to mark International Day of Democracy.  Photo: MNA

Today is International Democracy Day. We need to study the background of every such event, and think about the goals. We are observing the International Democracy Day as the number of countries respect and value democracy worldwide is increasing rapidly. But we must be aware of the difference between respecting and valuing something. What we should have in mind is that why democracy conceived in a little town on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea over 2500 years ago spread all over the world. Our serious thoughts should be on the importance of the system at present.
Roughly, the direct translation of the word “democracy” is “people’s power.” Power can be used for positive or negative results. As for the positive reason, we can use democracy as best as we can. As the theme of this year’s International Day of Democracy is “Participation”, how are we going to participate for the flourishing of democracy? How are we going to effectively and correctly use people’s power? We should hold these ideas. Basically, “balancing act” is of vital importance in the proper use of people’s power. In fact, people’s power is for the people. So, who are the people? Everyone of us. Actually, people mean every individual.
If we really value democracy and wish to see it flourishing, we must strike a balance between self-interest and public interest. More and more countries and institutions are accepting democracy through the belief that majority act is more effective for majority interest. If we are to serve the majority interest, we need a balanced state. Basically, human beings are selfish. We can’t ignore this fact, if we want a successful system. I would say democracy is a culture, rather than a system as it involves not only politics, but also social, economic and philosophical values.
The flourishing of democracy depends on our individual understanding of the value of the balancing act. For example, we cannot think about democracy alone. We must also take into account responsibilities as well. Responsibility is for everyone, human rights for every individual and the rule of law for everybody. There must be a balance. It will not be proper if individual rights is placed above all. So also, it will not be appropriate if individual right and freedom is restricted in the name of majority interest. So, inclusiveness is required in striking a balance between self-interest and public interest.
We must start from the individual, and then comes his family. As for the rights and powers of individuals, individual families, communities, townships, regions or states, race, country and then the whole world, every stage of the entire chain must be in a state of balance.
Although we started with democracy after restoring independence, we lost it. So we have to begin from the start again. When we look at the world, we can see that Myanmar isn’t the only country where democracy cannot be fully installed. Even the world is facing shortage of democracy. What I mean goes beyond the shortage of global democracy because there is no equality between the powers and small countries.
We are not a powerful country. So we have to struggle hard for our survival. I wish people understand this. We can stand as a democratic country in the world only through inclusive participation. Anyhow, financial, military and the power to exert influence speak a lot.
We lack this power. So, it is important for all of us to work with mind power. We can’t acquire wealth or any one of the said powers in a short period. But we can change our mind in a very short time. This day serves to remind the people of the country of their duty — helping democratic ideas flourish, not only within the country, but across the world, through the spread of a democratic culture. We must not overlook individual values in our quest for democracy. Inclusiveness is the source of people’s power. Every individual has his own value, and we must properly apply this. We can build a better country, and then a better world through positive strength. Some people think that democracy is just for self-gain. A person always thinking about self-gain is the one who fails to appreciate his value. Only the person who is willing to give appreciates his value. I wish every citizen is willing to serve.
I wish everyone is willing to serve for democracy of the country and the world. But the wisdom to know the dos and don’ts in serving self-interest through individual capability is of vital importance. We should not use our strength at will. We need the intellectual power to ponder. At this International Democracy Day I stress inclusive participation to properly realize democratic culture through true goodwill towards the country and mankind for the flourishing of democracy.
With this I conclude. Thank you. (Translated by TMT) (Unofficial translation)

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