The highlight of the day is the visit by the President himself “to pull a propaganda coup”, according to his opponents.
“I was watching the TV reportage last evening and was so happy that I couldn’t go to sleep,” he tells us.
All right, I say to myself. This may a publicity stunt. But you have to concede that it is also the culmination of his offer given 3 years and 7 months ago. What would have happened to him if there weren’t this day for him to make the most of?
A signing ceremony to mark the completion of the NCA drafting is presided over by him. Which is later criticized by some. “You hadn’t finished reviewing your draft, and you signed it?” asks an incredulous scholar who is considered an authority on peace processes around the world. “That is a very risky way of doing things.”
Later in the day, U Aung Min has time to chat with me. “Are you happy with the draft?” is my question.
“The draft has 18 pages, 7 chapters, 33 articles and 86 clauses. But three guarantees stand out among them: That this country will be federal, that there will be exemption from Unlawful Association Act, and that there will be political dialogue. What more could I ask for?”
He ends his reply with his favorite passage from one of Sai Kham Leik’s greatest hits:
Making what is easy difficult
That is the way of the world
I know what he means. He had wanted a shorter NCA, a one-page document, to be able to start the Political Dialogue as soon as possible. But the peace process that the President and himself had spawned also happens to have a life of its own which either has little control.
So what comes nect?
According to the draft NCA, the roadmap to peace has 7 steps:
- Signing of the NCA
- Negotiations/Adoption of the Framework
- Launch of Political Dialogue
- Holding of Union Peace Conference
- Signing of Union Peace Accord (UPA)
- Ratification by the Union Assembly
- Implementation of the NCA
There is also the time factor. The President has promised with his Deed of Commitment (DOC) on 12 February the political dialogue will be inaugurated before the elections in November. Which means there are only 5 months to complete the first 3 steps:
April-May – Signing of NCA
June-July – Agreement of Framework
August – Political dialogue launched
September-October – Election Campaign
November – General Elections
If all goes according to plan, work committees will be formed to work on the dialogue topics before a new legislature and a new government are installed by March 2016.
Even so, the completion of the NCA draft has only managed to chop one of the Hydra’s heads. Already two more has emerged: Getting the Yes from each and every one of the EAOs concerned and getting it signed. And it will only be the end of the first step.
Unless we have a firebrand and someone like Iolaus to hold it and use it, our Herculeses are going to have a hard time beating our 7 headed Hydra. At least that is how it looks to me.