No roll was taken but there were some very prominent people who were rather conspicuous either by their success or failure to show up at the “grand” opening of the Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue last night.
The absentees included Harn Yawnghwe, Director of the Brussels-based Euro Burma Office (EBO) that has been serving as the banker for the PI since its founding last August. He had cited prior engagements in Burma.
Khuensai Jaiyen, making opening remarks, together with co-directors of Pyidaungsu Institute (PI) for Peace and Dialogue, Padoh Htoo Htoo Lay and Dr. Lian H.Sakhong, 27 February 2014. (Photo: PI)
Also absent was Nai Hong Sa, leader of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and General Secretary of the 12 member United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), who had earlier promised to bring all available NCCT members to the party. (He apologized this morning saying his driver had gone home. He visited the PI office today instead.)
Equally conspicuous was the presence of several distinguished personalities, such as:
- Mr Michael Heath, US consul
- Mr Ukawa Kazuhiro, Japanese consulate official
- U Nyo Ohn Myint, Myanmar Peace Center (MPC)
- Col Hkun Okker, UNFC Joint Secretary #2
- Gen Mutu Sayphoe, President, Karen National Union (KNU)
- Lt-Gen Yawd Serk, President, Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS)
“To make war”, said Khuensai during his opening remarks, “you only need one side to do it. But to make peace, you will need several sides. So we hope you will all open your doors for us as we open ours for you. To make it short, PI is your center, your institute. That is the reason for our opening today.”
The party, though scheduled 1800-2000 began at 17:30 and ended at 21:00. About 90 guests had come to grace the opening.
The PI, with a vision for “A just, equitable, democratic and pluralistic Pyidaungsu (Union of States),” has stated its mission as “To provide impartial and independent spaces (or as Khuensai puts it, “a bridge over troubled waters”), resources and assistance to communities in building the Pyidaungsu.”
The text of Khuensai Jaiyen’s opening/closing remarks is as follows:
First of all, allow me to start the opening remarks by saying thank you, a deep thank you, for doing us the honor of joining our little party.
Back in the good old days, we used to settle our disputes with guns. In my mind, I’m still riding into a town being treed down by a bunch of hard cases. My nature is not to beat around the bush but to bull right into the middle. I challenge the hard cases one by one and gun them down one by one. Meanwhile I also find time to fall in love with a local lady. At last I come face to face with Hard case #1 for the final showdown. Naturally, he draws first, I let him do it. Then while he is lying face down and breathing his last, I ride away into the sunset (about the same time as it is now) with the lady looking after me wistfully and calling, “Come back, Shane”.
How I wish things were that way in Burma. But as you know they haven’t been, forcing us to spend the best years of our lives fighting. Today, thanks to President Thein Sein and his advisers as well as leaders of the ethnic armed resistance, times are indeed changing.
To be sure, the days of gunfighters are far from over. We are still shooting at each other. But on the other hand, we have also started talking to each other, something we have rarely done before. As a result, although Peace is something we have always wished for, peaceful ways are not ways that we are used to. We still have a lot to learn about peaceful ways to achieve our goals.
Yawning gaps still exist on both sides between those who want to resolve differences by peaceful means, and those who believe guns talk louder. Between those who are ready to take the challenge of peaceful resolutions and those who refuse to do anything until sufficient trust has been built. Besides, a lot of issues are there for both sides to tackle: constitution, security, reconciliation, land issue, human rights, you name it. But there is one wish all of us have in common: And that is Peace.
The Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI) has been set up in the hope that it will become one of the bridges (or should I say a bridge over troubled waters?) for those who want it, be they hardliners or softliners, old generation or new generation, liberal or conservative. Above all, for the people of Burma. And if we can serve them well and there is peace and dialogue among them, that’ll be our deepest satisfaction.
To make war, you only need one side to do it. But to make peace, you will need several sides. So we hope you will all open your doors for us as we open ours for you. To make it short, PI is your center, your institute. That is the reason for our opening today.
But, as my Chinese teacher Lao Zi says, a long winded speech is exhausting, I will stop here so the MCs can introduce to you my colleagues without whom I will be like a gunfighter left in a desert without his horse.
Just a few words before we go back to our drinks.
If there is a question we should ask ourselves when we talk about peace: It’s ‘Can there be peace between people who hate each other?’
- Can there be peace when we hate the people whom we have been fighting against?
- Can there be peace when we even hate those with whom we should instead be working together to achieve peace?
- With such hatred, can there ever be peace within ourselves, let alone with others?
I think the day we can give a satisfactory answer to these questions will be the day we really begin to make peace. I hope you don’t consider it as a sermon, but only as food for thought/meditation. And I hope you all enjoy this evening as I do.
Thank you again for joining us!