The leaders of the Chin National Democratic Party (CNDP) and the Chin Progressive Party (CPP) met on June 15 to sign an agreement on merging their two parties. However, the Chin League for Democracy (CLD) – another of the three leading Chin parties – was not included in the merger.
Chin World met with the CLD’s chairman Salai Ngai Sak to discuss his party’s delay in joining the merger and the future of Chin politics.
Salai Ngai Sak served as secretary in the Chin Literature and Culture Committee (Universities - Yangon) in the 1986-87 academic year while he was a university student. He actively participated in the Chin National Union during the 1988 Students’ Uprising. He became the first secretary of the Chin National League for Democracy (CNLD) when it was established to run in the 1990 Election. Later, he worked as an assistant director in the literature department of the Myanmar Baptist Convention.
Salai Ngai Sak also served as a township judge in Kayan, Tedim, Bago and Mongton. He resigned from his post in 2003 but continues to work as a high grade pleader for many cases.He led the founding of the CLD on April 1, 2014.
Q: The leaders of the CNDP and CPP have decided to merge their parties. What is your reaction to this?
A: I warmly welcome the signing of the agreement on June 15 to merge the CNDP and the CPP. I’m not surprised by the signing since the leaders of the three Chin parties met on May 1, 2016 and agreed in principle to merge. [So] I warmly welcome the merger.
Q: What happened over the past year since the parties agreed in principle to merge?
A: We agreed to form a ‘joint coordinating body’ with three representatives from each party to continue negotiations between the three parties. We discussed getting the approval from the CEC (central executive committee) of each party.
Q: The leaders of the two other parties have talked about the CLD’s delay in merging. What has caused this delay?
A: The agreement between the three parties for the merger is still confirmed. We need to look at the policies and [decide] whether we will join the UNA (United Nationalities Alliance) or the NBF (Nationalities Brotherhood Federation) in order to have a sustainable merger.
The CLD’s CEC has agreed to discuss in detail about bringing other Chin parties to join us in the merger. We submitted this to the joint coordinating body in order for them to review the proposal and respond on which points they can agree on and which points they can’t agree on.
But, we haven’t received a response from them. While we were still carrying out the negotiation, we saw in the journals about the merging of the CNDP and the CPP and the selection of the party name.
Q: What kind of proposals did the CLD make?
A: We proposed to establish a Chin Parties Alliance from August 2016 to January 2018 to work together on mutual trust building, policies and alliance issues. Three representatives from each party would be in this alliance. We would stand together for 18 months. If there were parties that want to join the alliance, we should allow them to join. The parties that want to merge should dissolve their parties in January 2018 and register together under a single party.
We submitted this proposal because we believed it would be more effective to carry out all-inclusiveness for a sustainable merger. If this program had been accepted, the Chin parties’ alliance would have been making a lot of progress. As there wasn’t any response to our proposal, each side waited for the other and caused the delay.
Q: What does the CLD plan to do now that the two parties have taken a step forward?
A: The CLD will hold a party conference in October to discuss the issue of merging the Chin parties since it didn’t work out as we proposed.
Q: The Chin people seem to want a unification of the Chin parties. Does this delay go against public wishes?
A: It’s good that the Chin people have urged the unification of the Chin parties. They want it to be successful. [We want to] find a solution through detailed discussion to prevent the group from splitting up after merging. We don’t want to split up like the ALD (Arakan League for Democracy) and the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), which split up a year after merging. I believe it’s not too late to merge by March 2018.
Q: What does the merger mean for the 2020 Election?
A: It’s great to merge the Chin parties, but I don’t think they can win in the 2020 Election just by merging. It depends on leadership, policy and the qualifications of the candidates. For example, the CNDP ran in over 25 places where the CLD was not running in the 2015 Election but didn’t win. Similarly, the CNDP didn’t win when it ran in the places without the CPP. Even in the 2017 By-election, the CLD avoided running in Thantlang constituency in order for the CNDP to win, but it didn’t win. I believe it depends on the situation of the NLD (National League for Democracy) and the USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) and the qualifications of the candidates.
Q: Lastly, what do you want to say about the claims of position disputes surrounding the merger?
A: I have been facing some accusations that are not correct. Since the founding of the CLD, I have only temporarily taken the chairman position. I plan to resign during the re-election of the CEC at the party conference. I can’t say whether I will become a secretary or vice-chairman during the re-election. I have made several requests [to the CEC] to allow my resignation since I have taken full responsibility for the CLD’s failure to win in the 2015 Election.
The unification of Chin parties should only be for the Chin people. It must be honest and pure. The other parties should respect and give time to a proposal submitted by one party. Even if they don’t agree with the proposals, they should have patience and negotiate without blaming each other.
If we are unable to merge, we will need to accept a multi-party system and continue to join hands as allies. [For example,] the AFO (Anti-Fascist Organisation) and AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League) worked together with the Chin nationalists during 1945-48 era.