Remembering Two Great Men

It has been exactly two years since two great men: one who dedicated his life to the betterment of this country, and another who did the right thing in the face of death, got killed under the public eyes. To honour the memory of a renowned lawyer and a previously-unknown taxi driver, let us wear the glasses of a random member of the public and see them as a person who never had a chance to meet them, yet devastated by their demise. 

One might ask how much do I know about U Ko Ni to mourn for his death. For those who have no special dealing with him except through the news or from his video-clips, the knowledge is admittedly limited to nothing more than anyone could have found under a few google searches. I know that he was a legal advisor to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD party, a strong advocate for constitutional reform, and perhaps a man with proper legal expertise to give a real push for it. He was also widely credited for creating the office of state counsellor for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, under the current constitution which has drawn to exclude her from taking up presidency. Another important, yet unsavoury, fact is that he is frequently abused by the far-right populists because of his Islamic faith and these attacks are often used by the same groups to discredit NLD party and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, often alleging NLD as a pro-Muslim and anti-Buddhist party. Any random member of the public who mourn for him can say these things.

So, why am I mourning for the demise of this man when I know very little about him? Well, that could be the same as why people supported NLD and voted for them, even when they are yet to accomplish anything. In past three decades, NLD represented the brightest beacon of hope for most ordinary citizens. They were widely seen as the only feasible outlet for a more prosperous, higher freedom, more democratic and a general sense of better society for us. U Ko Ni represents that kind of hope in freeing the country from the shackles of 2008 constitution. In fact, while there are reasons to doubt NLD’s potentials of achieving what we hoped for, by the time of U Ko Ni’s murder, there are more reasons to be positive about him than otherwise. Hope is the biggest asset for a nascent democracy like ours, and that’s what got blown off back in afternoon of 29thJanuary 2017.

While given chance, I’d also like to talk about my first and most-memorable thoughts on Ko Nay Win. I heard of his news, praised for his bravery, and mourned for his loss. Yet the moment that was the happiest and saddest was when I saw the photo of him wearing YBS (Yangon Bus Services) Shirt, volunteering with his taxi. The memory of the change in bus system is still fresh in the mind of Yangon residents. A change in bus systems has been long desired by the public with daily commuters having to stomach much of the bullying and thuggish behaviours by bus navigators, and when that change came in early 2017, it was actively supported by volunteers of all ages, all races and all social classes. The fact that serious mismanagement caused serious troubles in YBS’s early days also made the volunteers support more essential. (Oh, no volunteer can do it indefinitely and when that stopped, the public suffers, until YBS gets better after a year of hell.) However, for a taxi-driver to be volunteering with his taxi for the success of a public transport system, one has to be either too dumb to calculate what he might lose, or just too selfless. Then again, that’s exactly the prerequisite for going after a gun-wielding murderer with just a piece of brick.

After two years, people are still feeling upset thinking back this blatant brutality, and two generations later, people will still be mourning of these great men. One thing I believe is that the memory, the legacy, the resilience and determination of U Ko Ni and U Nay Win lives on.So today, we mourn for these great men and ask ourselves one question: are we willing to do the right thing as they did? The answer is for our soul alone.T


Thant Zin

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