Myanmar election

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — Over a decade ago in Springvale I met Sawwin Saramanee and his friends from Myanmar. They told me of the political persecution and corruption in their homeland. They also told me about Aung San Suu Kyi, who was still under house arrest by the military rulers. Not since 1962 has there been a fair and free election in Myanmar. So to be in Yangon for the 8 November election was a landmark event for us all. Everywhere you went there were posters, billboards, flags, rallies, chanting and singing, with the colour red dominating. You could sense something was happening.

For the first time international observers were allowed to monitor the election. Thanks to the formidable efforts of Professor Damien Kingsbury and his wife, my great friend Rae Kingsbury, under the auspices of Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad, my husband, Stephen, and I were there, amongst a team of 40. Everywhere we were greeted with welcoming arms and sincere thanks from the people. I hope our presence helped. People needed to know the risky task of voting was happening under our watchful eye and that we would tell the world if things were not right. We often heard people say, ‘Thank you for helping my country’.

To the people of Myanmar, your earnestness — diligently making sure your vote was valid and proudly displaying your inked finger after voting — your courage and your belief in the power of voting was inspiring. We are so very grateful for you reminding us all of its precious value. Despite past brutal struggles, the people of Myanmar smile more easily and broadly than people anywhere else. We are all now hoping for a better and brighter future for them all.

Aung San Suu Kyi led her party admirably — so steady and sure. If the activity on the streets is any indication, her dedicated supporters worked so very hard.

May they rejoice in their landslide victory, and I pray they are allowed to and will govern wisely. Many challenges and great expectations face them. To Sawwin and friends in the Melbourne community from Myanmar, this is your victory too. I call upon the Australian government and its people to support the courageous and smiling people of Myanmar in the times ahead.