A Sibyl Watches Over the Myanmar Elections 2015

by Sue Lees

Myanmar election quote

Myanmar Historic General Election November 8 2105

Travels with a Sybil: We don’t stay home and knit when we retire!!!

Democracy is such an ordinary concept to us. We argue about how well it functions in aspects of our politics but ultimately we expect a democratic society to operate. Myanmar (Burma) has had no such belief. Democracy in Myanmar has been a cherished but fragile idea.

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I was privileged to have the opportunity to be in Myanmar for the November 8 2015 election as an accredited international election observer under the auspices of APHEDA (Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad also called Union Aid Abroad, which is the overseas aid agency of the ACTU) and under the leadership of Professor Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University.

Our purpose was to observe the election process – pre-polling, Election Day, counting and report any inconsistencies and problems. Particularly any opportunities that became apparent for influencing the voting. As observers we were to be highly visible, non-partisan and not allowed to interfere.

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The most positive outcome available from the electoral process that had been instigated would be (and now is) ‘Guided Democracy’ with the military constitutionally maintaining 25% of parliament and three key ministries – interior, defence and border security. The NLD must now govern with some of the military influence intact, but in can be argued that, at this stage, a full democracy with a party that has no governing experience could be unwise.

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I say that I was privileged because I had the opportunity not only to participate in the election process but also to meet and hear the Burmese. To find out what was important to them:

“Our vote is our chance to fight back”.

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Voiceless politically for so long, they were determined to be heard.

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Sue Lees, Venice, 2014

Sue Lees, Venice, 2014

Sue Lees, 56, is a retired teacher and apprentice Sibyl. Despite traveling from Australia to work as a volunteer in schols in Nepal and Timor and now observing electiona in Myanmar, she says she is quiet and quite insignificant!

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How a charm bracelet can tell the story of a life in memories

by Maureen Wheeler

Sibuylesque Quote Margaret Atwood

Forty-four years ago, on a park bench in Regent’s Park London, I met the man who was to become my husband exactly one year later. To quote Bob Dylan “I was so much older then”, we all were. We married young, had children young, took on huge responsibilities, such as, ourselves, and trusted the universe would somehow be kind to us.

We were married quietly. Just the two of us and two witnesses. My mother hadn’t met Tony so she was understandably upset. I had no idea how Hilary, my new mother in law, felt, but then I had no idea how Hilary felt about anything. I’m Irish, she’s English, is how I explained the gulf between us. She wasn’t exactly mean, she wasn’t exactly not mean, just English.

Our first child was a daughter. When she lost her first tooth, Hilary asked if she might have it. I was a bit stunned at what seemed an unusually sentimental thought. A few years later I discovered Hilary had bought a thick gold chain bracelet when Tashi was born, and every year she added a charm. A clock was the first one because Tashi was a dreadful sleeper.

Sibylesque charm bracelet

An aeroplane was next, because we took Tashi travelling with us when she was six months old. Her first tooth became the mould for another gold charm. A gold wok, when she went to Asia. Every year, or major event, Hilary added a gold charm to the bracelet, until she was twenty one years old. A bracelet full of memories. The gold is worth quite a lot now, but the charms and the thought that went into it is priceless.

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The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

The author with her children outside Kathmandu Valley, Nepal in 1983

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Maureen Wheeler is a feisty conversationalist and a gifted raconteur, who started the publishing company Lonely Planet with her husband Tony.

Photo Source: vanessafrisbee blog

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