Nobel Peace prize restored my sense of reality: Suu Kyi



Nobel Peace prize restored my sense of reality: Suu Kyi Zeenews Bureau

Oslo: Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Saturday that receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 had made her feel "real again" and reassured her that her country's plight had not been forgotten.

While delivering the historic speech, Suu Kyi said, "Western support had contributed to changes in Burma."

Suu Kyi also recalled the time when she heard that she had received the prize on the radio and it had felt "unreal".

On an optimistic note she added, "it had opened a door in my heart".

While recollecting her days in house arrest, she said, "Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world."

The visibly glad Suu Kyi also said that winning the Nobel Peace Prize has made me real once again. "It had drawn me back into the wider human community."

While pitching for democracy and human rights in Burma, Suu Kyi said "We were not going to be forgotten."

She also welcomed steps by the global community to reach out to her long-isolated country.

"The international community is trying very hard... and it's up to our country to respond the right way," she said.

"I would like to call for aid and investment that will strengthen the democratisation process by promoting social and economic progress that is beneficial to political reform."

"My party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and I stand ready and willing to play any role in the process of national reconciliation," she added.

"If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith," she said. "Hostilities have not ceased in the far north. To the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today," she said.

Suu Kyi landed in the Norwegian capital and home for the world's greatest diplomatic honour on Friday, a day ahead of a speech that many thought she would never be permitted to make.

The 66-year-old democracy activist thanked the Nobel committee and the people of Norway for the prize she won in 1991 — the second year of her 21-year existence as an exile within her own homeland.

Fifteen of those years she spent in prisons or confined to her dilapidated lakeside home, the rest fearful of travelling abroad lest Myanmar's military dictators prevent her return.

Norwegian leaders and artists offered a heartfelt welcome for Suu Kyi as she arrived from Switzerland, her first stop on a planned two-week tour of Europe also taking in Ireland, Britain and France, her first visit to Europe since 1988.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg invited her to his official residence for talks, then the pair departed for a state-style dinner at the medieval Akurshus Castle overlooking the capital's ship-filled harbour, fjord and islands against a backdrop of a slow-blooming Nordic sunset. Sharing the head table were King Harald and Queen Sonja.

"You have dedicated your life to the struggle for democracy in your country, and you are an inspiration for all of us," Stoltenberg told Suu Kyi during a joint news conference. "The new political reality in Myanmar is remarkable. We have witnessed great changes in less than a year. Your presence here in Oslo is proof that your long fight for democracy and justice for your people is really paying off."

He and Suu Kyi agreed that difficult, careful diplomacy could still be required with the military-backed Myanmar government of President Thein Sein, a retired general who rose to power last year, to cede power to Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy.

The Myanmar junta's peace moves, under international pressure, brought her release from house arrest in 2010 and her party's triumph in parliamentary by-elections in April.

"We are certainly not at the end of the road, by no means, we are just starting out," Suu Kyi said of her efforts to coax Myanmar's military chiefs toward accepting democracy.

"And this road is not going to be a straightforward, smooth one. There are going to be many twists and turns and obstacles, but we are going to have to negotiate these in the spirit of national reconciliation."

After Saturday's Nobel speech, Suu Kyi is scheduled to tour an elaborate display at the fjord-side Nobel Peace Centre chronicling her life's key moments of despair, determination and triumph.

Suu Kyi made it to Oslo despite falling ill on Thursday at a news conference in Bern, Switzerland. Her aides said she was suffering from exhaustion due to overwork and jet lag, and while she appeared tired at Friday's Oslo events, she made no comment on it.

She is scheduled to spend three days in Oslo and the Norwegian city of Bergen, then travel to the Irish capital, Dublin, on Monday for a celebrity-studded concert in her honour with U2 frontman Bono. After that, it's back to Oxford University, where she studied before her 1980s blossoming into the leading voice for democracy in Myanmar, also known by its British colonial name of Burma.

Bono was expected to join her at an Oslo news conference on Monday and fly with her to Dublin. He will then present her with another award postponed by her long home imprisonment, Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience, which Bono had unveiled at a Dublin U2 concert in 2009.

Earlier on Friday, Suu Kyi visited Switzerland's Parliament and met government officials in Bern, where crowds greeted her with cheers and bouquets of flowers. She received a standing ovation from Swiss lawmakers, mirroring the rock star reception that greeted her on Thursday at the United Nations in Geneva.

But when asked if her euphoric European reception this week as Myanmar's rightful leader might upset the generals and lead to renewed repression, she dismissed the prospect.

"I cannot see any good reason why either President Thein Sein and his government or the military should object to this," she said. "Certainly I don't think they have anything to fear in the interest that other countries show in my party and myself, because we want to work for national reconciliation. And we will not do anything to harm that."

Suu Kyi was released from junta-imposed house arrest in November 2010. In April 2012 she won a seat in the country's national assembly, her first opportunity to run for office.

When asked by a reporter if she had ever imagined, in the decades since her Nobel honour, she would reach Oslo one day, Suu Kyi raised her brows with incredulity and smiled broadly.

"Yes of course, I always believed that. That's why I have always said that the first time I travelled abroad I would come to Norway," she said. "I never doubted that. Did you?"

(With Agency inputs)