|Aung San Suu Kyi on the significance of Václav Havel|
Aung San Suu Kyi: Thank you. It is indeed a signal honor to be able to speak some words of appreciation about the late President Václav Havel, a great man and a true friend of the movement for democracy in Burma. He kept the flame of hope alive for us during our most difficult times, and we will never forget him.
So much has been said about him and written about him that there is very little, I feel, that I can contribute towards his memory, but yet I would like to make an effort because what he did for Burma and for human rights and for democracy, all over the world, is so vast that I think there will never be a time when we can stop talking about it.
Of course, all of you know that it is thanks to him that I was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and I have never made a secret of the fact that if instead of nominating me he had accepted the nomination for himself, he would have been the Nobel Peace [Prize] Winner of 1991. I will always believe that because I think that was the truth – and he believed in truth, facing the truth.
I have tried to look at different aspects of his life and of his work for human rights and for democracy and wondered how I would like him to be remembered in my country and in other countries where democracy and human rights are valued. I see him primarily as a man who loved freedom. That is so important for us – freedom – and when I say that he loved freedom, what I mean is that love entails cherishing, and cherishing entails enhancing. He loved freedom, he cherished freedom, and he enhanced freedom because he lived his ideas and his beliefs as few other people have lived.
When I was under house arrest for many years in Burma I knew that somewhere in the world there was a man who was speaking out for me and because of whom my freedom remained intact, in spite of physical detention. He made me feel free, because he was free and he believed in the right of every human being to freedom.
When I say that he cherished freedom I mean that he knew the value of freedom. He knew how to value freedom. He did nothing that would take away from the value of freedom. Many people have committed crimes in the name of freedom; this was not the kind of thing that Václav Havel ever did. Whatever he did enhanced the value of freedom, made us understand what freedom truly was.
The ultimate freedom was that of “living in truth,” the kind of freedom that can never be taken away from any of us. Because he believed in freedom, he believed in living in truth. If you cannot live in truth, if you cannot live as you believe you should live, you are not a free person, even if you are not physically detained in any way, even if you think you can do anything you like. But as long as you do not have courage to face the truth and live the truth, you cannot truly be a free person. And that is what he taught me, and I am sure he taught this to others as well: that to be completely free you have to be true to yourself and to your beliefs.
We in Burma have started out on the process of transition, which is why it is so appropriate that I should be able to come here today and thank the man who made it possible for us to keep alive our belief in our ability to effect transition from military dictatorship to democracy. We have not effected this transition yet. We are still in the process of trying. And if he were alive today and here with us, I am sure he would say to me – to all of you – it is not going to be easy but you persevere and you will get there. And this exactly what I believe. It is not going to be easy and we have just started out.
I have repeatedly spoken out against over-optimism because that could make us complacent. It could cause us to lose the way. It could cause us to stumble. We have to forge ahead with our eyes open, recognizing the difficulties that lie in our path and facing the truth as President Václav Havel would have wished us to do. I do not think he would have approved of blind optimism. He would have wished us to face our problems fairly and squarely and to cultivate the courage and the capacity to overcome these problems and meet our challenges successfully.
When I was under house arrest in Burma, I used to think of Czechoslovakia, as it was then, as a faraway friend on whom we could always rely in times of need. I knew that some of our dissidents were given sanctuary in your country, and I knew that all the time your leader was speaking out for us, for me, for our country, for democracy, for human rights. When I received his books – I was allowed to receive books from time to time – I read them avidly to try to find out how I too could survive the years of struggle as he survived, and that is when I understood that the ultimate freedom was to be able to live in truth. And that is what we are still trying to do in my country.
We want to live in truth. We want to live as we believe we should live as human beings, in harmony with one another, with courage, with hope and with the desire to share whatever goods may come our way with others – not just others in my country but with others all around the world. And now that I am here in Prague, I would like to share with you our deep gratitude to President Václav Havel and all those people in your country who have stood by us and who, I know, are still standing by us in this time of immense challenge.
Texto de discurso en castellano