Monday, September 13, 2010

Ottama Day Ceremony Held at RNDP Headquarters in Sittwe

By Thin Thazin Khaing

Sittwe: The 71st anniversary of prominent Arakanese monk Ottama Day was held at the main office of the Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP) in Sittwe, Arakan State, on 9 September, said a party leader.

He said, "We were not given permission by the Rakhine State Election Commission to hold the Ottama Day ceremony at Ottama Garden in downtown Sittwe, so we held the ceremony in our headquarters in Sittwe. We started the ceremony at 9 am and ended at 4 pm."

The RNDP had submitted a letter to the Rakhine State Election Commission requesting permission to hold the Saradaw Ottama Day ceremony officially in public, but the Election Commission refused to grant the permission.

"At 9 am, we offered food to nine monks in our office to dedicate to Ottama, who sacrificed greatly in his life for Burma's independence. When it reached 1 pm, we started the public lecture about Ottama. Over 70 people attended the ceremony," the leader said.

According to a source, many police, including plainclothes officers, were deployed near the RNDP office to closely watch the activities, but the authorities did not disturb the ceremony.

This is the first time Ottama Day has been celebrated publicly in Sittwe, as Burmese authorities have not allowed Ottama Day to be observed anywhere in Burma. It is believed that the government has banned the observance out of fear that it might spark political opposition.

"We were able to distribute some pamphlets regarding Ottama Day and party policy. We are very glad because we were able to hold Saradaw Ottama Day in sittwe. We have never before seen such a public ceremony for Ottama Day in my lifetime," the source added.

Saradaw Ottama was an Arakanese monk who sacrificed throughout his life for Burmese independence from British rule. He is considered the first architect of the independence movement because he began to organize Burmese people to fight against the British for independence.

Ottama was born in 1879 and passed away in 1939 during British rule in Burma. The day of his death was designated as Ottama Day to honor him, and Arakanese people outside of Burma hold Ottama Day ceremonies every year in nearby countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. Burmese authorities however, have banned ceremonies marking Ottama Day inside Burma.

Some student groups in Sittwe also held Saradaw Ottama Day memorials in secret, to honor the monk for his sacrifice for Burma's independence, in spite of the increased security in the area during the holiday.


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