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The Memorandum of the Muslims of North Arakan Submitted to the Inquiry Commission

By Aman Ullah

Since 1947, the Rakhine Buddhists leaders were trying for granting State to Arakan as per Shan, Karen Ni, and Kachin. The Rees Williams Commission set up in 1947 to examine the necessity of granting ‘States’ to different areas, but initially it kept aside the question of granting statehood to Arakan. Later 3 more Regional Autonomy Commissions-Regional Autonomy Commission headed by minister U Nyo Tun (a Rakhine) formed in March 1948, Sir Ba Oo Commission formed in October 1948 and Kelleys Commission formed in 1950 — examined the question of granting State to Arakan.

The Regional Autonomy Commission headed by Minister U Nyo Tun consisted of 3 other members, U Kyaw Min, Accountant General, U Tin and U Tin Phet. The Commission, instead of carrying out inquiries for Regional Autonomy, submitted an interim report to the government suggesting the following immediate steps for Arakan.
1. to open Pakistani consulate in Akyab and Burmese consulate in Fast-Pakistan for effectively curbing illegal immigration;
2. to suppress the insurgency more intensively;
3. to appoint officials suitable for Arakan conditions:
4. to effectively take action against government officials indulging in corruptions and
5. to re-examine those arrested under the Public Law and Order Act, clause 5, and
6. to release those who are ought to be released.

The Sir Ba Oo Commission was formed by Prime minister U Nu under the Chairmanship of the then Chief Justice, Sir Ba Oo, in October, 1948 under which three sub-committees for dealing with the question of Karen, Mon and Arakanese nationals respectively were formed. Each sub-committee is constituted by one representative from the State, three Burman representatives and four national representatives from the concerned area. The 4-member Arakanese national representatives are U Kyaw Yin, U San Tun Aung, U Tha Tun and Mr. Sultan Ahmed. They submitted their opinion on 29th October, 1948 as follows:
1. to appoint an Arakanese affairs minister and include it as a Law in the Constitution;
2. to constitute an Arakanese affairs council to assist the Arakanese affairs minister and include it as a Law in the Constitution; according to clause 12 of the Constitution,
3. to make rules, regulations and laws to be able to perform all activities of Arakan region by the Arakanese affairs minister and Arakanese affairs council in accordance with the wish of Arakan people; and after five years this scheme depending upon its results shall either be re-examined and amended in accordance with the wish of Arakan people or terminated.

U Shwe Baw, the Arakanese (Rakhine) representative of the Committee submitted the following proposals:
1. to exploit the natural resources of Arakan and improve industrialisation;
2. to improve the water, land and railway communications of Arakan;
3. to upgrade education standard including higher and technological education;
4. to improve the health and treatment facilities;
5. to improve the agricultural and aquatic enterprises;
6. to deploy one or two Rakhaing battalions in permanent Army to carry out law and order in case any border problem arises in Burma’s northwest frontier;
7. to give necessary powers for rehabilitating the Rakhaing nationals living in ‘Bomang State’ (Chittagong Hill Tract) and Awa Kyun (Sundarbons);
8. to award the power of making laws and collection of revenue and
9. to grant Self rule’ in every affairs of Arakan division.
The Burman members of the Committee rejected the idea of Separate State but recommended that Arakan should be made a division under proper Burma with the right of Self rule; the power of formation of Army should be vested in the national Parliament only and rather than appointing an Arakan affairs minister and council Arakan division council should be formed which would be more effective. After four years of enquiry, in 1952, although Sir Ba Oo Commission could submit its report on Karen and Mon Affairs, the report of Arakanese Affairs could not be submitted for reasons best known to them. The Kelly Commission was formed under the Chairmanship of Arakan Divisional Commissioner, Mr. Kelly, on 26th July, 1950 to enquire about the possibility of granting ‘State’ to Arakan. Extensive inquiries and investigations were made. But the report of the Kelley Commission was not officially announced. So the question of granting ‘State’ to Arakan lingered on without arriving to a decision.

After winning the election U Nu appointed an enquiry commission to study all the problems involved in the question of Arakan. The Rohingya Jamiatul Ulama submitted to this enquiry commission a long and explanatory memorandum on the position of the Muslims of north Arakan. They demanded establishment of a separate district which have a district council of its own and shall be vested with local autonomy. As a compromise solution the authors of the memorandum agreed to the district being a part of the Arakan State; however they insisted that the Head of the State was to be counselled by the council in the appointment of officials and in the matters concerning the district and its problems.

The Memorandum is as follow:-

The Memorandum of the Muslims of North Arakan Submitted to the Inquiry Commission