Welcoming Singapore’s President

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

The city-state is quite a model in efficiency and its experience in easing administrative procedures will no doubt be of utmost use to Mauritian administration. The last picture broadcast on TV one month ago showed former PM Lee Kwan Yew.

receiving a most hearty welcome by the cheering crowd in one of his rare public appearances in the city centre. Though the island is not in line with our idea of political freedom, its model seems to fit its people fine. It is an example of a different model than the western type full-fledged democracy that works. What matters to the people is not so much a plethora of political parties and elections every five years but leaders who deliver.

The discipline and no-nonsense style of government has proved to be effective in the management of state affairs in a small island of four million inhabitants with one million of them being immigrant workers from Asia. One of its assets is that the potential of the different components of the population can be harnessed and channelled intelligently in the right direction and the government does not have to deal with whining minorities in its backyard and the shilly-shallying in decision-making one knows when there is perpetual discontent, Gallic style excitement and anger expressed in the French language, petty race obsessions that poison the atmosphere. Unfortunately, Mauritius is not located in southeast Asia.

Just feel the difference every time you take the plane from Asia back to Mauritius, you notice the imbalance in character and the challenge to serenity, pragmatism and calmness. For the reasons mentioned above.

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Three Men in the World

Israeli PM dismissed Obama’s suggestion to settle the Palestinian cause by endorsing the pre-1969 border definition. The US President’s discourse appeased the Arab world and was in line with Europe’s stance on the issue but he undoubtedly knew full well that negotiations would come to a deadlock. Benjamin Netanyahu later made a long speech in the Congress to explain his position, which was highly applauded.

Obama’s European tour started in Ireland where he paid a visit to his ancestors’ town and home and met with his distant Irish cousin. The cheering crowd in the streets was one example of Obamania that is displayed wherever the President goes visiting Europe. The long speech at the House of Commons in London emphasized and praised the role of the Anglo-Saxon world in spearheading political and economic freedom, justice and reforms in the world.

It recalled the words of one character in the Afghan writer Khaled Hossein’s novel The Kite-fliers. At one point, exasperated by the many failures, political tyranny, economic quagmire and religious obscurantism destroying the country, the narrator’s father says: ‘There are three countries which behave like men in the world, the US, the UK and Israel.’

What does he mean? That these countries have a backbone, character, principles which they abide by and values they make no compromise with?

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A Glimmer of Hope

In the age of Tahir Square and Ana Hazare, the wind of peace, reform and pragmatism is blowing across the world. The media gave us powerful images of forward-looking leadership; the Chinese Premier, his Japanese counterpart and South Korean President joining hands to express their will and faith in solidarity and cooperation. The North Korean President seems ready to follow the advice of Big Brother, China, and endorse constructive suggestions for economic development.

The Queen was the first monarch to set foot in Ireland since Independence in 1922, and her visit at the Memorial of Croke Park stadium where British troops opened fire on players during a Gaelic football match killing 14 people in 1920 in retaliation to the murder of 14 British soldiers was highly symbolical as she laid down a wreath to commemorate the tragic event. The Queen and the Irish PM are definitely willing to start a new chapter in the relations between the two countries.

In the Middle East, the Palestinians are happy that the interim government in Egypt has lifted up the Gaza blockade, which now allows them to cross freely into Egypt. East European countries are proposing to meet with the newly liberated Arab countries and offer suggestions for a democratic transition. The African continent is drawing heavy direct investment from emerging countries, and the recent visit of the Indian PM to Ethiopia whose President is said to have a pro-India leaning heralds a new era of investment in agriculture, textile, IT, construction — sectors which the government is inviting India to invest heavily in are most promising for the future development of Ethiopia.

Ghana has long taken the right path of democracy ever since a general drove away the corrupt elements from the government and cleansed the institutions by ousting all the rogues, and handed the country back to civil society for the democratic process to start. Chinese investments are bound to lift Africa out of economic isolation. And African countries are taking care to safeguard their own interests while allowing the new investors to draw benefits from their involvement in the vast continent.

* Published in print edition on 3 June 2011

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