The Next President

By TP Saran

The need for a President with the right profile and an inviolable sense of probity, with no horses of his own to flog, has become
a matter of
national emergency. We must absolutely be spared a ‘bête politique’

The image of this country has suffered a battering recently because of an avoidable and totally unnecessary controversy at its highest symbolic level.

The episode has proved, if that was indeed necessary, that the politician as President is not a model that is doing the country and its citizens honour. Few are the men who can rise above their prejudices and their ego, and perform the duties of their office without being swayed by their likes and dislikes. Ego trips at that level — on public display to boot — diminish the person and tarnish the country.

In his interview to this paper last week, the seasoned journalist and political observer Yvan Martial made some very sharp remarks, based on historically verifiable facts, about the situation of conflict that had arisen between the Prime Minister and the President. He identified the elements that had in them the seeds of the genesis of the confrontation at the time of the nomination by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam of Anerood Jugnauth as President for a second mandate, which are that the PM could not have been unaware:

  • About the rout of Aunauth Beejadhur by Anerood Jugnauth in 1963;
  • That SAJ missed consigning SSR to being leader of the Opposition by a hair breadth in December 1976;
  • That SAJ wiped SSR off the political scene in 1982;
  • That SAJ made his (Navin Ramgoolam’s) Labour Party bite the dust in 2000.

And Yvan Martial concludes on this issue as follows, ‘De quoi peuvent se plaindre aujourd’hui Nuvin Ramgoolam, l’anti-républicain de 1990-91, et tous ses courtisans? Il ne fait que récolter, en 2012, ce qu’il sème malencontreusement en Septembre 2008.’

To the question, ‘Ne faudrait-il pas dorénavant réfléchir en termes d’un Président non-partisan ?’ Yvan Martial’s retort is, ‘Il vous faut poser cette question au présent locataire de l’Hôtel du gouvernement. Comment puis-je obliger un Nuvin Ramgoolam à ne pas nommer un autre politicien, pour ne pas dire une bête politique…’

In August 2005, this column had already addressed this issue of the profile of the President of the Republic, writing that:

‘Socrates wished that there would be philosopher-kings. India and the Czech republic have had the good fortune of having philosopher-Presidents. They brought a quality to the Presidency that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. But at least they provide an example that may be emulated, even if the reflection would be much paler.

We should seriously envisage taking a step in that direction. At the apex of the country, we need someone with wisdom, maturity, humaneness, great understanding of the human condition, a capacity for forgiving the foibles of lesser mortals, a broad sweep of knowledge across boundaries, at ease with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, a capacity to relate intelligently and with empathy to children as well as adults of different persuasions and tendencies, with language and speech that will make others stop and listen, knowledgeable about the great currents that are criss-crossing the world and able to leverage them for the betterment of the country and, finally and most importantly, of irreproachable moral standing.

He is called upon to not only display but also put into practice the most refined traits that are expected to be found in a human being imbued with great culture.’

In other words, a non-politician, because one cannot find these characteristics in any politician.

Today, the need for a President with the right profile and an inviolable sense of probity, with no horses of his own to flog, has become a matter of national emergency. We must absolutely be spared a bête politique.

But of course, we have no way to prevent the political leadership from sowing the wind and reaping another tempest.

Res ipsa loquitur…

* Published in print edition on 6 April 2012

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