Thursday, December 04, 2014

What I wish for in a President

People dissatisfied with the choice of candidates at an election a may sometimes engage in wishful thinking speculating on an ideal leader. Someone of stature to whom we would unhesitatingly cast our vote. Nelson Mandela, for example or Lee Kuan Yew, a name that crops up frequently in Asia, or perhaps even Mahathir Mohamed.

Dayan Jayatilleka wishes for Deng Xiaoping the leader who reformed China and a worthy candidate,  although he then goes on muddle his argument by praising Putin forgetting that a Putin is what we are already saddled with.

I am much more practical in my approach. Sri Lanka is a small country, the talents of Mandela, Lee or Deng are suited to a much broader canvas. Why be so ambitious? Why not choose a lesser leader, one who while better than what we have is not such a world figure and is therefore more likely to take up the position?

I would settle for Omar Bongo.

 Not many many have heard of him but for 42 long years he ruled Gabon. Western concepts of governance he could not understand. He saw no distinction between himself and the state.

The suggestion of fiddling public finances flummoxed and infuriated him. Corruption, he once explained to a reporter, was not an African word. No more was nepotism: he simply looked after his family, supplying them with villas in Nice as well as the ministries of defence and foreign affairs. When French judges in 2009 froze nine of his 70 bank accounts, he was outraged. An attack on him was obviously an attempt to destabilise his country. (from the Economist obituary)
Gabon's mineral wealth helped to ease his rule.
A timber concession here, a stretch of paved road or a Bongo stadium there, disarmed anyone who objected to his way of doing things. Even Pierre Mamboundou, his most diligent opponent, was soothed after many years with $21.5m spent on his constituency. Business visitors to the capital found it chic, feudal and hospitable, like an Arab emirate; in Mr Bongo's time, Gabon's consumption of champagne was said to be the highest in the world. Everyone could be suborned or sweetened except his first wife, Joséphine, who became a pop singer after the divorce and sang cutting songs about her young replacement. (the Economist)
Whatever his faults, Mr Bongo did allow a modicum of prosperity to trickle down to his people, who enjoyed a slow but steady increase in living standards. He also brought relative tranquility, and order; rare commodities in Africa. There was apparently genuine mourning by the population at his passing.

This is all I would wish for in Sri Lanka.  They don't seem like much but I wonder if even that is too much to ask for.

Sri Lanka is not a rich land, so if Mr Bongo were to rule he would have little wealth to ease his passage. However having made so much in Gabon, he could surely be persuaded to serve here for more modest pickings. After all, some minister here made the very same argument; that it is better to have the old hands who have already made money than to get someone new who would need to start all over again.

Cerno says he has grown to fear speculation,  about the process of change and hopes that Sri Lanka will not (despite what far away analysts think), become a Somalia, a Pakistan, or some other third world hell hole.

I fear Cerno that we are already just that. We passed the Banana Republic stage some time back and we now seem headed in directions that even I don't want to contemplate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about José Mujica? Certainly there may not be a better example as far as the definition of 'tax money' goes for our lot.

And yeah, I haven't heard of Bongo. Only about the Gembo that our jokers vote for.