Monday, February 14, 2011

Should heads of government continue to hand down leadership to their children?

by Oscar Ramjeet

The three-week demonstration and protests in Egypt that claimed the lives of hundreds was due to the fact that President Mubarak wanted to hold on to power in order to pass on his "throne" to his son, Gamal.

However, the demonstrators held their ground, which forced him to resign, but it cost the Egyptian people a lot -- hundreds of lives, pain and suffering and billions of dollars in damage.

Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider CaribbeanIt is not unusual for heads of government to hand down leadership to their sons or even daughters, but when it comes to bloodshed it is an entirely different matter. We have seen it in India in the late 1950s and 1960s when Jawaharalall Nerhu passed down to his daughter Indira Gandhi and she subsequently to her son Sanjeev. It was similar in Pakistan when President Bhutto handed over to his daughter Bonazir Bhuttoo, who was also assassinated, and she passed power on to her 19-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto.

In North Korea, young Yang Hyong Sop, known as Kim Jong Un, has been identified to replace his father Kim Jong II, who succeeded his father Kim Sung II, who was the first leader of the country way back in 1948.

In Kenya, East Africa, 41-year-old Uhuru Kenyatta has been handpicked by outgoing President Daniel Arap Moi to replace him because Uhuru, who has no political experience, is the son of his mentor, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first leader, who Moi succeeded in 1978.

Here in the Caribbean it is not too different. In Jamaica, we saw Norman Manley pass over the mantle to his son Michael. Vere C. Bird in Antigua and Barbuda to his son Lester. In Barbados, Grantley Adams to his son Tom, not to mention in Haiti, dictator Papa Doc, despite the fact that he raped the country of hundreds of millions, he "gave" the country to Baby Doc for him to continue to fleece the nation.

In Guyana, Forbes Burnham had five daughters and they were not interested in politics or else he would have placed one of them in a position to take over, but in any event he died at a relatively young of 62. Cheddi Jagan had a son, but he did not see eye to eye with his father and he was not "under his father's fold", hence his widow Janet took over, although she was a white American-born woman.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, James Mitchell, who served three and half terms as prime minister did not have a son, and it is said that he changed the country's flag and removed the coat of arm and the breadfruit leaf, and replaced it with three green diamonds, which he said reflected the plural nature of the many islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

His critics however say that the three diamonds represented his three daughters. He had only three daughters at the time of the flag change on October 21, 1985.

Apparently his daughters were not interested in politics -- at least at that time -- so he handed over leadership of his New Democratic Party to Arnhim Eustace, who lost the government five months later. Now persons close to Sir James said he regretted the move, but nevertheless campaigned for him and New Democratic Party at the last general elections, when he made a very unfortunate statement that he cannot even trust God, which some critics say costs the NDP a lot of votes and maybe the government.

Now it is said that current St Vincent prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, wants to hand over the mantle to his son, 38-year-old Camillo , a lawyer, who is now his country's permanent representative to the United Nations and US Ambassador based in New York.

I do not see a problem with that because I was told that Camillo, who is brown skinned, is competent enough to take over. In fact, he is much better than nearly all if not all the ministers in government.

Perhaps I should mention that Ambassador Gonsalves has made a name for himself in Washington. He was chosen as co-facilitator with Ambassador Frank Majoor of the Netherlands as facilitators for the preparatory process of the UN Conference of World Financial and Economic Crisis Impact.

He was in the forefront of making demands for more representation in the Security Council for Small Islands Developing State, which in my view is extremely good for a young diplomat.

I do not like to discuss race, especially in politics, but I mentioned that Camillo is brown skinned because the race card was touted in the November general elections, when it was said that the country, which comprises mainly blacks, has been run and administered by "red men" -- Mitchell and Gonsalves -- for more than 26 years. In the circumstances I feel that young Camillo will be the ideal person to replace his father and to administer the affairs of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

February 14, 2011