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National Day report 2004 - Exceptional leader leaves behind a sterling legacy of progress

posted on 02/12/2004: 1599 views

For the UAE, the 33rd anniversary of its National Day is certainly different from all its previous national days. This year, the UAE, together with the Arab and Muslim worlds, is still in mourning for the death of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder and leader of the UAE. Sheikh Zayed's death on November 2, 2004, came as a blow to the people of the UAE, and to all peace-loving people of the world as well.

Distinct identity

Sheikh Zayed was no ordinary leader or statesman … he was an exceptional man with vision and extraordinary merit, which earned him the respect of others and the genuine love of ordinary people worldwide. And it is no secret that Sheikh Zayed has imparted an entirely different meaning to modern political leadership.

Since the establishment of the UAE federation in 1971, the seven emirates comprising the UAE have forged a distinct identity through consolidation of their federal status. In the spirit of consensus and collaboration, the Rulers of the seven emirates agreed to be members of a Supreme Council, the top policy-making body in the new state. They also agreed to elect a president from among them to head the new state.

Sheikh Zayed was elected to be the first President of the UAE, a post to which he was re-elected at successive five-yearly intervals until his death last month. When the UAE was born almost three decades ago, few predicted the country would survive even beyond its first five years.

Neither regional circumstances nor international challenges were ripe enough for the existence of the new state. But despite an uncertain future, Sheikh Zayed's leadership and wisdom soon ensured the new state its special place on the world map.

For years, Sheikh Zayed worked tirelessly to enhance the UAE's relations with the outside world. Within the Arabian Gulf, Sheikh Zayed sought to enhance cooperation, and resolve differences and disagreements through a peaceful pursuit of dialogue and consensus. Thus, one of the central features of the UAE's foreign policy has been the development of closer ties with its neighbours in the Arabian Gulf. As far as Arab issues are concerned, Sheikh Zayed worked tirelessly for better relations among Arab countries.

He was the only Arab leader to openly advocate a revision of the Charter of the Arab League to permit decisions be taken on the basis of the will of the majority.

Committed to peace

Sheikh Zayed fully supported international condemnations of various aggressions committed by different powers. He was most condemning of the injustice brought upon the Palestinian people by Israeli aggression.

He was also concerned as much about the people of Iraq. The UAE's commitment and concern for the well-being of the people worldwide made the country one of the largest aid-donors globally.

One of the keystones of Sheikh Zayed's philosophy as a leader and statesman was that the country's resources should be fully utilised to the benefit of the people.

He utilised Abu Dhabi's wealth for the benefit of all the emirates. In the past three decades, the people of the UAE have seen dramatic changes that provided them with all the benefits of a modern, developed society.

At the same time, both the government and the people determined their heritage should be preserved, in line with Sheikh Zayed's belief that "people that know not their past can have neither a present nor a future”.

Success, however, is not measured by financial wealth alone. Wealth, as in Sheikh Zayed's words, "is not money. Wealth lies in men. That is where true power lies, the power that we value the most.”

Therefore, he made particular efforts towards building a good citizenry based on hard work and traditional values. Sheikh Zayed also believed, and made it clear, that the younger generation — those who enjoy the fruits of the UAE's development programme — must now take up the burden once carried by their parents.

His encouragement for the young bore immediate fruit — a class of UAE technocrats has emerged, who are carrying the burden of the UAE's current economic development on their shoulders.

During his life, Sheikh Zayed was an eager advocate of tolerance, discussion and a better understanding between different nations and faiths, recognising this as vital if mankind is ever to move forward in harmony. His efforts bore fruit and the UAE has earned a special place in the world as a peace-loving nation.

Throughout his life, Sheikh Zayed was a role model for all UAE nationals. They saw not only a great leader but also a father figure in him. The principles he helped to set will remain the core of the UAE's policies and a guideline for years to come. Islam, the core of Sheikh Zayed's principles, will remain the foundation of the UAE's beliefs and philosophy.

President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikh Zayed's successor, who grew up on Sheikh Zayed's principles, is a people's man.

His popularity is not drawn from his capacity as Sheikh Zayed's son but from his own merits and abilities. Since the early ‘70s, Sheikh Khalifa took over several duties in his capacity as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

His generosity matches that of his father, and is popular among ordinary people. Like his late father, Sheikh Khalifa enjoys popularity among the Bedouin of the interior.

Political skill

In the last three decades, the UAE, under Sheikh Zayed's leadership, has demonstrated a considerable ability for surviving various external threats and challenges.

Its astute diplomacy in the face of many threats, together with Sheikh Zayed's political skill, protected the country from several regional dangers.

Therefore, the predictions of his detractors at the time of the UAE's creation have indeed been proven to be unfounded.

Over the course of the past three decades, the UAE not only survived but has also developed at a rate that is almost unparalleled.

Today, the country is completely transformed, and the development indices come in various forms, such as population increase, growth in literacy, GDP, and life expectancy. Moreover, the country enjoys political stability and unmatched economic growth, which provide a safe haven for many expatriates.

There is no doubt the experiment in federation has been a success and, undoubtedly, the central role played by Sheikh Zayed has been key to the achievements of the UAE. (The Gulf News UAE National Day Supplement)


05 December 2004 Winning all the way
04 December 2004 Nation takes comfort from Zayed's deeds
04 December 2004 Benefiting from an educated approach
02 December 2004 National Day report 2004 - UAE owes its prosperity to Zayed, says Khalifa
02 December 2004 National Day report 2004 - Progress march ‘will continue’; remain loyal to the path of development laid down by Zayed, says Maktoum

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