posted on 08/11/2004: 550 views
"I hope everything is well with my people ... give me some good news." These were the last words uttered by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan to Saeed Mohammad Al Gandi, speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC). Al Gandi spoke about the late leader and said his wise leadership came from the fact that he identified himself so closely with his people. He said Sheikh Zayed even "competed" with his people in a demonstration of mutual loyalty.
"I went to Sheikh Zayed nearly four months ago to take permission for the summer recess of the FNC, he inquired about the people for whom his doors were always open so he could exchange views with them. "He never spared a moment without thinking of the welfare of his people. His majlis was an open forum for every citizen to express their desires. He dealt with UAE nationals with a paternal spirit, always prepared to give and always competing with the nationals in showing mutual loyalty," Al Gandi said.
"Sheikh Zayed never closed his doors to nationals, and always emphasised the fact that democracy meant normal daily gatherings between the ruler and the ruled.
His open-door policy, despite his growing responsibilities, never changed over the years, even after his election as President of the UAE. The dearest thing to Zayed's heart was to listen to his fellow compatriots. This attitude on his part was quite natural, for he had grown with the deep-rooted nobility of his people characterised by amity and compassion.
"Zayed found nothing so joyful as a few hours spent in the desert, or when he met with his compatriots without any formalities. There were absolutely no barriers between Sheikh Zayed and his people. Their relationship was one of love, confidence and trust.
"This was the true meaning underlying Zayed's daily visits to cities and villages nationwide. They rarely ceased, even in the worst climatic conditions. This had been his custom ever since his youth. "He always aimed at mixing with the people in their everyday life, inspecting work sites and finding out for himself the wishes and needs of his people.
"Sheikh Zayed's visits to the people were crucial to his democratic rule. His persistence in pursuing them came from his belief that the success of any ruler depends on consultative democracy.
"He also believed that one of the country's pillars lay in the freedom of nationals. Under the umbrella of freedom, every national can live without fear and safeguard the great gains the country has realised for him, defending the federation and stabilising its foundation against any break for separation or narrow provincial ideologies. Freedom, as Zayed saw it, is essential for people's progress.
"Zayed's democracy was not mere texts written in the constitution. It was a practical reality, both on the level of higher authorities and on a popular level. Mohammad Ebrahim Obaidullah, a Federal National Council member, said: "Sheikh Zayed had not changed over the years, neither when he was the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Province nor as the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, not even after he was elected President of the UAE.
"When Zayed became Ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966, he moved quickly to form the Planning Council in keeping with the traditions of his forefathers.
"It had been the custom of rulers of Abu Dhabi to gather around them Sheikhs and men of knowledge and experience, in the form of a majlis, and consult them on key issues. "Emergency sessions would be held whenever any crucial issue cropped up. On these occasions, the ruler used to call these men and put the issue before them for their views. Crucial decisions were taken in the light of these deliberations.
"Those who follow the FNC's debates will realise that the country is successfully proceeding under the banner of democracy. Council meetings rarely pass without a minister deliberating with its members, each side listening to the other, and eventually reaching a formula deemed most appropriate."
"Sheikh Zayed always took great interest in this council and its recommendations. He encouraged its members to express their opinions frankly and often declared his support to them and his desire to push forward the council's work."
Al Gandi added: "Zayed always called upon every official to welcome criticism and not to be disturbed by opinions appearing in the media. He used to say: 'Frankness should prevail between us. Constructive debates purify any pioneering experiments and defective opinion.' These words are only uttered by those who realise the true meaning of good leadership and have absolute belief in their peoples' rights. (The Gulf News)
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