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Sultan lauds smooth transition of power after Zayed demise

posted on 20/01/2005: 802 views

Adherence to the Constitution and mutual understanding among the seven emirates of the UAE led to the smooth transition of power after the death of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, said Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.

Speaking to Al Arabia satellite channel on Tuesday, Sheikh Sultan said the smooth transition drew admiration and surprise of many people. He said the country needs young leadership and new blood.

"The youth have vigour -- we can see that in Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Minister of Defence General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and their brothers," he said.

Sheikh Sultan revealed how His Highness Sheikh Khalifa was elected President unanimously by the Rulers. He said he had consultations with Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and supported his proposal to elect a successor to Sheikh Zayed without any delay.

Answering other questions, Sheikh Sultan said the Sharjah government tackles the issue of the Iranian-occupied islands as a whole, though Abu Musa belongs to Sharjah. So the issue falls within the jurisdiction of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said. He also talked about his resistance to British when he was a young man in 1956 and his relations with the Ba'ath and Nasserite parties. Sheikh Sultan said it was important to guide extremist youth, treat them with wisdom, talk to them and encourage them to shoulder responsibilities. He lauded the contribution of women to development, citing their successful role in the Consultative and Executive Councils in the Sharjah emirate.

Excerpts from the wide-ranging interview as carried by the Gulf Today: Q: Do you think the death of Zayed will affect the federation? How do see new the rule? A: The UAE was founded on understanding and sound arrangements. It is governed by Constitution and law. There is no fear for the country because everything is based on understanding as no emirate works alone. In his life time, Sheikh Zayed used to stick to the Constitution. "Respect the Constitution," insisted Zayed. In fact, the Constitution is respected and amendments in the Constitution got unanimous support. President Khalifa works quietly and is surrounded by wise men who take right decisions.

Besides, we observed that there is a new blood. The young blood has its special push for development. Our current process may now need a new blood because youth enjoy mobility.

Q: How was the process of power transition? It was smooth and drew attention. We want to know what happened and what exactly took place that night? A: In fact, the Abu Dhabi emirate is 6/7th of total area of UAE. It also spends generously on the country. Abu Dhabi has also the biggest population and oil production compared to the other emirates. So it enjoys all merits. I was near Khalifa, and Sheikh Maktoum was on my right. Sheikh Maktoum told me: Should we wait for 30 days to select the president? I replied I heard it would take place after 30 days. Then he asked me again: Why don't we select a president now? I replied the it's good since all the Rulers are present and told Maktoum to talk with Khalifa and he would talk with the Rulers and then to meet in a room without announcing it to the people.

The whole matter took 10 minutes to arrange the meeting. Then we entered the room. If you the see the photo of that casual meeting, you would realise we were standing as the meeting and was not prepared for it in advance.

We were unanimously set to select Khalifa. Sheikh Maktoum opened the meeting and said, Sheikh Khalifa, we select you as President of the UAE.

Khalifa replied, no Sheikh Maktoum, you have experience, you are Vice President and Prime Minister. Sheikh Maktoum declined and we all insisted on Khalifa to become President and he became President. I told Khalifa, as we backed your father we will back you.

Q: It is well known that Abu Musa Island belongs to Sharjah emirate, will it be dealt with in different way?

A: No, we had contacts with Iran because the Sharjah emirate has a police station, school and nationals and daily telephone contacts (with Abu Musa). There is daily activity.

We set some arrangements. I didn't do them myself, but I assigned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because without it I would be weak. So in terms of arrangements and relations we referred them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This conduct shows things are done in concert in the country. So I don't go and talk to Iran about ordinary things. If it is a political issue, I refer it to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thus, this reflects the unity of the country.

Q: Islam is subject of a brutal attack and there seems to be some kind of clash of civilisations caused by the fact that some people are killing innocent people in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that you represent a medial Islamic current, what is the solution?

A: First of all, these people are not far from us because they are our children.

The main problem is that we did not give them good education. We should have met them before the cross-road, where we could explain the situation to them more prudently and direct them to the right path. But now we cannot do this. We are not rushing but are walking on the right way, which will lead us to our goal.

Q: You are calling for talks with those who kill?

A: They have already reached the end of the road. It was an experience that will come to an end. The most important thing now is to stop the bleeding urgently by calling the young people who have not taken part or have repented to lead them towards the right way and help them shoulder the responsibility. I should start talking with them from the angle of religion, Arabism and sense of belonging to this region. If every government, particularly in the Gulf region, proceeded in this way, this current would come to an end. Let's start dealing with these lost people. If one of these people wished to come back to the right path and repent, we should welcome him, as Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz said. Otherwise, he who kills must be killed, which is the wisdom of Islam. We must start with the young generation and give no place to extremists but to neutral people.

Q: How do you look at the issue of reform and democracy in the Arab World? A: Reform and democracy are good issues but are not treated in the right way. We should change for ourselves and should not depend on others to change us. Some people like to make a fuss about these issues until an internal struggle takes place. We should change our wrong practices. I am prepared to change but in my way. We like to tell the Arab World to change by themselves and not to wait for others to come and change them or force them to go into agreements.

Q: You then support the change that springs from the Arab societies?

A: Yes, I am with the change that springs from the society and from the people in charge themselves and I am against causing tribal struggle in the region because the region is a group of tribes.

Q: Do you support more women to hold ministerial position at the level of the federal state?

A: First of all, it was the late Sheikh Zayed who called for women to participate in leading positions. Our movement in Sharjah supported this step. Thank God, women were successful in their missions and help many things develop. Discussion in the Consultative Council changed and the Executive Council was more serious and had faster results. Hence, the participation of women helps change many negative points in men and we support such participation.

Q: Minister of Economy and Planning Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi is the first female minister. This means that you are open to women even in the local government. How do you comment on this?

A: The Sharjah Consultative Council has seven women for the second time.

Besides, the Sharjah Executive Council has two women: An engineer working as director general of works and charged with the task of roads, construction, building and demolition, and the other working in the social affairs. We have also women in other departments who have proved great in their competence. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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