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Zayed Remembrance Day to be observed tomorrow

posted on 18/08/2011: 1995 views

The death anniversary of UAE's founding President, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is being observed tomorrow, Friday 19th August ( 19th of Ramadan) with solemnity and reverence.

He passed away on 2nd November 2004.

Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi from 1946-1966 and Ruler of Abu Dhabi from 1966 until 2004, and concurrently UAE President from 1971-2004, Sheikh Zayed was at the heart of Government for nearly half a century. Developing both his experience as a leader and his vision of how he wished the country to develop from his two decades in the Eastern Region, he then became the original architect of the concept of the federation of the United Arab Emirates, working hand-in-hand with his fellow Ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai, and with the other Rulers of the emirates to ensure the emergence of the UAE on 2nd December 1971 There then followed over three decades of growth which not only raised the seven emirates from under-development into a modern, advanced society but which also saw them grow together in partnership, into a strong federal state, seeking common goals and following a united path. In that process, both local and international observers agree, Sheikh Zayed played a crucial role.

A fundamental element of Sheikh Zayed's vision of the way in which the country should develop was his belief that the people of the country were its real wealth and that its other resources, such as its revenues from oil and gas, should be used in the service of the people. He also believed that not only was it right and proper that the federation as a whole should benefit from the expenditure of those revenues but that, as a corollary, the federation itself would thereby evolve into a solidly-based entity, with the strengths of its constituent parts coming together to consolidate and support the UAE as a whole.

The development of the country's people, he believed, was something that should encompass both men and women - he pointed out frequently, for example, that women represent around half of the country's citizens. While acknowledging their primary role as mothers, he sought also to ensure that they were provided with opportunities to play a full part in society as a whole, and in its development.

At the time that the UAE was founded, many observers overseas were pessimistic about its future, pointing to the differences in population, area and resources between the member emirates. Sheikh Zayed, however, recognised that the factors that united them, a shared history and culture and a common religious faith, far outweighed the differences. At the same time, drawing upon his own experience and on his knowledge of the tradition of consensus that underpinned UAE society, he also saw clearly that the most suitable approach to adopt in the pursuit of development was one that was based upon discussion and agreement. Well aware of the vibrancy of local traditions, he recognised that, while there were aspects of other societies that could be adapted for use in an Emirati context, the country would obtain the best benefit by taking care to adapt only those aspects that could be properly integrated into local society.

He selected as a first task, therefore - one which remained at the forefront of his priorities throughout his period in office - that of educating the people of the Emirates. This was not, he felt, something that could be measured simply in terms of schools and universities, but also in terms of building a society in which individuals themselves would come to recognise their right, and their duty, in terms of contributing to that society, whether through their employment or through other means. Once that had been achieved, then much else could follow, in terms of expanded public participation in government, in terms of voluntary activity and in terms, simply, of a society in which the investment made in educating its members reaped its rewards through the contribution that its members then made towards further development.

Another task taken on by Sheikh Zayed was that of instilling a commitment to tolerance, both in terms of religion and in other spheres, as a fundamental part of the UAE. Recognising that the Emirates needed both expertise from other countries and the active participation of expatriates in the country's development programme, he ensured that the country sought to build friendly relations with all, seeking to build bridges rather than engaging in unproductive rhetoric and also worked to ensure that all those who lived in the UAE, both citizens and expatriates, of whatever origin, could enjoy security. A consistent opponent of those who sought to pervert the message of Islam, he showed, both through his own life and in the policies of his Government, his belief in dialogue between religious faiths and civilisations.

In this Holy Month of Ramadan, and on the anniversary of his death, it is right to acknowledge his wisdom and vision, his generosity and his compassion. They remain the fundamental guiding principles of the United Arab Emirates of today.


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