Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A normal day in the Foreign Office


I am lucky that I am not Foreign Minster in this government because it would be difficult to keep up. Imagine the scenario…You arrive in the office in the morning when your senior staff brief you about the changes in Sweden, who is my new counter part over there again? What is the name again of the guy who is in charge? Who do we speak to about where the next Ikea is going to be placed and will our Volvo still be under the service agreement and so forth.

Then someone comes in and tells me that Ferenc Gyurcsany has told fibs to his people…Who? Ferenc you know the guy who is the PM in Hungary…SO WHAT, WE DO IT ALL THE TIME!!...Well…anyway he lied to his people and it was played on MTV…why is MTV playing out the PM’s lies…no not that MTV, Magyar Television the state broadcaster so now their offices have been torched and the people are asking for his resignation. What MTV?…NO the Hungarian people is asking Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Hungarian PM to resign.

This is far too much for me so before I go for my first G&T in the morning when some little snotty civil servant comes in and shouts, THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN OVERTHROWN!!…WHAT already? We haven’t put out a press statement yet? So who is now in charge, what does our ambassador in Budapest have to say…Budapest? says the snotty civil servant…Bangkok you mean? What on earth has Bangkok got to do with the Hungarian Prime Minster lying to his people, I say now starting to break out in sweat?

Thailand’s Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown and the military have taken power, I am now informed…
How can one keep up with all of this?

You see lying to your people is so common in politics nowadays that we do not take a scrap of notice. When they are caught out, for heavens sake, a bloke goes with some rent boys, get caught then blames it on that he was going bald…and no-one flinches…apart from his silly wife who says…I will stick by him.
So normally lying and cheating is not a bad thing for politicians it was just bad for Ferenc and Thaksin that they were caught out…

Being completely bonkers is not a reason to loose power either, which has been proved by Saparmurat Niyazov, one of the nuttiest and still unknown guys around.
He is the self declared dictator of Turkmenistan or The Land of Turkmen as it is known locally. Up until 1991 it was part of the Soviet Union, when the Soviet Union was sent to the scrap heap an array of countries where founded, some by force and violence and some sort of just appeared.

You would not really be able to find Turkmenistan in the new 2007 Thompson Travel brochure as few people decide to travel there by choice.
Saparmurat is sort of just following what everyone else has done before him. Turkmenistan has a bit of chequered history.
In the 4th century Alexander the Great took charge, and he was only passing there on his way to India. Then the Arabs turned up in the 7th Century and it became part of the famous silk route. Move to the 12th century and you would find the Turks there as they tried to established control over the region and especially Afghanistan, which they held until Genghis Kahn turned up and took control of the Caspian Sea.

So all quiet on the front after that…you are kidding, infighting and “small wars” were fought until the 17th and 19th century when the various Persian Shahs got in on the act. Then in marches the British Empire and the October Revolution 1917 in Russia and subsequent in 1924 it became part of the Soviet Union…so there we have it…

Having been knocked about by everyone from Alexander The Great, Genghis Kahn and the whole British Empire you would think that the Turkmen would want some piece and quiet in 1991 when they established independence, and quiet is what they got…in the form of Saparmurat Niyazov, so quiet that we never hear about them in the press…even thought that they are the 10th largest cotton producer in the world??

So who is this Saparmurat and why does he deserve to be mentioned here?

Well you see he is a complete nutcase who rules his population, 5 million Tukmen in total, with an iron fist and a warped mind. For starters, he owns the papers and the television that is a clever move, now no-one can say anything bad about him, which is punishable by death or camps by the Caspian Sea, and we are not talking Butlins here…

Firstly his title should say it all "His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov "Turkmenbashi", President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers". The title Turkmenbashi, means "the father of all Turkmen" and he is the founder and president of the Association of Turkmens of the World. Well hey what a great club to be in “Sappy”!
Needless to say that he is bleeding the country dry, but that is only what expected of a dictator, everyone does it, his fortune is estimated to be in the region of $3,000,000,000. Not bad for someone whose major industry is cotton.
Then he went off and got all of his family members’ jobs in the government. He renamed the city of Krasnovodsk to Turkmenbashi after himself. Did he stop there…no way Jose, he didn’t like the bible or the Koran so he wrote one himself, the book of soul or Ruhnama (see picture top) as it is known locally and all studying in school uses text from the book to educate the people and make them love their leader.
He didn’t like gold teeth as it looked bad so he banned them urging his people to gnaw on bones, because he had not seen any dog with bad teeth…not kidding here, that is what he said.
He also banned long hair for men as this was western culture, which he despises so in line with that he went further and closed down all opera and ballet houses, western style universities is out, so is libraries and recorded music. He didn’t like the names of the days and the months of the year so he renamed all the days in the week and months in the year using his family members names…makes sense I suppose…see you on Anna 13th of Elisabeth…
He decided to build “new wonders of the world” and the first which was meant to be an Ice Palace ended up being an ice rink…not really a wonder if you live in Sweden or Canada…
His people are living in poverty, but he managed to spend $100M on a memorial for his mother…and a gold statue of himself in the capital which rotates so the sun always shines on him.
He shut down the hospitals outside the capital Ashgabat telling people if the were sick they could travel to the capital.
He banned all video games in the country saying that they were too violent for Turkmen to play.
He also needed to cut down on the civil list so he fired 15,000 health workers, school teachers and midwifes…
So what else is there to say about him…well he found some hair colouring one day and is now colouring his hair black, it was very grey at one point, this prompted him to recall the currency and reprint all notes with him being depicted having grey hair…who says a dictator cannot be vain…What a great guy…

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