1957: Ghana celebrates independence
The people of Ghana have been celebrating the end of colonial rule and the dawn of their independence.
Most workers have been given the day off - tens of thousands have gathered in the capital, Accra, to greet the independent country's first prime minister, Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
The Duchess of Kent has been attending the celebrations. Last night, she opened the Independence Monument, erected near the spot where in 1948 members of the Ghanaian ex-servicemen's union were shot when marching to present a petition to the British Governor.
The Gold Coast Legislative Assembly was prorogued at midnight to cheers from the waiting crowd outside.
This morning the Legislative Assembly building, now the building of the Ghana parliament was packed with members dressed in their national costumes. The first Governor-General of Ghana, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke has been sworn in.
Message from the Queen
The Duchess gave a speech, setting out the Ghana Government policy. She also read out a personal message from the Queen to the people of Ghana.
In it she said: "The hopes of many, especially in Africa, hang on your endeavours. It is my earnest and confident belief that my people in Ghana will go forward in freedom and justice."
In reply, Dr Nkrumah said: "My government fully realises both the advantages and the responsibilities involved in the achievement of independence. It intends to make full use of these advantages to increase the prosperity of the country."
Earlier, the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, made a speech welcoming Ghana's move to independence.
"The government and people of Ghana have set their hands to a great task. We are confident whatever may be the difficulties which will face them they will maintain and develop the principles of tolerance and freedom which are inherent in our parliamentary system. We shall give them all the help we can."
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Ghana was the first black African country to become independent.
In 1960, Nkrumah declared Ghana a republic and himself president for life in 1964. He banned all opposition parties.
He was deposed in 1966 by a military coup while on a trip to Peking. He later died in exile in Romania in 1972.
There followed a period of unstable government with one coup after another, culminating in 1992 in a referendum on a multiparty system. Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, who had already led two coups against the government, was elected president.
His supporters credit him with stabilising a turbulent political scene and leaving a legacy of democracy.
He retired in 2000 and President John Kufuor was elected.
1957: Malaya celebrates independence
The Federation of Malaya is now independent. The handover of power from Britain took place at midnight.
Thousands of young members of the Malay, Chinese and Indian parties, which form the government, stood in darkness for two minutes at midnight to mark the official handover.
As the new flag of independence was raised they called "Merdeka" (freedom) seven times.
Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister-elect, who led the negotiations with the British for handover of power, was hailed as the Father of Independence.
Malaya will stay in the Commonwealth - and, as midnight approached, prime ministers of the member countries sent messages recorded in five continents.
The British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said he hoped 31 August would long be remembered as a great and happy day in the continuing development of Malaya and the Commonwealth of Nations.
In his speech delivered at midnight, Tunku Abdul Rahman said it was the greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people. A new star had risen in the eastern sky - a star of freedom for yet another Asian people.
The new prime minister was educated at two British schools and graduated from Cambridge in 1925. Soon after World War II he went back to Britain to study law.
On his return to Malaya in 1949 he found a country eager for independence but also struggling with communist extremism.
He founded the Alliance Party in 1952 which brought together the ethnic Malay, Chinese and Indians. The party won the 1955 general election with an overwhelming majority.
The Tunku became Chief Minister and ended the state of emergency - introduced after a wave of attacks carried out by mainly Chinese communists on mine-owners and plantations - and granted an amnesty to communist terrorists.
Last year he led the negotiations with the British which paved the way for independence.
The new Malayan head of state, Tuanku Abdul Rahman, will be officially installed on 2 September. He was chosen from among the rulers of Malay's nine hereditary states.
He will hold the post of head of state for five years when his successor will be elected.
The installation ceremony will be witnessed by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester who are flying in to represent the Queen.
Following Malaya's independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman introduced reforms that spread power among the sultans and rajas who had ruled over fiefdoms on the Malay peninsula for hundreds of years.
But non-Malays were disappointed that political power remained largely in Malay hands.
In 1963 Malaya joined with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore under a new name, the Federation of Malaysia. Rivalry between the Tunku and Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, saw Singapore leave the federation in 1965.
Since Singapore's population was predominantly Chinese, its departure tipped the balance back in favour of Malays and increased tension between the two communities.
In 1969 there were riots in Kuala Lumpur and 2,000 mainly Chinese protesters were killed.
A state of emergency was declared and a year later Abdul Rahman retired from office.
In the late 1980s he re-emerged into public life to criticise the authoritarian leadership of Mahathir Mohamad.
Most international pundits were less impressed with Mahathir's political record. A Guardian piece noted Mahathir's "robustly provocative views," and snidely argued that "his outspokenness also revealed the abiding resentments of a post-colonial parvenu." According to the article, "His authoritarianism, his reliance on party cronyism, his failure to curb corruption and the abuse of judicial and human rights, most infamously in the case of Anwar Ibrahim, have also tarnished his legacy." (Anwar Ibrahim was on course succeed Mahathir until he lost favor—he is now in prison on what most agree are trumped-up charges; see this "International Papers" column from August 2000 for more background.) These inclinations never turned Margaret Thatcher against Mahathir: She was quoted in another Guardian piece saying, "We both believe in speaking our minds. It's just as well he is a man, for he'd have been lethal with a handbag."
Dr Mahathir.. his failure to curb corruption and the abuse of judicial and human rights
But his outspokenness also revealed the abiding resentments of a post-colonial parvenu. His authoritarianism, his reliance on party cronyism, his failure to curb corruption and the abuse of judicial and human rights, most infamously in the case of Anwar Ibrahim, have also tarnished his legacy
HOME / INTERNATIONAL PAPERS : WHAT THE FOREIGN PAPERS ARE SAYING.
By June Thomas
Posted Thursday, Aug. 10, 2000, at 9:00 PM ET
The sodomy conviction earlier this week of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim drew universal condemnation. Most coverage painted the prosecution as an attempt by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Asia's longest-serving head of state, to end the political career of his former protégé, whom he fired after a disagreement on how to handle the Asian economic crisis. The Times of London said that the "roots of Dr Mahathir's vendetta lie not in disagreement over economic policy, but in the jealousy and suspicion of an elderly autocrat of a younger, ambitious man." Britain's Independent called the proceedings "an unqualified disgrace for [Mahathir's] country and for a judicial system that has presided over a show trial that would have done Joseph Stalin proud." Since Anwar was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment—to be served after a six-year stretch for corruption handed down last year—which will be followed by a five-year ban from office, his political career is almost certainly over.
Anwar was found guilty of sodomizing a former family chauffeur despite many procedural "irregularities" in the trial that suggest that he might have been framed. According to the Guardian, these included:
[T]he beating of the defendant by police; the retraction of testimony by prosecution witnesses who said they had been coerced and physically abused; the arrest for sedition of one of Anwar's attorneys for statements made in open court; an apparent contempt by … Mahathir … who publicly proclaimed Anwar's guilt despite the court's specific instruction to refrain from comment; and the unreliable evidence of the discomfited chauffeur … who told the court police had coached him on his testimony.
The Independent took comfort in the nakedness of the injustice: "At least the verdict will dispel any lingering doubts about the miserable state of human rights in Malaysia." The Sydney Morning Herald declared that "[T]he moral position of Anwar, convicted sodomite, looks far stronger than that of Dr Mahathir, maker of modern Malaysia." Hong Kong's South China Morning Post agreed, saying:
It cannot be comfortable to live under a system where sodomy is judged a greater crime than corruption. Or where verdicts are based on discredited evidence, or on statements later retracted on grounds they were made under duress.
In Europe, a fresh wave of political violence, highlighted by bomb explosions in Russia and Spain and political assassinations in Spain and Corsica, dominated the papers. In Moscow, an explosion killed seven and, according to the Moscow Times, put "the city on edge again." In Spain, four incidents involving the Basque separatist group ETA left six people dead and 11 injured, prompting silent protests at town halls across the country. In Corsica, a leading nationalist and his bodyguard were killed shortly after the island's regional assembly approved a plan to take some legislative powers from France. An editorial in the Scotsman, a paper somewhat sympathetic to Scottish nationalism, said:
The bombs which exploded across Europe … tell a tale of two kinds of nationalism. One is an ugly creed based on a false notion of ethnicity. An ethnic nationalism which defines itself by an unscientific and false concept of race. A nationalism of us and them. … But there is another—civic—kind of nationalism. One where all, regardless of race, religion or class are inclusive citizens of the nation. It is a concept that has been built slowly and painfully, based on the rule of law, human rights and a working democracy. … It is the civic, inclusive version of national identity that needs to triumph.
(The online versions of Spanish newspapers have a somewhat morbid fascination with graphic reconstructions of terrorist actions and "photo galleries" of murder scenes and funerals; click here for El Mundo's reconstruction of the murder of Second Lieut. Francisco Casanova Vicente, here for El País'. Here is El Mundo's photographic record of this week's violence; here is El País' version.)
U.S. election corner: In an editorial headlined, "A Jew for the White House," the Jerusalem Post said that the selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman as Al Gore's running mate "sends a positive signal to American Jews in terms of their own ethnic and religious survival." It continued:
During the last 30 years, a remarkable number of cabinet members have gained office after converting to Christianity. Lieberman's case shows that faithfulness to one's people does not bar the way to the highest positions, and that the assimilation process can have a limit without that boundary having a cost.
Follow-up corner: Monday's "International Papers" column focused on two stories, the Sri Lankan president's attempt to amend the constitution to end ethnic strife, and the grilling of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid at the nation's consultative assembly. In Sri Lanka, the reform bill was withdrawn after the government realized it could not achieve the required two-thirds majority. According to the Guardian, "10 opposition members who favoured the new constitution were flown out of the country by their party to prevent them from voting." In Indonesia, Abdurrahman announced Wednesday that he would hand over day-to-day administration to Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. The Age of Melbourne, seeing "bad omens" in the retreat, said:
Although [Abdurrahman] probably had little choice but to defer to the realpolitik of Jakarta's febrile factionalism—or risk losing everything—this is not an encouraging sign for democratic aspirations in Indonesia. It smacks of a cynical, make-do compromise at a time when stable and steadfast leadership is needed.
Last of the Soviet egomaniacs: Tuesday's International Herald Tribune carried a fascinating dispatch from Turkmenistan, the "Stalinist Disneyland" of Central Asia. The nation's capital is dominated by a 40-foot golden effigy of President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov (a k a "Turkmenbashi"—"head of all Turkmen") that "turns with the hours, so Turkmenbashi's outstretched arm always seems to be holding the sun and offering it to the people below." Mandatory school attendance was recently cut to nine years, making it "nearly impossible" for Turkmen students to gain acceptance in Russian universities, but education hasn't been abandoned totally: Every day "schoolchildren repeat a daily vow that thoughts against the leader are treason."
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