Thursday, September 24, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: A man for all regions - By Lelei Lelaulu

BOOK REVIEW: A man for all regions - By Lelei Lelaulu


By James R. Mancham

Paragon House, $24.95, 352 pages

Reviewed by Lelei Lelaulu

Generally, after distinguished careers, internationally recognized political leaders from the developing world descend gently into well-deserved rest from the strobe lights of the politico-paparazzi. Sir James R. Mancham, K.B.E., is an intriguing exception. His helmsmanship of the Republic of Seychelles, a tiny group of islands off the African coast in the Indian Ocean, was rudely shortened by a violent coup that ended democracy on the tiny island nation.

Undeterred by the brutality of the Tanzanian-supported coup on his isolated archipelago, Mr. Mancham, traveling in other regions, plied his "smiling philosophy" of dignifying the views of political opponents, gaining the respect of leaders in the nongovernment firmament.

In his accounts of negotiations to gain independence from London, Mr. Mancham details a litany of encounters with duplicitous British officials who could have populated a lesser John le Carre novel of bungling and betrayal by the guardians of the Establishment.

Mr. Mancham, who originally pushed for integration with Britain, soon realized colonizers could not be relied on and were even downright deceitful dealing with their charges. He writes, "[T]he word 'colonialism' had become synonymous with oppression, injustice and brutal exploitation."

Even when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time in the capital Victoria during the independence celebrations in June 1976, the first Seychellois president looked out to the harbor at warships assembled to respect the new nation from India, Australia and Iran. He rued that there was "not a single name from that never-ending list which constituted the Falkland Islands invasion armada."

Educated in London and Paris by parents of Chinese-French extraction who wanted their bright son to be "a man of letters and culture," Mr. Mancham did return as a Middle Temple-anointed barrister, but he used his legal training to enter the political arena with calls to repeal laws such as one protecting the "almost feudal privileges of the island's planters which made it an offence for an ordinary Seychellois citizen to be in possession of a coconut without a written permit."

It was also at the time when nationalist fervor in Africa had been excited by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's "winds of change" speech committing London to the dismantling of its empire as quickly as possible. Mr. Mancham wryly suggests decolonization was Whitehall's way of preparing the United Kingdom for entry to the European Union.

However, the colonial practice of divide and rule, the denuding of resources and the dumping of territories accelerated as spent colonies were ejected from the chilly bosom of Whitehall. And, without adequate training and appropriate aid, former colonies descended into civil strife and dictatorships.

Looking across the English Channel didn't help, as Mr. Mancham was subjected to the perfidy of a Paris trying to wrench cultural dominance from the English, who vanquished them in battles for control of the islands in the 19th century. In fact, it's a wonder Mr. Mancham didn't swoon into the welcoming arms of the Soviets after his subjection to the double-dealing of Paris and London.

When you grow up in a colony, it is hard to think of any Big Power initiative that was based on altruism. Indeed, when London and Washington acceded to Mr. Mancham's push for an international airport, it was clear the oil-consuming West needed an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" like the powerful U.S. base in neighboring Diego Garcia to monitor and protect the oil lanes. So, the Seychelles got an airport big enough to land military aircraft, and the airliners bearing high-end tourists and their tourism dollars.

Mr. Mancham noted the base was moved to Diego Garcia instead of another preferred island because of a small colony of booby birds. There were, however, no displayed qualms when the native human inhabitants of Diego Garcia were removed to make way for the fortress.

After the start of his forced exile, Mr. Mancham started to really play on the international stage. At the Universal Peace Federation, he was thrust into the international limelight in New York alongside the likes of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and other luminaries. He joined the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, which placed him in the company of religious leaders of diverse faiths and regions.

His wanderlust contributed to his political ouster, and the coup leaders used his many absences as excuses for toppling Mr. Mancham, but through his exposure to other lands, he was also able to see that without aid from the colonial governments, the best way to generate income was through their citizens' desire to travel to faraway islands.

Ignoring the colonial masters, he went to the people. Recognizing tourism as the largest voluntary transfer of resources from the colonizers to their ex-colonies in history, it was only a matter of time before British and French tourists were taking and leaving in the Seychelles more money than their governments gave in aid.

So, yes, Mr. Mancham had a taste for the sweet, fast life, trotting the globe in style, watering with the jet set, but he also almost singlehandedly lured the high-spending glitterati of the early 1970s to the Seychelles. And, as we know, where celebrities go, so go the paparazzi, whose pictures of half-naked celebs and royals relaxing on beaches beamed around the world - priceless branding gifts for unknown destinations.

It wasn't long before the seductive charms of the Indian Ocean island nation of some 85,000 souls was drawing 75,000 tourists a year to the airport that Mr. Mancham built. He put the Seychelles on the world tourism map at its richest layer where well-healed elites stay longer and spend more money.

Mr. Mancham is the father of his country, and with his superb PR skills, he transformed an obscure backwater into a destination synonymous with the good life. Because of that, he bequeathed to the Seychelles tourism-generated income far beyond what even the most benevolent former colonizer could have offered. And he did so by energetically and skillfully being a man for his nation in all regions.

Lelei LeLaulu writes on the linkages between development, climate change, conservation and food security for the Development Executive Group.


Anonymous said...

After the start of his forced exile, Mr. Mancham started to really play on the international stage. At the Universal Peace Federation, he was thrust into the international limelight in New York alongside the likes of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and other luminaries. He joined the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, which placed him in the company of religious leaders of diverse faiths and regions.

Though you would not know it from reading it, that entire paragraph is about how Mr. Mancham has worked with Sun Myung Moon to promote Moon's mission as the "messiah." Does the book, as this review, ignore the fact that Moon sees the UPF as the "central dispensation of God," his personal United Nations, and the vehicle Moon is using to promote his ideology around the world? To bring the world in tune with, and accepting of, Moon's "mission" as the "messiah"?

Not everyone sees the UPF the same way. Why not at least point this out or was that not mentioned that in the book?

Did the book mention that Moon's Unification Church uses cash they swindle from widows in Japan to help fund Mr. Moon's world conquest, including Mr. Mancham's trips around the world to promote Moon's plans? google "japan spiritual sales"

Please note that the IIFWP and the UPF in the quote are the same organization, why not say that?

Anonymous said...

Mancham's efforts are not about Moon, but about a big man from a small island. Mancham has always been a visionary and he has always entertained different ideas and views. Not everyone in Manchams political entourage agree with him, but it is because he entertains and allows all views to be heard is why his entourage grow today, while most people at his age would find themselves on the veranda rocking away until the messiah takes them away for grander days.

Congratualtion Jim, you have been "friends to all and enemy to none". This has taught many and it has enspired many.

Now if only the world could quick step that idea.

Anonymous said...

Mancham's efforts are not about Moon,

What he does with the IIFWP/UPF most certainly is about Moon. You cannot separate the organizations from Moon's "mission." If Mancham thinks he is not promoting Moon then he is a very naive man but I don't think even he would claim that. I have seen him praise Moon many times. You don't stay on the Moon gravy train and not praise the "messiah."

Read some of what Moon says about the UPF/IIFWP. He repeatedly talks about how the organizations are to bring in God's Kingdom as Moon sees it. Moon claims to be God incarnate, the arbiter of God's will, the creator of the "law" in "Choen Il Guk" - Moon's kingdom on earth. Ask Mancham how many times he has participated in Moon's "Holy Wine" ceremony at these events which in Moon's world binds you to his lineage and is a primary Moon ritual which he sees as necessary to enter heaven. Hint: Moon claims to be God incarnate all he does is to bring the world to his vision, that is ALL he and his followers do. Read down in the link I posted for just some of that. Mancham promotes Moon around the world - why try to separate the organizations from Moon and his role as the "messiah" - Moon doesn't and neither should anyone else.

FYI, Paragon is Moon's publishing house. Also, ask Mr. Mancham how he likes having money swindled from widows in Japan to help pay for his trips for the "family values" Messiah, Moon.

Anonymous said...

Well we certainly see how Mancham entourage has grown over the years...from being Leader of the Opposition in 1992/3 his political support in Seychelles has fallen to almost nothing. The Democratic Party which he founded is more like a circus than anything else. Mancham has only been about Mancham over the years, as for entertaining opposing political views...let me remind the reader of the way Mancham used Renes army and Tonto Macoutes to prevent Christpher Gill from mounting a challenge at a farcical event which he called an Convention of the Democratic Party a few years ago. Gill may have forgiven him (blood is thicker than water) but let us not forget that incident before covering him with the white cloak of innocence.

Anonymous said...

Yes, perhaps Mancham over reacted to a little Opposition when I tried to attend the DP Convention a few years back at Mahe Beach.

Yes, this committed all of us in Seychelles to a chain reaction of events.

Yes, Rene took advantage of this situation.

Yes, The DP today is in tatters for it.

Yes, all men are subbject to mistakes, but they are also entitled to correct those mistakes.

With that, those of us that bear witness to such mistake in time and in history, must be prepared to decide whether or not we have it in our hearts to forgive.

Mancham has killed no one I know. He has maimed no one I know.

I have supported him and I have opposed him. I have reconciled with him. In reconciling, I have learned to accept him for who he is and for what he is. I hope he has done the same towards me.

Our Country must move on beyond Rene and Mancham. We must rest and we must let these two grand fellows say what they must at this time. But in the end, they too will rest and we will have to move on.

We do not have to agree with everything they did in a lifetime.

Christopher Gill

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