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EDITORIAL : WALK THE TALK LIKE THE WORLD’S POOREST PRESIDENT

5 March 2015 07:11 pm - 5     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In an era when President Maithripala Sirisena is setting an unprecedented example in servant leadership with a simple and humble lifestyle or alpechchathavaya, Sri Lankans who often prefer models from developed countries would do well to learn from what happened in the small South American State of Uruguay during the past five years.

The 79-year-old Jose Mujica was the President of Uruguay from 2010 to this year. A former urban guerrilla fighter with the Tupamaros and a member of the Broad Front coalition of socialist parties, Mr. Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator after that.As the candidate of the Broad Front, he won the 2009 presidential election and took office as President on March 1, 2010.  He has been described as the world’s humblest and poorest president, due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 per cent of his $12,000 monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.

As in the case of President Sirisena, Mr. Mujica’s father was a small-time farmer who went bankrupt shortly before his death in 1940, when his son was five. His mother’s parents were poor immigrants from Liguria in Italy. According to the BBC, Jose Mujica is often referred to as the president most other countries would rather have.Whatever a person’s particular shade of politics it is difficult not to be impressed by Mr. Mujica. There are idealistic, hard-working and honest politicians the world over, though cynics might argue they are a small minority, but none of them surely comes anywhere close to  Mr. Mujica in terms of living by one’s principles.

It is not just for show. Mr. Mujica’s beat-up old VW Beetle is probably one of the most famous cars in the world and his decision to forgo the luxury of the Presidential Palace is not unique -- his successor, Tabare Vasquez, will also probably decide to live at home, BBC says. But when people visit Mr. Mujica at his one-storey home on the outskirts of Montevideo, they realize that the man is as good as his word.

Mr. Mujica leaves office with Uruguay’s economy in better shape than its bigger neighbours. Wearing what could best be described as casual clothes – he has not been seen wearing a tie -- Mujica seats himself down on a simple wooden stool in front of a bookshelf that seems on the verge of collapsing under the weight of biographies and mementos from his political adversaries and allies.

Books are important to the former guerrilla fighter who spent 13 years in jail, two of them lying at the bottom of an old horse trough. It was an experience that almost broke him mentally and which shaped his transformation from fighter to politician. “I was imprisoned in solitary confinement so the day they put me on a sofa I felt comfortable,” Mr. Mujica quipped. Given his past it is perhaps understandable why Mr. Mujica gives away about 90% of his salary to charity, simply because he has no need for it.“This world is crazy, crazy. People are amazed by normal things and that obsession worries me,” Mr. Mujica told BBC.

Not afraid to take a swipe at his fellow leaders, he adds, “All I do is live like the majority of my people, not the minority. I’m living a normal life and Italian, Spanish leaders should also live as their people do. They should not be aspiring to or copying a rich minority,” he said.

With Sri Lanka entering a new political culture where politicians are pledging to be servant leaders, who wish to give what they have to the country to bring about good governance and social justice, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica stands as an outstanding model. Our politicians should read and reread his life story and act on it.   
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  • kalpage Friday, 06 March 2015 03:35 PM

    here our people never do as others do.

    desha Friday, 06 March 2015 10:52 AM

    Thamath Mahinda mahaththayata kade yana ayata Me lipiya sinhalata pariwarthanaya karala denna ona biththiye gaha ganna. Mokada unta Ingirisith bahane. Ha ha ha....!!!

    willowsd Friday, 06 March 2015 05:48 PM

    Definitely our ex pres should read this article and assess himself, before making any political comeback?

    Preston Chitere Friday, 06 March 2015 12:01 PM

    So simple and yet so great and powerful. A Mahatma Gandhi of our time

    dan Friday, 06 March 2015 07:29 PM

    @ Desha ; gonek wage hinawenna epa ingrisi bari ekata, thamuntath hariyata ingirisi uganna kawruth htye nathnam ingrisi ba thama!


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