By Ahmed Afaal*
After a long and hard struggle to attain democracy in the Maldives, 28 October 2008 marked a historic day that led to the end of a 30 year long presidency followed by a courageous display of democratic transition from both the out going and in coming presidents. Like the vast majority of people who voted for change, I waited anxiously for the new beginning. Finally on 11 November 2008, a moment long awaited, a new chapter headlined in the Maldivian democracy, a new president was sworn in.
Now comes the time of delivery. The first impressions are always important. I was one eager listener to the first Presidential Address from a different person in my whole life. I had a lot of expectations. What directions are we going to take? After listening to the Address, it took some time for me to really think about what was said. What was the message? Keeping what I thought for myself, I asked around a lot of people what they thought of the speech. Many were unable to say something concrete but most of the intellectual people that I asked were not really impressed with it. One of them told me that, and I quote "The campaign is now over, why he delivered another campaign speech after being sworn in!" Well I felt kind of the same.
So what shall a good presidential address do? In 1946 George Orwell published an essay "Politics and the English Language" that describes some insight into good political speeches. Many of the American analysts still use this assay as a baseline for speech assessment. Though the speech was not in English, the inaugural address of the President exhibited some staleness and vagueness which according to Orwell, lacks the strength of such a speech. Also the address didn't meet Orwell's criteria for an effective political speech because it was filled with the same political slogans that had been in the media and campaign speeches for the last four or so years. The strategic directions rolling over to the implementation of the slogans were lacking.
As for me I felt that the President delivered a vision statement. I agree that the promises need to be renewed but that renewal shall now come with strategic direction. I was expecting elaborations on the current economic situation of the country and specific strategies to address it. Elaborations on the 'how' of tackling the drug situation, health care, education and the rest of the five pledges would have been included. What actions would the President put immediately to overcome the challenges he faced and so forth.
Does this mean that the strategic communication unit of the President was up to par? Did the president do his own speech? Or did he miss to deliver part of the Address? Wasn't it analyzed critically before delivery? Who gave the technical inputs to the Address? These are some questions among many that people may have in their minds.
Ironically, the Maldivian media also did not give a good analysis of the speech. Not surprisingly they only knew to repeat what the President said on their headlines. Rich critical analysis of such Addresses shall now be presented by the media for the benefit of the public.
[*This analysis was presented by Ahmed Afaal, for the readers of this blog. He has his own blog (No politics) at http://afaal.blogspot.com/. As always I welcome contributions from the readers of this blog, which I will publish for the benefit of other readers and to keep this blog rich in content.]