Our Politicians and [Archives:1998/07/Viewpoint]

February 16 1998

Their Endless Lies
Are politicians by necessity liars? The record of our time and what history tells us, seems to indicate that politicians in general lie more than other people. Throughout history and up to now, to be a politician really meant to dish out lies on a regular basis. That is why people, in general, and scholars, in particular, draw a distinction between a politician and a statesman or stateswoman. The difference is in the level of personal integrity and decency, and in the sense of mission and degree of vision. A statesman is a politician with a high level of integrity and one with a vision and sense of mission.
At this juncture of human history, the lies of politicians have hit record levels. It may be that the lies of politicians have been at about the same level throughout history, but that now we are more aware of them given the extent of information flow. Even if that were the case, I contend that Yemeni politicians are working hard to hit the Guinness Book of Records in this aspect. Our political structure is so corrupt that not one day passes by without a dose of lies (they call them promises) from our politicians. This phenomenon is true whether you are talking of politicians in power or those in the opposition. Lies permeate all levels of bureaucracy and authority. Let me give a few examples:
1. Foundation Stones of Projects: Many villagers and tribes are showered with promises of development projects. They are given explicit orders and promises to implement schools, clinics, roads, water supply projects, etc. They are asked to process the necessary paperwork. They are told everything is ready for implementation. In fact, a senior official even goes through project initiation ceremonies; e.g., to lay down foundation stones, getting a lot of media coverage, etc. Those are big lies. The foundation stone for some projects have been laid down several times. It is very frustrating when senior government officials look at people straight in the face, and dish out a lie.
2. Better Times Ahead: Many times, senior officials tell the public that good times are ahead. “Better times are there, just beyond the next corner,” they say. They have been talking about so many corners to cross¬† that they describe a very strange geometric shape. These lies are about the economic reforms, about decentralization, about law and order, about checks and balances in the system, about fighting corruption, about the coming fortunes from oil and gas, about respect for human rights and civil liberties, about fair democratic practices, etc.
3. Lies to Foreigners: Our politicians have not only been lying to the Yemeni public, but their lies have also colored our relations with foreign governments and international agencies. Many a foreign diplomat or official would tell you about the so many promises that were broken, and the outright lies they were told.
The final result of this lie-telling approach is loss of credibility. The number of jokes circulated among the Yemeni public about the lies of our politicians attests to the level of trust they have in them. Unfortunately, the dose of lies increases when there are national occasions. Last week was one such occasion.

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher