Not in my name

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The image a country projects is critical not only to the self-esteem of its people but also to its own progress, prosperity and good management. And building up a country’s image is not about futile branding exercises where foreign experts empty our till and walk away leaving us with void slogans. A country is judged by what it says and what it does. And since we mortals can only say things through our representatives – the very able people we elect every five years on the basis of their competence, common sense and integrity – what these important guys say or write on our behalf is every little bit our business and is therefore a big deal.

It is in this context that the letter written by the leader of the opposition, Honourable Pravind Jugnauth, to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an embarrassment to us as a people. We are not questioning his prerogative as leader of the opposition. But when he decides to embark on officially writing to the Indian prime minister – one of the most powerful men in the world – on behalf of all of us, he should have taken the trouble of at least running the official letter past a couple of people who have some common sense – and there is no shortage of those in his entourage – to make sure that what he is writing in our name reflects the thoughts and level of intelligence of most of us.

First, let’s look at the contents: when you say to a prime minister whose government is offering a credit line and a cheap loan to your country for a particular project that the process was done in “total opacity”, you are naturally implying at best that the person you are addressing did not do his homework before allocating the loan and at worst that he is in fact condoning opacity and is even an accomplice to it. Either way, this reveals an insulting, patronising attitude and is, therefore, a terrible faux-pas.

But more than the contents, the letter is jampacked with grammatical and stylistic errors. (See full letter on page 9 of this week’s edition of Weekly). I spotted at least 17 mistakes in a 360- word letter! And I am sure those with a better command of the English language would take the bid even higher.

Of course, we all make mistakes, though not 17 – I hope. But we are not handsomely paid from public funds to represent our country internationally. More than mistakes, it is the arrogance of believing that you are so perfect that you need no one to check such an important document before you dispatch it which is disconcerting.

If our country is serious about enhancing its image internationally, there are no shortcuts and nothing is too futile: rigour should be the name of the game. But then again, we have been settling for mediocrity for so long at every level of our lives that we have lost the meaning of ‘rigour’. And that may well be due to accepting mediocrity from those who act on our behalf.

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