Some favourite political losers

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Today I am 60 years and two days old. Last Wednesday night I was a guest at a dinner in a Park Avenue apartment whose host was a 92-year old lawyer who is still active and making a fortune on the Wall Street.

Another guest was a sprightly 94-year old art collector who possesses more hair than I do. I asked him the secret of his long life.

"Eat fish, fruits, vegetables, use olive oil but more importantly exercise daily; don't smoke and don't drink (except water and fresh juice)" said he.

In England there are four centenarians - two men and two women: George Fraser is 101 years old and he is a columnist on The Press and Journal in Aberdeen, Scotland. Florence Tottey, 100, has been running her late husband's farm in Liverpool when he died in 1942, Robert Burns, 101, works for the Bertram Circus and visits France every year, Norah Claye, 101, ran a hospital on the Myanmar borders during the second World War. Awarded the Star of Burma on her hundredth birthday.

A month ago I attended my alma mater's 346th commencement where Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright delivered the commencement address in which she summoned the "Spirit of the Marshall Plan" to support a new international vision.

Exactly fifty years ago to the day (5 June 1947), Secretary of State, General George Marshall used his Harvard commencement brief speech to sketch what came to be called the Marshall Plan, intended to ensure nothing less than the postwar economic and societal recovery of Europe and in the process saved Italy and Greece from the Soviet-backed Communists, and possibly also France.

One of the thousands of happy graduates who received their degrees that day was an eighty nine year old Mrs Mary Fasano.

She received a bachelor's degree of Arts from the Extension School and entered the history books as the oldest person to earn an undergraduate degree at Harvard. Fasano was given the honour to deliver a speech and she spoke movingly about the power of knowledge.

A fortnight ago, another favourite loser, Necmettin Erbakan, resigned after a year as Prime Minister of Turkey as a result of strong pressures from the secular armed forces which objected on displays of Islam.

Erbakan is the first Islamist to become the head of government in modern Turkey's history. He has to Iisten to the military leaders because the Turkish military has staged three coups since 1960.

The military objected to women wearingtudong (headscarves) in government offices and other signs of religious expressions.

He said he resigned because he "is a true patriot." He waited 29 years for a chance to become his country's leader which he did achieve last year heading the 54th government since the founding of modern Turkey by Kamal Atarturk in 1923, and the fifth in two years.

I can understand the concern of the military about protecting Turkish secularism - the tradition of stressing of the separation of masjid (mosque) and state. A prudent display of Islam is acceptable I suppose.

While I do not want to appear to support the Turkish military, neither do I want to give the impression that I am against Erbakan, after all he and his party were elected democratically.

It won 21% of the vote and governed in coalition with the secular Truth Party led by Mrs.Tansu Ciller, the Foreign Minister.

The experiment in Islamic-led government coalition with a secular party has come to an end, at least temporarily.

I respect anyone who gives up power ėvoluntarily' to keep peace.

I do not believe we have heard the last of Erbakan and that of the Welfare Party he leads.

Just wonder, who is your favourite orphan?

Dato' Abdullah Ahmad is Malaysia's Special Envoy to the United Nations

(This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Sun )