THE prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, continues to blaze new trails in the attempt to deal with the Christchurch tragedy that has deeply wounded the nation. Her determined actions have captured the imagination of many worldwide given her swift responses ranging from an immediate gun ban to that of a royal commission of inquiry and her insistence that social media platforms be held responsible, especially with respect to “white supremacy” and the hate messages. While others are trying to deflect the issue to other “extremists” – she faced it head on and unequivocally called a spade a spade.
This contrasts very much with another leader once held in high esteem by the International community. Dubbed an iron-lady she fought against the military junta that kept her in house arrest for many years. Eventually, she prevailed thanks to support worldwide. She was the darling of the West that heaped praise on her.
Accorded the coveted Nobel Peace Prize she was catapulted as an icon enshrining hopes for the oppressed and disfranchised who steadfastly stood by her all along.
Unfortunately, after being “freed” and becoming the de facto leader of her government, she failed to solve an important issue. She failed not once but repeatedly. No less than the UN on countless times urged her to act and stop the “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” involving thousands of people who were banking on her to “protect” them. But that was not forthcoming. They were instead forced to seek refuge in other countries.
On last count, the refugees exceed more than half a million. Not surprisingly, the UN called them “the most persecuted ethnic in the world”.
To understand this better let us figuratively imagine how many times does the 36-minute shooting that took the lives of 50 people (one life lost in less than a minute) in Christchurch recurred in Myanmar ever since the genocide was first committed decades ago. Yet the action taken is dismal, if at all – certainly nowhere near what Ardern has done.
One would expect something more from a celebrated peace prize winner. Regrettably, her inaction has devalued her international stature. Many have deemed it fit to withdraw the recognitions gallantly bestowed upon her. Consequently, the wounds that have been inflicted on the people in Myanmar remain bloody and raw. Extremism thrives as the period of “reconciliation” promised late last year has fallen into oblivion.
As Ardern moves on to foster greater solidarity among her people by wisely riding the crest of empathy from all walks of life post Christchurch, the other leader is increasingly being shunned, isolated and becoming even more irrelevant. Her failures become glaring by the day. So is her arrogance much to the chagrin of those who used to believe in her. The about-turn is amazing, now that it has come to naught, leaving a bitter taste compared to the astounding turn of events in New Zealand as the world applauds and approves. If only the Nobel Laureate was humble enough to learn from a truly deserving potential winner, things can be markedly hopeful with hundreds of thousands being spared the agony and misery forced onto them. Regrettably, this is not to be. But not for long before the impact made by the prime minister of New Zealand is benchmarked by others in the name of humanity. This was illustrated last Friday at the memorial service for the 50 who lost their lives. She told the crowd:
“We gather here, 14 days on from our darkest of hours ... we have often found ourselves without words.
“(But) even when we had no words, we still heard yours. They have left us humbled and they have left us united.
“Our challenge now is to make the very best of us a daily reality. We have work to do.
“We each hold the power – in our words, in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness – let that be the legacy of the 15th of March.”
Ardern received a standing ovation as she took to the stage in Hagley Park and again after she finished speaking about 11.20am. Such is the tale of two women leaders.
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org