Thursday, November 17, 2005


PS on Turkmenistan

On 8th November I posted on Turkmenistan, making the point that however bad we might think our own government to be, President Niyakov can prove how very much worse things can get. Of course you need a power mad callous psychopath in charge for this to become the case, but, as I tried to point out, the seeds of such extremes are present in many politicians and only the removal of restraint is required to see the malignant progression begin.

Radio 4 offered an audio portrait of the place this morning and it merely confirmed everything about which I wrote on this and my companion blog, Politics Considered. The reporter encountered:
i) great poverty in a country rich in oil and gas which could be enjoying living standards comparable to those of Norway.
ii) apalling health services where untrained medical staff botch patient care. Niyakov sacked 15000 nurses and other medical staff recently to save money. One nurse was seen cleaning a syringe by wiping the end of it with her fingers. Any proper care has to be paid for privately- sometimes by leaving the country. Many flee to Uzbekistan seeking better standards.
iii) Interviewees insisted on having their voices disguised to avoid possible sanctions from their police state homeland where informers and spies abound.
iv) one man spoke of being sent to prison for two years. He spent it in a cell meant for ten but which in fact held 56, all of them standing up as it was impossible to do anything else.
We complain, we blame and we moan; we are all Victor Meldrews now. But we should give thanks very day that we are so very, bloody, incredibly lucky!

I don't think we're lucky Skipper. We went to the trouble of overthrowing an absolute monarch; we introduced parliamentary democracy against great resistance, and are still defending it today as people like our present government try to undermine it; and many, many people have gone to jail or even died to protect our civil liberties. It's the poor bloomin Turkmenistanians who are UN-lucky!
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