By Pat Lancaster.
Within hours of the death of Sultan Qaboos, the inspirational ruler of Oman for almost half a century, his successor had been announced and taken the oath.
The subject of who would replace Qaboos (right), had been the subject of debate for some time, as the ailing ruler’s health continued to deteriorate.
In the end, without public debate or political wrangling, the government decided to cut to the chase and take the advice of Qaboos himself. The deceased ruler had left a personal recommendation for his suggested successor in a sealed envelope. The missive, he stated, was to be opened if agreement on his replacement could not be reached.
The man who steered Oman through the most important decades of its development, would make his voice heard, for the benefit of his people, one last time.
His successor has been named as his cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, now head of Oman’s ruling Al Said family. Born on 13 October 1954 and a graduate of Britain’s Oxford University, Haitham has extensive experience in a number of high ranking roles, most recently as Minister of Heritage and Culture. That Qaboos had faith in his cousin’s capabilities to lead Oman forward into the third decade of the 21st century should be a comfort to us all.
When Qaboos came to power in November 1970, Oman was a sleepy desert backwater which, under his visionary leadership, would emerge as a thriving hub of business, tourism and political stability, over the ensuing decades.
The Sultanate has long pursued a path of diplomacy, both with near neighbours and in the international arena.
Qaboos relentlessly attempted to calm troubled political waters, including those pertaining to the regional lunacy that has prevailed in recent years. He was continually at pains to mediate between those who would jeopardise the uneasy peace that exists in the Arabian peninsula, most recently encouraging dialogue between the United States and Iran.
The new Omani ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, has pledged to continue his predecessor’s policy of quiet diplomacy, as the world watches and waits to see how he measures up
Sultan Qaboos was an inspiration to his people, who genuinely loved him. In 40 years of visiting the country and speaking to representatives from all sections of Omani society – both rich and poor – I have been heartened, and not a little surprised, to hear only praise for the ruler. True, Omanis did not always approve of all members of government that surrounded HM, as he was affectionately known, some of whom were deemed greedy, nepotistic and self-serving, but Qaboos himself was, in the eyes of his people, beyond reproach. They knew – as surely as night follows day – that it was improving the lot of Oman and its people that was the focus of Qaboos’s vision for future prosperity and peace.
The new Omani ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, has pledged to continue his predecessor’s policy of quiet diplomacy, as the world watches and waits to see how he measures up. Without a doubt he has very big shoes to fill but optimism is high – and so it should be – he could have no wiser, more credible and widely respected champion than the late Qaboos bin Said Al Said.
Coming soon: Sultan Haitham and his vision for the future