Loss of founding father Sheikh Saqr a tragedy: Khalifa

The death of the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, the last of the nation's founding fathers, marks a turning point in the history of the UAE.

Right, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan President of the UAE meeting with Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad al-Qassimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaima. WAM
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Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, said the death of Sheikh Saqr, the last of the UAE's founding fathers, was a "grave tragedy".

His passing marked the loss of the last member of the Federal Supreme Council that founded the Union nearly 40 years ago.

"It is a grave tragedy for Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, one of the founders of the United Arab Emirates, to have parted with us," Sheikh Khalifa said in a statement mourning the former ruler of Ras al Khaimah, whose death was announced on Wednesday morning. "With his departure today, all the founding fathers of our federation have left us, may God Almighty bestow his mercy on them."

The Supreme Council is the UAE's highest federal authority.

The death of the founders does not mean that they will cease to be symbols in the minds of young Emiratis, said Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at UAE University.

"The founding father will remain the founding father in this generation and the next generation and generations to come," he said. "Sheikh Zayed was a founding father, just as George Washington was a founding father 240 years ago."

His sentiment echoed that of Sheikh Khalifa, who said generations of Emiratis and expatriates to come would owe their prosperity to the founders.

"What the UAE witnesses today in progress and what its citizens and residents on its land enjoy from bounty and security and stability is nothing but the fruit of the effort spent by our founding fathers, whose fragrant memory and immortal work will be remembered by the children of this nation generation after generation," Sheikh Khalifa said.

"They had very wide experience in this life," said Khalid Saffarini, a legal adviser and chief justice to Sheikh Saqr for 37 years.

"The Rulers of today are more sophisticated. They took their university degrees, they went to study in the United States or the United Kingdom," he said. "It is different from the old Sheikhs. It is true that they did not go to university but they saw a lot of things happen so they learned from life and this is the best schooling."

As the union coalesced, unity and federation were the over-arching values that held them all together. "Later, when the federation came, and they agreed on it, everyone was convinced that this federation is a must and without [the] federation they will remain weak and actually history proved that," he said.

"This is the legacy: stay united and strong and make your people happy. This is the main thing which every Ruler must continue."

"He was ... among the first who welcomed the invitation to form a Union that is inclusive of the emirates in the area," Sheikh Khalifa added.

"I still remember his constant work in order for the formation of the union to succeed." That ambition was achieved when Ras al Khaimah announced it would complete the Union by joining it shortly after it was declared on December 2, 1971.

"Sheikh Saqr had a certain charisma," said Dr Hamad bin Seray, an associate professor at the department of history and archaeology at UAE University who also worked at the Ruler's court. "He loved the people. It was the same with all the rulers. We regard them as the founding fathers. It was a special generation and we will not see something like this again."

He continued: "We need to teach in the education curriculum about the history of the founding fathers, about how they founded the country, the time, the energy they took and its influence to create the country."

It was the tradition of rulers to be among the people, and despite the pressures of a fast-paced world this tradition has endured, said Dr Ali Abdulla Fares, the general manager of the RAK Documents and Studies Centre. "Sheikh Saqr was with the students in the school. Sheikh Saqr came to every student to check that they studied. He cared," he said. "It is the same today. The Sheikhs are the same as their fathers and carry the best qualities of their fathers."

Although modern times mean a demanding schedule for today's Ruler, the doors of the diwan remain open.

"Just now I came from the palace and I gave my condolences. So many people came to Sheikh Saud to give condolences and to say he was a good Ruler and we are beside him," Dr Fares said, referring to Sheikh Saud bin Saqr, who has succeeded his father.

Sheikh Saqr "worked hard with the father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and their brothers the members of the Federal Supreme Council, Rulers of the Emirates, to serve our dear nation, to maintain the structure of this country from all that can threaten or endanger her", Sheikh Khalifa said.

"His wisdom and experience and far-sightedness was evident in his management of his emirate's affairs and the Trucial States Council, which was set up before the Union, and his effective role in managing the country through the Federal Supreme Council.

"His wisdom shone in his ability to create homogeneity among the sons of Ras al Khaimah and translating development ideas into reality and his expert dealing with external threats."

- With Kareem Shaheen

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