The ten years of independence which San Serriffe celebrates today have been a period of economic expansion and social development probably unrivalled by any other new nation. With this achievement has gone a determined attempt, in part successful, to maintain the outward forms of a parliamentary democracy. This special report, edited and introduced by Geoffrey Taylor, attempts to recount the remarkable transformation in the life of the Republic, to inform British investors and visitors of the opportunities which have been and are being created, and not least to encourage companies trading with the Republic to call attention to their share in its development. Rapid growth brings its own problems, not all of which can be solved in total composure. The survey allows some of those problems to be brought under closer scrutiny.
GUIDE TO THE REPUBLIC
Location: North-east of the Seychelle Islands; Colombo 1,550 miles
Area: 9,724 sq. m.
Population (1973 census): 1,782,724 consisting of (approx.) Europeans and mixed race 640,000; Flongs 574,000; Creoles 271.000; Malaysians 117,000; Arabs 92,000; others 88,000.
Tourist centres: Garamondo, Villa Pica, Gillcameo, Cap Em, Umbra.
Climate: Oceanic equatorial. Rains mainly May-October and early January.
Currency: The San Serriffe Corona (100 ems) has become one of the hardest currencies, standing at C1 = £4.30.
Travel: San Serriffe Airways from Gatwick or via Mogadishu
Health: Smallpox, cholera, typhus, and lassa fever vaccinations required.
Customs: No Customs duties are levied on tourists or commercial importers.
Language: English is the working language. Caslon is used on ceremonial occasions, and there is a language (Ki-flong) indigenous to the Flongs.
Three point key to prosperity
To those who have not followed its development at close hand, San Serriffe may be remembered only as a small archipelago, its main islands grouped roughly in the shape of a semicolon, in the Indian Ocean. Until recently, that would have been an adequate description: a punctuation mark, as it were, in a long chapter of oceanic exploration. But fifteen years ago came the phosphate industry, ten years ago the first tourist packages, and five years ago the resource which has added bounteously to its riches: oil.
San Serriffe’s currency, the Corona, is linked to its oil, making it one of the hardest in the world. It seems to appreciate, to the concern of foreign bankers, with every barrel that flows down the pipeline from the west coast to Port Clarendon. The people, likewise, are linked to the life of island insouciance which they once enjoyed and from which the Government, under General M. J. Pica, is trying hard to advance them.
Although it is true that the resulting social tensions are evident even to the most transient visitor he will also find a kindly and tolerant people: tolerant, in the eyes of people who cherish parliamentary institutions, to a fault. President pica’s emphasis on economic development, which he rightly sees as the best way to enrich the islands, has led to practices which some observers describe as authoritarian and which the Opposition, under the ageing Mr Ralph Baskerville, believes are only temporary.
From a diet of mutton, goat cheese, and damson wine it is a far cry to the international cuisine offered at many of the big hotels. The thatched huts still occupied by the irrepressible Flongs, an indigenous people at the tip of the southern island, are generations away from the two international airports at Bodoni, the capital, and Villa Pica. Yet something of the old tradition remains and not all that has gone was worth preserving.
Like his predecessors, General Pica inherited the old antagonisms between descendants of the original Spanish and Portuguese colons and those of the later English arrivals, sometimes humorously derided as the semicolons. Under the inspiration of his regime those feuds are forgotten.
Wealth has made it possible to solve, for the time being, San Serriffe’s most acute physical problem. Early explorers placed the islands as much as three hundred miles farther west, and recent research has shown that they were almost correct.
The constant erosion of the western coasts, with corresponding accumulation on the east, is a process which, unless arrested, will bring the Republic into collision with Sri Lanka. (Bodoni, now in the centre of the north island, Upper Caisse, was originally a port.) As an expedient, lighters make the daily journey from the new wharf at Port Clarendon, built by Costains, to take shingle from the eastern coasts and put it back where it belongs.
Wealth - and again it is the key to anyone interested in San Serriffe - is itself creating more wealth for the islanders, particularly for those highly placed in the Administration. By making the islands a tax haven and creating duty-free zones round Part Clarendon and Bodoni all Governments since that of Colonel Hispalis, which took office soon after independence, have attracted much hot and some questionable money to the islands. Once there, it has tended to stay. A number of large British companies are known to be interested in exploiting this aspect of San Serriffe’s financial profile.
In almost all the social and public services San Serriffe is much in advance of comparable countries, with three geriatric teaching hospitals and a pioneer pre-school psychiatric unit attached to the university at Perpetua.
The university itself has begun to acquire an international reputation for its work on thermonuclear fusion and other alternative energy sources. And the schools are attempting a unique synthesis of the old and new so that in addition to mainstream subjects a San Serriffe teenager may well be offered pearl-diving as an “A” level choice.
British policy towards the Republic is described by the Embassy as “basically letting the chums get on with the show” General Pica’s Government is firmly allied with the West, to which his surprisingly powerful air force is a source of comfort in a potentially difficult area of operation. He has been known to ask, however, whether, the West is firmly allied with him.
Western Governments are aware of the fragile nature of previous Administrations and, while obviously avoiding any overt involvement in local politics, would not be disinclined to do business with a successor, should General Pica wish to lay down the mantle of office. Of that, however, there is no sign.
Landmarks in History
Discovered by adventurers recruited by John Street, an English admirer of Henry the Navigator. The crew made their historic landfall in the Shoals of Adze
Portuguese and Spanish colonisation.
Annexed by Britain.
Ceded to Portugal.
April 1, 1967
Independence under Social Democratic Government.
Seizure of power by Colonel Hispalis.
Seizure of power by General Minion.
May 11, 1971
General M. J. Pica assumes responsibility for the Government.
The block vote which resulted in industrial peace
John Torode discusses the rare degree of harmony between San Serriffe’s trade unions and the multinational companies operating there.
Since the establishment of the San Serriffian TUC in 1943 - under the guidance of seconded officials from Britain’s Congress House - the trade union movement has evolved naturally, in tune with Third World realities, and today labour indiscipline is almost unknown.
This is in sharp contrast to the situation which pertained in 1972 when Antonio “Che” Pica, second cousin of the President, was elected TUC general secretary with 97.3 per cent of the votes cast after a closely contested first ballot which government scrutineers declared invalid.
Then there were 143 conflicting unions and wildcat stoppages were endemic. Today a dozen tightly knit unions straddle the industrial scene and union - management cooperation is close.
A former military man, Che, who saw his future with what he describes affectionately as “the shirtless ones,” devoted several years to studying the most advanced industrial relations techniques abroad. He was a “management intern” with an American owned multi-national in Latin America and later switched to take a course in trade union organisation at Moscow’s Patrice Lumbumba university. His experience stood him in good stead and, only three months after entering the phosphate mines as a day labourer, he found himself TUC general secretary.
It was on Che’s initiative that all collective agreements on the island now expire on the same day each year and are personally renegotiated by him in what he describes as “tough, pragmatic bargaining sessions” with the Chamber of Commerce. Under a unique experiment in worker democracy, management has surrendered all control of industrial discipline to the TUC in return for a closed shop with union dues deducted at source by management and paid direct to Che’s office.
The TUC is additionally financed by a ten per cent “job placement” levy on all earnings. Workers seeking employment approach the TUC which guarantees to find them jobs in return for what is in effect a modest service charge.
The system works well. Che points proudly to the fact that there have been no unofficial strikes (or, indeed, official strikes) since “mindless militants” who had been intimidating loyal union members, were expelled from the TUC three years back. And the fact that no union elections have been contested since 1972 is widely accepted as an indication of the democratic and popular nature of TUC leadership.
Che’s substantial personal investment in the major multi-nationals operating in San Serriffe is welcomed in managerial circles as an indication of his confidence in the stability of the system he has fought to create.
The leader’s rise to power
General Pica is essentially a family man, a quality reflected in his choice of Ministers. Profile by Mark Arnold-Forster.
For the last six years San Serriffe has enjoyed stable government, rising prosperity, and freedom from strikes of any kind. This happy state of affairs is justly and widely attributed to the personality of the President, Maria-Jesu Pica.
Born 37 years ago of poor but honest sisal grinders in a hovel on the outskirts of Bodoni, he is now generally regarded - despite his relative youth - as the father of the San Serriffian people. From an early age he took a keen interest in politics and before he was ten, had recruited a faithful band of companions who quickly became known for their skill in robbing the rich in order to reward the poor - which all of them were.
Conscripted into the army at the age of sixteen Maria-Jesu Pica was an apt pupil at the Bodoni machine-gun academy and quickly rose through the ranks to become a sergeant before he was twenty and, by exceptional promotion, a general by the time he was 29.
A romantic at heart, his feelings hidden by a bluff exterior, he married Miss Elizabeth Baskerville, the daughter of an impoverished English planter (now Leader of the Opposition), after a whirlwind romance in 1960, by whom he has 8 children. Sustained by his wife’s unfailing encouragement he studied long and hard, despite his military duties, to lay the foundations for San Serriffe’s present prosperity.
But be freely admits that the main lines of the Pica Plan - as it is called - were derived from British economists. “San Serriffe and I owe much to Maynard” he often says privately. (Maynard, in this context, is the English economist John Maynard Keynes, decd.) Soldier, economist, and statesman, Maria-Jesu Pica is, however, above all a family man.
The Government of General Pica, elected for life in 1971, consists of Prime Minister Angelico Pica; Minister of the Interior Rodolfo Pica; Foreign Secretary Martin Pica; Minister for Oil, Phosphates and Foreign Trade, Arnoldo Pica; and Minister of Education, Public Enlightenment, Women’s Affairs, Minorities, and Culture, Esmeralda Pica. There is no Minister of Finance. Martin and Arnoldo Pica are the President’s two eldest sons, Rodolfo is his first cousin, Esmeralda Pica is his aunt. Three other members of the Pica family - Giuseppe, Adolf, and Luigi - are serving life sentences for treason.
The Government was formed following a coup on May 11, 1971, when seven regiments of dismounted cavalry, loyal to General Pica, overthrew the Government led by General Minion, of part Malaysian extraction.
The coup was not altogether bloodless. Although reports vary the casualty list was considerable, with many Malaysian immigrants reported dead while resisting arrest outside the presidential palace. For seventeen days Radio San Serriffe broadcast nothing but martial music interspersed with appeals for calm.
In his subsequent presidential address President Pica promised his people stability, two chickens in every pot, rigorous prosecution of General Minion and other enemies of the State, the abolition of Minionite newspapers, the establishment of a Government-controlled press and broadcasting service which would tell nothing but the truth, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly subject to licences to be issued by the Ministry of the Interior. General Minion’s funeral was attended by only a handful of mourners, all of whom were later found dead.
No restrictions are placed on foreign visitors except that their mail is censored.
General Pica, a comparative recluse, makes an annual public appearance on San Serriffian National Day, the anniversary of the coup of 1971. Traditionally, he appears surrounded by the mounted cavalry and protected from the adoring crowds by bullet-proof glass.
BEER FROM THE BRINE : Until 1972 San Serriffe was the world’s largest per capita importer of stout. The desalination plant at Erbar, part of which is shown below, has led to the growth of a brewing industry which supplies 63.7 per cent of the Republic’s needs.
General Pica’s admiration for the Entebbe raid is “out of all reasonable proportion,” says David Fairhall, Defence Correspondent.
At the East-West interface
San Serriffe’s disproportionate military importance derives from two simple facts: the island’s strategic position between two continents, and its somewhat eccentric ruler’s evident determination to equip “The Self Defence Forces of the Republic” with the best weapons money can buy.
General Pica’s administration has therefore been courted by both superpowers in the hope of acquiring base facilities on what a senior US admiral described as “one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the Indian Ocean.” At the same time Bodoni has become a regular call for the arms salesmen from both East and West.
The former USAF base was dismantled on independence, leaving only the exceptionally long runway to form the basis of Bodoni International Airport. But the Americans have retained a valuable radar surveillance station and radio listening post sited high on Monte Tempo - and thinly disguised as a “radio research and communications centre.”
The nearest the Russians have so far got to establishing any permanent presence is the Cuban mission - said to include at least one Soviet “adviser” - which is helping to establish a modern trawler fleet and fish processing industry in the islands.
Britain’s only direct military involvement these days comprises a small team of Royal Navy personnel and Royal Marines, on secondment. Their main function is to train the San Serriffians to operate their embryonic but fast growing naval self defence forces. The fleet includes the Mark 17 guided missile frigate (classed locally as a destroyer) recently delivered by Vosper-Thorneycroft, a squadron of German-built fast patrol boats and - most significantly, perhaps, in the light of San Serriffe’s territorial claim to Ova Mata - a large number of assault craft bought at knockdown prices from the US Marine Corps in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.
Air support is provided by one squadron of Phantoms and another of French Mirage V’s, soon to be replaced, adding to reports from Tel Aviv, by the Israelis’ potent derivative of the Mirage, the Kfir. However, the French are hard at work trying to block this sale while simultaneously sabotaging British efforts to sell a complete air defence package based on the British Aircraft Corporation’s Rapier anti-aircraft missile.
Most intriguing of all, since there is no evident military logic about it, is the order for two diesel-electric submarines recently placed with Vickers’ Barrow-in-Furness yard. The terse entry in Jane’s Fighting Ships describes them as “believed similar to Type 206.” This suggests a small craft of only 500-700 tons derived from the design Vickers is already building for Israel.
Perhaps the most significant thing about this deal is that it seems to confirm the current ascendancy of Israeli military advisers in General Pica’s regime. The General’s admiration for the Entebbe rescue operation is well-known, and - some would say - out of all reasonable proportion. Embarrassed foreign visitors are expected to sit through a continuous private showing of all three films of the raid - and the General is said to be eagerly awaiting completion of the fourth.
Address by His Excellency, General M.-J. Pica, President of the Republic of San Serriffe, at a meeting of the National Assembly on May 11, 1976.
Your Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters of San Serriffe, Beloved Comrades in Arms:-
On this day of destiny it is my proud duty to come before you as your President, as your Leader, and as your Counsellor and Friend. Since you did me the honour of electing me to be your President it has been my constant concern to attend first and foremost to the welfare of all the people of the islands which together make up the glorious Republic of San Serriffe. I do not pretend that the duty is easy. I do not pretend that in my heart of hearts I would willingly relinquish the cares of office for the simple pleasures of family life which it is my special concern to promote among you and among my people everywhere. Copies of this address will be given to you upon your departure from this hall, and I know it will be your special pleasure, and especially the pleasure of the loyal Opposition party, to ensure that these words of mine shall become familiar to every citizen of our country so that he may recite them when called upon to do so. I do not wish to dwell upon the difficulties which may beset those of our beloved people who should fail in this simple task. I cannot do better than to allow those difficulties to play upon your imagination. But before I turn, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, to some of the great issues of state which it is my purpose to explain to you I wish to say a few brief words about the philosophy which underlies, and must continue to underlie, the endeavours of our glorious Republic. This philosophy has come to be known as Picaism and if I may say so I believe the name to be both appropriate and dignified. I can give you my solemn promise today that the name will not be changed. But further to that, it is my pleasure today to be able to announce that a comprehensive study of the philosophy, in the compilation of which I may perhaps claim to have played a small part, will shortly be on sale at your Government’s official bookshops. I think we should all regard it as a most sad occurrence if any household in our Republic were not to have a copy for each of its members among its proudest possessions. It is of the essence of Picaism that the nation shall achieve its everlasting destiny of freedom only through the means which shall be democratically chosen by the bearers of office whom you in your wisdom, have chosen to elect and in particular by him upon whom fall the heavy burdens of the presidency of this Republic. It is indeed, in my humble estimation, one of the prime virtues of Picaism that its precepts are readily understandable to all our citizens without regard to race, colour, sex, or creed. Hence it is widely understood throughout these islands that there can be no greater civic virtue than obedience to a wise, provident and courageous leadership. I have taken note of the many resolutions in praise of this philosophy which have emanated from spontaneous meetings in every corner of our Republic and I believe, Mr. Speaker, that these resolutions have been well considered. It will be my proud duty to pay the utmost attention to them in all the decisions which I am called upon to make, decisions which will be the firmer for the knowledge that, whatever they are, they will have the unanimous approbation of the people of this, our glorious Republic. These decisions must, on occasions, cause pain to him who is charged with taking them. I know I can count on your sympathy in this lonely task. When it fell to my unhappy lot to instruct the Commander of our Security Forces to engage in certain actions in certain villages and to request the Office of the Census to make adjustments to its figures as a result of those actions I confess that I was sustained in my duty only by the knowledge that the freedom-loving people of our Republic were anxious to offer me their consolation and their understanding in the difficult choice I was called upon to make. And as it has been in the past, so shall it be in the future. This very day it has again been found necessary to act promptly and vigorously and I am fortified in the belief, which I am sure none of you will wish to question, that promptitude and vigour are among the qualities most prized by our people when they acclaim the occupant of the Presidency during his many visits to the towns and villages of our land. If I were called upon to give a further illustration of the deep heart searching which must attend the dispensation of justice by the President I should have to call your attention to the especial difficulty which often attaches to the obtaining of evidence against those who have contravened, or may have thought to contravene, the laws of our Republic as democratically decreed by the Presidency. There must come a point in the life of every nation when it must ask itself whether it shall allow its statutes to be set at nought because of technical obstacles to their enforcement. I have in mind particularity the reluctance of miscreants to make honourable confession of their wrongdoing or to admit in an open way that they may have harboured ideas which could not be other than grievously inimical to the preservation of the good order for which our Republic has, justly in my view, Mr. Speaker, acquired a reputation far beyond our shores. It is with the sound governance of the Republic closest to my heart that I have felt called upon to instruct the Security Forces that in cases where just suspicion is entertained the methods by which evidence is democratically obtained, so that it may be brought before our courts of justice, shall be graduated accordingly to the degree of reluctance, albeit misguided, evinced by the person suspected in offering that evidence freely and without constraint. I have not thought it prudent, or conducive to good government, to place arbitrary limits on the means which the Security Forces employ in their vital task. To enable the Security Forces to discharge their work they will, of course, themselves be indemnified against prosecution. For example it will no doubt have come to your ears, as it has to mine, that members of the Security Forces have been wantonly accused of violence towards females in some of the villages where they have had to operate. It is not my intention that the vigilance of the Security Forces should be undermined by subjecting them to the indignity of an inquiry into such reports, and I know that I shall carry this Assembly with me when I say that in eliminating the scourge of disloyalty to the Republic our courageous - and, of course, on occasions hot-blooded - protectors of the public peace must be allowed to use their discretion and to act with impunity. Those who neither harbour disloyal thoughts, nor know anybody who does, need fear nothing, I must emphasise, but fear itself. I wish to turn now, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, to a matter which gives me much pleasure to recount. My family and I have lately received a number of deputations who have represented to us in the strongest terms that the dignity of the Presidency should be bestowed not only upon this our capital, Bodoni, but also on the other cities of these islands. To that end they have urged upon me the necessity of providing suitable housing for myself and members of my family in different parts of the islands to avoid the rigours of long journeys. I am most grateful for these suggestions, which have been offered in the true spirit of Picaism, and I am happy to announce that I have today given my consent to the building of palaces at a number of appropriate locations. These will be added to as the need arises. My wife was particularly insistent that these residences should be registered in the name of the Republic rather than in the names of myself and of the members of my family, but it became clear to us as to numerous deputations pressed upon us their point of view that they were not to be gainsaid. Rather than persist, therefore, in what might seem a discourteous refusal to comply with the people’s request I have agreed that the residences shall stand in the names of members of my family and that any rents or other dues arising from the surrounding estates shall accrue to them, no doubt to be used for those charitable purposes with which, so I am assured, the name of Pica has been identified among our people. I am grateful for that applause, which will demonstrate to Their Excellencies here present the unity of purpose which binds, and will always bind, the people and the Presidency of the Republic of San Serriffe.
(To be continued)
This article is continued in Part 2