00-01 About Berant

by Ernest Bywater

Tags: Fiction, Workplace, Military,

Desc: Fiction Story: Can be skipped if you want to. General background information about the Berant geography, legal structure, laws, and society. This is for those who want a deeper understanding of the culture of Berant and is more a travelogue than a story.

Cover

Cover Art

The foreground image of the bird is the copyright of Eric Sloan and used here with his permission. The background is from an image titled DSC00686Cairns.jpg uploaded to Wikipedia by Tim35 released to the public domain on 22 May, 2007. The manipulation, and adding of text is by Ernest Bywater. All rights to the cover image are reserved by the copyright owners.


Dedication

Over the years I’ve seen many definitions of what a hero is. I can’t remember if this is a direct quote or paraphrasing of what another has said, but I believe a hero is:

Someone who does what they see as their duty, or the right thing to do, in exceptional circumstances, regardless of the dangers or risks to themselves.

All the stories in this series are dedicated to the many heroes who are the brave men, women, and children who’ve fought for their people or their country against human or animal dangers or in natural disasters during times of peace or times of war. This is especially dedicated to those who have fallen in the front lines while they strove with all they had to help or protect others. People such as firefighters, medical staff, police officers, soldiers, sailors, airmen, or general civilians helping out in an emergency.

from ‘The Fallen’

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

by Laurence Binyon


Recent History

The Amir (pronounced a-mear) Clan has ruled Berant since the sixth century AD / CE. For over a thousand years they’re the premier clan in the Amiri tribe (pronounced a-mear-e) and the largest clan in the country. The crown goes to the eldest male of the senior Amir line, usually the King’s eldest son, unless an Amir Clan Council rules that person ineligible, a very rare event. If the King has no sons, then it goes to his eldest living nephew. If no living males can be found from the descendants of the last three generations the same process is applied to the king’s daughters, nieces, and cousins, with their husband becoming king. This process then goes back another generation at a time until one can be found or all descendants for the last ten generations are dead.

Berant becomes a French Colony in the late eighteenth century by an agreement with the King who wants to avoid a losing war. Spears and arrows aren’t much good against firearms and cannon. The King sees this and negotiates the best result for his people. The country is hardly affected by this because they have no publicly known natural resources of any value. Nothing worth the effort of an organised removal. The country is untouched in the Great War and the Japanese occupation in World War Two is little more than a minor inconvenience for the people. The French are invited to not return after the Japanese and Allies go, leaving behind them enough modern weapons to keep the French out of the country. Berant isn’t worth the cost of conquering in the mid-twentieth century. The same happens with their neighbours in Dareed and Shukra. Dareed and Shukra did have some natural resources worth taking, but most were removed by the French prior to World War Two.

The ruler of Berant from 1922 to January 1st, 1946 is King Marshad, a wastrel. His father thought it was a good idea to send him to Europe for his education, in the hopes this will let him fit in better with the French Colonial Government and be able to deal with them a lot better than he does. However, schooling in Paris from ten years of age has him attending school there at the start of the twentieth century. Instead of learning how to work hard he learns how to party hard and enjoy life to its fullest. He’s only interested in having fun. The country is lucky his younger brothers are trained at home under the tribal laws, and they do the real running and administration of the country.

The only good thing that can be said about King Marshad is: he’s a lot better than the rebel generals who killed him and introduced a ‘democratic’ government (of the type that never has a public vote, that is) in January, 1946. The difference is marginal, but he didn’t arbitrarily kill people in large groups. No formal laws are ever passed by the rebels.

When the generals attack the palace the princes fight a fierce battle with the rebels to cover the escape of four princesses; the King’s two daughters and his two nieces, the daughters of the princes. The princes, their sons, and the Palace Guard give their lives for their country’s future. Proving all the country’s warriors aren’t dead.


WhenKing Edward comes to power in December, 1948 he changes the way the monarchy works, and creates a constitutional monarchy. This is difficult because much of the country is under tribal law, and the people want the old monarchy. They were unhappy with democracy as introduced by the rebels. Large sections of the country no longer have formal tribal councils, because they’d been totally destroyed by the rebels’ pogroms. King Edward needs something acceptable to both areas. Using the Australian Constitution as a base, because he’s familiar with it, he creates a hybrid variant to make both groups happy while introducing a high level of elected democratic government as domestic management. When voted on the constitution receives 99.99% support from the population. After getting the constitution through he sets about creating a uniform set of laws for the whole country. The process isn’t complete, and it never will be. It takes sixty years to be 99% uniform across the country.

Later is a summary of the government and legal systems after King Edward’s reforms are put into place. This isn’t a detailed list of all the laws, although some very important ones are mentioned, but it is an analysis of the system itself. Many see this as a perfect constitutional monarchy, others don’t. This works for Berant and its people, and that’s the best you can say for any political or governmental system.


Selectionof the Monarch

The head of government is the King. Now he’s the husband of one of the King’s daughters or nieces or cousins. If need be the line tracks back one generation at a time until a suitable candidate is found. The Amir clan council decides which of the suitable candidates is to be the King. When possible the King selects a suitable heir whilst still alive, and he helps to train them for the role. This way there’s no point in intra-family squabbles. A male born to the royal family can never rule, while their brothers-in-law have to worry about being voted in by the eligible clan members, because only blood members of the clan have a vote.

After King Edward the King has no control of any money or assets of the clan or his own. He introduced the change and couldn’t make it retrospective. King Herbert is the first King the new royal property laws apply to. Any property or assets he has must be handed back to his family or handed over to the clan trust when he’s appointed. This way the clan has a control over the King by simply refusing to finance his actions. Also, the clan council can recall him by a unanimous vote.

Geography

Berant is an old kingdom in tropical Asia, the mountains are tropic jungle or dense tropical forest. The majority of forest trees are exotic hardwoods while the jungle is mostly softwoods. The jungles, forests, and plains abound with local wildlife, most of it is small and harmless. Apart from humans the only dangerous animals in Berant are the local mountain lions who live in the tropical jungle very close to the tops of the mountain ridges, most are in the Burran and Amir (pronounced a-mear) Mountains. Attacks by lions are very rare, but they do occur; usually when people wander into the lions’ hunting ranges.

The western border is the centre ridge tops of the Burran mountains. This high mountain range is the western border of the Kingdoms of Shukra, Berant, and most of Dareed; with the lower quarter of Dareed being a peninsula. The almost straight ocean shore forms the eastern border of these countries. Most of the shore line is high sheer cliffs with many nice bays and beaches. Berant’s southern border is the Darunch Mountains with Dareed south of them. The northern border is the Sharten Mountains with Shukra north of Berant. In land area Dareed is almost the size of Berant and Shukra is about the same size as Berant.

Berant is like an out of shape hour glass, because it pinches in on the western side. The narrowest point is at the Amir Mountains where the country is only one hundred and sixty kilometres wide, and twenty kilometres of that are the mountainous tropical jungle of the Burran Mountains. The Amir Mountains run from there to the coast to make an effective barrier that almost splits the country in half.

Northern Berant consists of the Sharten Plain running from the Sharten Mountains to the Berant River. This area is a rough rectangle of three hundred and twenty kilometres across (east - west) and four hundred and eighty kilometres deep (north - south). The Amiri Plain runs four hundred kilometres south from the river to the Amir Mountains. Southern Berant consists of the Kotar Plain running six hundred and forty kilometres from the Amir Mountains to the Darunch Mountains with the Kotar river splitting this almost in half to create the Northern Kotar Plain and the Southern Kotar Plain. This plain widens out from one hundred and sixty kilometres at the Amir Mountains to three hundred kilometres at the Darunch Mountains. Dareed is seven hundred and twenty kilometres long from the Darunch Mountains to the peninsula tip. It’s from two hundred and eighty to three hundred kilometres wide until the peninsula, which is one hundred and twenty kilometres wide for most of its one hundred kilometres length. Shukra is much more of a rectangle of three hundred kilometres across (east - west) and nine hundred and sixty kilometres deep (north - south) with the Shuk Mountains as its Northern border. The assimilation of Dareed into Berant after the Battle at Marley’s Landing was a very significant increase in the size of Berant’s land area and population.

There are many known passes across the Sharten, Amir, Darunch, and Shuk Mountains, and these are all marked on good maps. There are no known passes across the Burran Mountains, or if they’re known they’re well kept secrets of the family or clan or tribe. Rumours of hidden passes have been around for over a thousand years, but none have been found by the authorities, or reported to them.

The capital city, Berana, is sited on the southern side of the Berant River, and is virtually the centre of the original old kingdom that consisted of the Sharten and Amiri plains. The Kotar Plains became part of Berant a thousand years ago. King Edward set the parliamentary government up in Berana since it was almost the centre of the country at that time, and he made the old Royal Palace a national museum and culture centre. He established his own palace, Highcliff, between the coastal towns of View Port and Carmel about sixteen kilometres north of the Amir Mountains, almost at the opposite end of the Amiri Plain to the parliament. Carmel is a holiday and tourist resort established by King Edward. He also built a major marina between Carmel and View Port to attract international visitors and money. The administrative domestic government is at Berana while the main government with international affairs is at Highcliff. With the King now living in the middle of his tribal lands, and safely surrounded by loyal members of his tribe and clan, it’ll be a lot harder for another group of rebels to kill the King. This arrangement also makes it harder for any national disaster to take out the whole governmental structure. And being near the main tourist resorts allows them to use the palace and monarchy as a tourist attraction. Which works well, because brings in many tourist dollars from people wanting to see a monarchy in action.

Financial System

Over the centuries Berant has used three financial systems. Prior to the French colonisation all transactions were by a form of barter, goods or services were exchanged. Usually on an immediate basis or over a time period. People gave their word, and honoured it. Promises were kept; if a person was unable to meet a promise their family, clan, or tribe did it for them and collected off them later - in blood if need be.

The French administration brought French Francs, the concepts of accounts, credit, bookkeeping, record keeping, bureaucracy, and corruption. The crime rate soared. The Berant people weren’t angels, but theft, rape, and murder were next to non-existent as tribal laws had ways to handle them. Raiding between tribes was a common thing, but once you got out of a tribe’s lands with anything you stole it was a successful raid and the goods were yours. This meant the people were raiding (i.e. stealing) from other tribes and not within their tribe. Rape and murder had some very severe punishments that made death the easy option. The French colonists taught the tribes how to steal from their families, clans, and tribes through overcharging, not meeting debts, and asking for bribes. The honest people of the tribes learned all about corruption from the French Colonial bureaucrats. Most of the tribal members remained honest, but not all the tribal members were honest in all their dealings after that.

After the French were refused permission to return following World War II King Marshad introduced a new monetary system by calling them dollars and cents to differentiate them from the French Francs. They had to make new notes and coins, so they did a whole new system with new designs. There was very little organised international trade until the mid 1960s, so external monetary matters were of no interest and had very little effect on Berant. By the time they did the trade was very evenly balanced. All this time individuals were involved in local and international trade using the traditional barter processes. People near the borders traded goods with people from over the border, cash wasn’t used much at all, until the last third of the twentieth century AD / CE.

Revenue Sources

There are four sources of revenue for the government. Donations (50% tax deductible) can be accepted by the King, the Parliament, or the Tribal Council, and can be used only for the task/s nominated by the donor. Customs Excise collected by Customs Officers are used only by the King for his areas of authority. Income Taxes levied on corporate businesses are collected by Parliament for their areas of responsibility. Sales Tax is collected by the Parliament and Tribal Councils by the relevant authority of the area where the sale takes place, they collect it and spend it on the areas of their responsibility.

The Parliament is the only government body to collect Income Tax, despite it applying to businesses in Tribal Lands. This is used to fund the police services, Army, and a few other nationwide services they also provide in the Tribal Lands by agreement with the Tribal Councils.

To further constrain the various government authorities rates of customs duty and taxes are hard to change, because these are all Constitutional Laws. Tight purse strings should keep all levels of government under reasonable control. This is all in the constitution. People think very hard about voting for tax increases.

The constitution is quite clear about the parliament being there solely to allow the people to govern and administer internal matters. Since international affairs are nothing to do with self-administration or self-government those powers are retained by the King to limit the risks of foreign groups ‘buying’ the parliament and giving the country away. Many professional politicians who see the power politicians have in other countries, and how their power in Berant is limited, get very upset about the powers the King retains, and they seek ways to increase their powers by getting them from the King.

There is a fifth revenue source, but because it isn’t regular it’s not seen as one. Part of the punishment for certain major crimes can include the confiscation of money and other assets, and they go to the king.

Authority Structure

The King has overall authority in all things. However, the basic day to day running of the country is done by the Parliament and the Tribal Councils. The King has varying levels of authority on the final approval of what they do and how they do it, see Classes of Laws. The Berant constitution acknowledges the King’s royal authority, and he subjugates himself to the constitution by passing many of those authorities and powers to the constitution. It also recognises the responsibilities and restraints placed on all people and authorities by the constitution.


King

The King is the head of state, and has the final responsibility in he has to give final approval to all laws before they come into effect. He may reject any proposed law. Any rejected domestic administration law may be put to the people at the next election, the King and Parliament must abide by the outcome of the people’s vote on the law. Such a law requires another vote before it can be changed in any way.

The King is also the very last avenue of judicial appeal for all legal matters across the country.

The King has four bureaucracies working for him. He’s responsible for providing facilities, equipment, staff, regulations, laws, security, policies, and procedures for them, including salaries and pensions.

1. The Office of International Affairs. It covers embassies and all international agreements, immigration, tourist visa, etc. It includes the Royal Customs Service which administers customs operations and the collection of excise.

2. The Royal Guards. Military services loyal to the crown, and can’t exceed 5% of the population.

3. The Protector’s Office. This is responsible for the protection of the citizens, and it has special sub-offices. Its head is the Royal Protector when there is one, and the King when there isn’t a Royal Protector appointed by the king.

- Royal Protector - the King’s special representative, and he has full authority to act in the King’s name.

- Royal Intelligence Service (RIS) - collects and analyses all domestic and foreign information: i.e. spies. It has some special agents with the King’s authority to act as needed.

- Child Services Office - child welfare services, they investigate claims of abuse etc., oversees orphans and similar matters; including the welfare of the mentally disadvantaged. In depth investigation are often done by the police or RIS, upon request from the CSO.

- Slave Welfare Office - checks slaves aren’t abused or mistreated by their masters, and administers the regulations on slaves. The police and RIS assist in investigations when requested by the SWO.

- Citizen’s Welfare Office - investigates any reported abuses of people, usually asks RIS to investigate. Also administers welfare payments and support services.

4. Royal Advisory. A group of advisers to the King which he selects as required or wanted.

The King must provide, staff, and fund his own residence and Royal Reception Area which is used for official functions within his area of responsibilities. He must also provide any shortfall in operating funds for the organisations that assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities and duties. Such as the Customs Service and the embassies, etc.


Parliament

The Parliament draws its power and authority from the King via the constitution. It’s responsible for the limited day to day administration and management of the domestic aspects of the country, as set out in the constitution. It has two elected bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The House of Representatives’ members are elected every four years, one hundred members with each representing 1% of the eligible registered voters of Berant. Voting boundaries are reviewed every ten years or when there’s a major change in the country’s population or boundaries, as in the assimilation of new lands. This house drafts the laws and actually administers them. Voting is on a weighted scale of voter priorities. The members of this house vote on who will be Prime Minister, and that person then selects a cabinet of ministers. The Prime Minister usually ends up being the leader of the majority party.

The Senate has one hundred members elected to serve for eight years, fifty are elected every four years. They’re elected from a single national voting group. If a number of people register to stand together as a party then the votes for that party are split equally between all the members of the party. No person can be appointed unless they have the support of at least 1% of the electorate. If forty-five people get 96% of the votes and the forty-sixth has only 0.5%, then only forty-five senators are appointed at that election. This house reviews proposed laws and may reject them. Voting is on a straight one vote one point basis, no priorities. The one with the most vote points wins the election, and is appointed. In the Senate this means the top fifty with the most points, as long as it’s more than 1% of the electorate.

Should an appointed person step down during their term in either house the eligible person with the next most points is appointed. This discourages whimsical or politically motivated resignations.

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