YES! The law seems to be working…

5 Apr, '06

Al-Dana AdI was so glad to read in the papers this morning that the owner of the fateful Al-Dana dhow has been remanded in custody for 7 days by the public prosecutor and that he is facing manslaughter charges that if convicted will land him in prison for 5 years.

This is not an attack on Abdulla Al-Kobaisi’s person nor do I wish him ill; however, he completely flouted the most basic rules of safety in order to make a quick buck. His punishment, if and when it happens should be a good reminder to all of us in business that we have responsibilities to the safety of our employees and customers much more than just making money out of them. Providing a safe and secure work environment must be paramount and we shouldn’t just cut corners in order to make more money, or make it quicker because experience tells us time and again that only leads to disaster, much like Al-Dana catastrophe.

The government, which is in place to regulate and over-see business, if fully responsible as well and should not be left alone. Government officials – no matter who they are and what their position is – should be brought to book and they too must be made example of in order to ensure that the system works in a much more transparent way in the future. In order for this investigation to produce results, it must be independent and it also must be transparent, having the Minister of Interior to head it – with all due respect to him personally – is not a transparent thing to do, as I hold him too responsible for the failure of his ministry under which the Coast Guard is and who are implicated for not doing their job in ensuring that a vessel like Al-Dana should never have sailed.

This disaster also brings to the fore the disparate nature of the government and the complete failure in its procedures and communication systems: how can the Ministry of Commerce & Industry issue a commercial registration without ensuring that all other requirements have been satisfied? How can the Coast Guard not have objected to the instability of the boat’s structure and how can they not have seen this death-trap sail when it launches directly opposite their own main base?

How can an ex-sea-captain who is now in a position of an Undersecretary of the Ministry of Information which oversees tourism activities blatantly inaugurate this dhow and sail in it without raising an objection as to its suitability for the purpose? Or was his captaincy certification bought and paid for, rather than earned? In retrospect his qualifications serve no better purpose than toilet-paper, leave alone the fact that he has been taken from a position in the ports authority and planted in the Ministry of Information. What’s the correlation between the two jobs?

That brings another huge question to the surface and that is the suitability of the person for the job in government organisations which this amply demonstrates, unfortunately with the death of 58 innocent people, and the destitution of probably as many families.

As to the rescue efforts, thank goodness that it happened where it did, just off the US Navy base, who engaged in the rescue efforts within minutes of the incident, unlike the local services who allegedly only arrived on-site at least 30 minutes after the incident, and then added to the confusion rather than engaged in saving lives.

Why is this? Do we not have a national emergency plan? Don’t we have a national disaster response centre? Isn’t there a joint disaster committee between all relevant government ministries like Health, Interior and Defence? Weren’t these things supposed to have been already in place after the Gulf Air disaster?

Of course they are supposed to be in place, but practically the Coast Guard is more concerned with the arts of fishing, the fire department is more concerned with the art of watching a building burn to the ground before arriving at the scene (let alone unrolling those hoses) and rescuing cats trapped in trees, the police are more concerned with beating demonstrators, the defence forces are more concerned with lazing around and each and every one of them having at least one extra job for the afternoons and sleeping at the various bases during those loooong mornings, and of course the traffic cops… well, looking cool in those shades and clearing streets only for dignitaries to pass through unhindered, while letting ambulances flounder in traffic jams created especially by those fantastic brainiacs at the “road planning” department or whatever they call it.

What planning exactly does it take to move congestion points from one location to another a few hundred meters down the road and creating a situation ten times worse than it has been before? Is it called planning when it takes over 30 minutes to travel a couple of kilometres? Can you imagine the number of people who die before receiving aid due to this kind of congestion scene which is endemic in Bahrain?

Well, on that particular night the count is 58. Thanks to the “efforts” of the various government departments.

What do you do with a government that moves from one huge failure to another? What do you do with one that is old, tired and riddled with corruption? What do you do with one that repeatedly values who one knows rather than how much knowledge and creativity a person can bring to a job?

I know that if I was in charge, I would humbly resign and offer an unreserved apology for my continuous failures.

But that’s just me.

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Comments (16)

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  1. jasra jedi says:

    has anyone started any law suits yet? i wonder where the ‘legal’ fault lies for the breakdown in the system … is it the organizers, the captain, the ship owner, the tour operator, the government?

    from the point of view of the victims, who was immediately and directly repsonsible for their safety?

  2. Well Jasra I can’t speak on Bahraini Law but I can tell you in the US all would be facing Civil Suits including the Government. Tort law and the fear of it is one of the Great equalizers for the Average Joe Six Pak citizen and it also one the things that really drags down the system. It is a double edge sword but one that I think for the most part helps bring a measure of Justice the criminal courts can’t or something don’t.

  3. mahmood says:

    JJ: from the point of view of the victims, who was immediately and directly repsonsible for their safety?

    THE CHURCH!

    The long-beards where not interested in even doing the death prayer for the souls of the unfortunates. They had much much bigger things to do to save the world and demonstrate how civilised Islam is by proposing chopping the hands of thieves to be inculcated within the penal code and had 14 members of parliament propose and support this new amendment to the law.

    Christians came forward and adopted the recently orphaned. The church came up with a fund to help the victims.

    I haven’t yet heard of ANY Muslim organisation coming forward officially or unofficially to help.

    But the blame game is in full force though…

    references just from today’s GDN:
    BD8,700 raised to help families
    Orphaned children’s fund makes headway
    Orphans struggle to survive

  4. tooners says:

    I seriously doubt if anything will happen to anyone in any of the ministries, especially ministers or undersecretaries – and especially to this ex-sea captain in the Ministry of Information (are these ppl ever held accountable? – many haven’t ever been).

    I think like Mahmood, I seriously wonder about this guys qualifications and if whether or not he bought and paid for his captain ranking and/or if he knows anything at all about this particular field. Ok ok… maybe enough to ‘get by’ and to con particulars into believing that he knows his stuff and to look good when ‘that’ time comes around to look good…. but how could a tragedy such as this happen unless something is wrong somewhere and I tend to blame the ppl in charge or the high-ups – because in all actuality, it does rest in their hands. But do they even give a shit really? Maybe for fear of losing their job (hahaha – that’ll never happen) or being embarrassed in public – but do they even care about that? Gosh, these things happen over and over again and no one is ever fired or no one ever resigns. But hey… when you work for the govt here it doesn’t matter what you do because (from my experience) you’re never fired. No wonder so many want to work for the govt!

    I feel very cynical about all of this. I feel bad for the ppl and their families and the needless deaths but I so much agree w/ what Mahmood says about all the different departments (Coast Guard, Fire Dept., etc.) w/in Bahrain and how things are handled improperly or sooooo carelessly.

    But does anyone **truly** care? And I’m not talking about the average joe, I’m talking about the ppl that need to care. I guess we shall see in the weeks/months to come. But to quote what I’ve heard so many ppl say (Bahraini’s in high up positions and in not so high up positions) when it comes to death – “such is life”.

  5. mahmood says:

    tooners: I seriously doubt if anything will happen to anyone in any of the ministries, especially ministers or undersecretarie

    You know something tooners? I think this time they will be left out to dry!

    I will not accept, nor be happy, with a simple slap on the wrist.
    I will not accept, nor be happy, with just incarcerating the Indian captain and first-officer. Because these are a given. They will be sent to goal without a moment’s thought.
    I will not accept Mahmood Yousif Al-Mahmood not being fired and never given a government job again.
    I will not accept not receiving a full apology from the Minister of Interior for the Coast Guard’s screw-up who fall under his domain.
    I will not accept not receiving a full apology from the Minister of Information for the screwup his Tourism Department allowing such a death-trap to sail.

    What I will never accept however, much more than the above, is that if processes and procedures are not changed to ensure that such a disaster never happens again.

    They can start by dismantling the Ministry of Information and completely gutting the Coast Guard.

  6. John says:

    six years ago while living in apartment in juffair I went to the swimming pool one morning, I happened to notice they were about to clean the windows of this six story building well I looked there little platform the hoist up the side of the building it had a severely corroded cable shackle. I told the pakastani manager this will break anytime and kill somebody he went on to explain that is strong and used for many years. next week at work my friend called me and said the window cleaners brains are all over the ground and he fell from five floors. I get home go right to the manager he wont look at me knowing he was forwarned of this death, I say you are resposible for this guys death, all he said was at least he died during ramadan. 99% of the time people will not die but an asian who has the fear of losing his job will create very unsafe and deadly situations. this is a serious epademic problem here in Bahrain.

  7. mahmood says:

    It is absolutely despicable. This complete disregard for human life. Or more correctly, the complete disregard of foreigner’s life. Where are the special death prayers in mosques across the country on the souls of the departed? Just because no Bahraini was killed in this catastrophe does not condone preachers from doing their duty, or is it because some were drinking and dancing then they don’t deserve any attention?

    Much more importantly is the complete disregard in safety guidelines, from even the simple provision of dust masks for workers if they work in dusty environments, to the waiting accident you mention.

    Maybe it IS time to allow (or even demand) that all labourers should belong to unions which in turn should work extra hard at protecting their rights.

    Making money is not more important than preserving a life, and it’s so easily done: just ensure that equipment is maintained for goodness’ sake.. how much of an effort does it take?

    But no, most businesses here compete on price alone, and this is the result of such a policy.

  8. Chanad says:

    Mahmood said:

    I will not accept, nor be happy, with a simple slap on the wrist.
    I will not accept, nor be happy, with just incarcerating the Indian captain and first-officer. Because these are a given. They will be sent to goal without a moment’s thought.
    I will not accept Mahmood Yousif Al-Mahmood not being fired and never given a government job again.
    I will not accept not receiving a full apology from the Minister of Interior for the Coast Guard’s screw-up who fall under his domain.
    I will not accept not receiving a full apology from the Minister of Information for the screwup his Tourism Department allowing such a death-trap to sail.

    What I will never accept however, much more than the above, is that if processes and procedures are not changed to ensure that such a disaster never happens again.

    I agree wholeheartedly. But the real question is, what are we going to do if the government does not heed to these demands? How are we supposed to express our non-acceptance of the situation? This is what really matters.

    The burden lies not on the government, but on the people to demand that action be taken.

  9. mahmood says:

    What we do is continue doing what we have been doing, cry foul. That is the very least we can do. Remember we do have a very large international exposure, AND as all of the unfortunates in this accident are foreigners whose embassadors are already exerting pressure on the government for results. I know for instance that the British embassador has not missed a single meeting or press conference in this regard. More power to him and them.

    This, I am sure, will result in some changes; I just hope that they are lasting and are good for the whole.

  10. Xpat says:

    I read something yesterday that said that the investigation committee is going to include at least one Briton.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I know for a fact that when the Defence Force was looking for handheld “radios” to use during emergencies, they said they wouldn’t use the same system the Interior Ministry uses because “our boss” doesn’t like “their boss” and therefore the systems had to be different, and worse, incompatible. Even though the Defence Force was told that similiar systems would be more practical as well as cost-effective.

  12. mahmood says:

    Well, they’re welcome to my son Arif’s walkie-talkie that they confiscated off him at the airport on returning from Amsterdam “because the range was too long” on those things! That, for something that is worth 30 Euros…

    Twerps…

  13. Adel says:

    In Akhbar Al Khaleej today Al Mahmood the under secretary of Information who was on the boat for the inauguration trip will be fired.

  14. mahmood says:

    I saw that little snippet repeated in the GDN… but let’s wait and see, this is probably just a rumour to “gauge public opinion”, so if that is so, then:

    YES, FIRE HIS ASS!

    And forget about his pension and remove his immunity so that he too can be directly sued by the relatives of the deceased.

  15. Adel says:

    The owner of the Dana was released on a BD3,000 bail, and banned from leaving Bahrain. Also the Brit who forced the Indian Captain to sail has fled Bahrain immediately after the disaster.

  16. mahmood says:

    I saw that in the papers this morning.. I am glad that he was formally charged with manslaughter and we await justice to take its course. As to the “escaped Brit” who reportedly force the dhow to sail, well, I find that assertion highly suspicious.

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