I can fully understand our Crown Princeâ€™s frustration with the government and officially welcome him into our ranks, the ranks of I would say the majority of Bahrainis whose only recourse to their frustration is to habitually bang heads against solid walls of stasis and fear of change. To the government, they think that they are simply doing their job, to the rest of Bahrain, we once again recognise yet another missed opportunity to progress.
The cost is huge. It is truly a matter of life or death to this country. What is amazing is that for 40 years or more we have been on a downward spiral which almost got us to the state of a forgotten backwater, when those around us have been enjoying the fruits of their foresight. Yet, when we get someone who wants to effect real change, he and his sincere ideas for progress find inordinate opposition.
It is as if they are saying that change, whatever it is, is not welcome in this country.
Labour reforms, educational reforms, economic reforms as well as political reforms have all but died in the last few months. We are at a stage now of lethargic existence. ‘Who cares’ is a phrase oft repeated by all and sundry.
From the heydays of 2001 when enthusiasm for welcome change and new beginnings was palpable. When a Bahraini walked tall in the streets and wore a beaming smile welcoming an expectant and inclusive future is all but been destroyed now. It is a state that one is forgiven in believing that it is completely stage-managed: ‘Get the people so frustrated in order to kill every single spark of enthusiasm for this country and its people’.
The proof of this condition is quite plain to see: frustration is the norm, torturers continue to walk amongst us with impunity, sectarian hatred is rife and its perpetrators continue to go unmolested – in actual fact they continue to be promoted and enjoy complete immunety from accountability, the dangerous policy of demographic change goes unabated, transparency is opaque at best and corruption has escalated. Almost all international metrics about this country have deteriorated and there seems to be no will to correct them.
This of course translates into public unrest. People have become so frustrated that they now believe only complete change will correct the situation. 2007 saw some 113 demonstrations a lot of which turning violent. These resulted in imprisonment, hospitalisation and even fatalities.
Parliament continues to exacerbate the situation even further. They have not considered any action beyond narrow sectarian parameters. They have even abrogated their intrinsic responsibility of oversight by habitually refusing to utilise one of their constitutional tools to question ministers due to nothing more than sectarian considerations. Their role has been limited – willingly – to publication of press releases castigating people for using their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression!
The country is directionless. It is in dire straights and requires a good captain to step up on deck and take control of the rudder to navigate it out of these turbid waters.
I believe that our crown prince, with his amply demonstrated leadership qualities and commitment to the country, is the right person to lead this change. He has shown that he can take criticism with an open mind, is inclusive in his approach by eliciting and acting upon views even from the opposition as we have witnessed through his various reforms workshops. He is young and tenacious with a clear vision. He should be given an honest and unfettered chance to push that vision and ideas through.
Arabic :: mp3 :: 38 minutes
His frustration has obviously been brewing for some time. The evidence of which was during the recent FIKR6 conference in Bahrain where to everyone’s surprise (and other’s chagrin) he digressed from his planned opening remarks by appending a passionate and clear appeal to the people to show the leadership that we are frustrated with the state at which we find our country. He went further and encouraged everyone to highlight government meddling and its hindering of necessary projects. “Get your voice to the leadership” was a resonating call in halls filled with intellectuals and decision makers.
He amplified on this call even more during his interview with Turki Al-Dakheel where he boldly pointed out that a government’s main job should be limited to three things: Defence, Security and Justice.
He was time and again harassed by the interviewer who rightly pointed out that this is not he case at all in any Arab government, but the prince was adamant in his belief. He time and again affirmed his vision that he wants Bahrain to go in this direction. He seemed to not have any doubt in his mind that this is the way to go. This is the ultimate vision he is working toward.
Those remarks, so publicly expounded, must have shaken a few cradles. His efforts continued to be thwarted. But now, it seems he has reached a turning point. In a highly visible public gesture, he has notified the King of his frustration and laid the ball completely at the Kingâ€™s feet. It is now up to the King to ensure that the government change and that the role of the Economic Development Board – which the crown prince heads – is affirmed in unambiguous terms to be the exclusive agency in charge of national economic policies.
What the effects of this clear mandate is, will become clear in the next few days and weeks. I just hope that those effects will be expedited by the removal of the gargantuan guardians of that wall of regression. New blood must be infused into a representative and forward looking cabinet to effect much awaited and desperately needed change.
The world does not wait for us to make up our minds and does not stand on ceremony either. It wants results and a clear indication that we mean business in a modern and transparent way; else, other markets are wide open to receive the worldâ€™s benevolence. We are very welcome to continue to reside in the quagmire of one of the last remaining backwaters in the world.