The government these days is in a tight bind. And is being childish and belligerent to boot. Why? Three ministers were caught with their hands in the cookie jar, the parliament want to interrogate them which could result in a withdrawal of the vote of confidence (kicked out), but the government is trying to wriggle out of the situation, helped no less by the Speaker of Parliament!
Some parliamentarians on the other hand have smelled blood and found that they like the taste too! It is their moment of glory and if they’re seen by the people that they’re doing what they were elected to do in the first place, they will continue to receive those fat salary cheques for another term including a high-class car, inflated expense accounts, and even bigger per-diems for their travels, office expenses, secretaries, etc.
That my friends is it in a nutshell.
The story started several months ago when the head of the General Organisation of Social Insurance said in parliament that the organisation is facing bankruptcy. All hell broke lose! This is the organisation that has been entrusted to hold and safely invest the life savings of hundreds of thousands private sector employees. Instead what happened is that it turned into a free-for-all squandering money and just “gifting” its investment to a select few, or simply writing-off investments worth millions of Bahraini Dinars in the guise of “helping the local economy.” No shit Sherlock!
Parliament formed a committee to investigate and sure enough they found truck-loads of transgressions, vast mismanagement, daylight robberies, and tremendous government interference virtually since GOSI was started under the very (in)capable leadership of the then Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mr. Abdul-Nabi Al-Sho’ala who now is a Minister without portfolio, succeeded by the Minister of Finance and National Economy Mr. Abdulla Saif, and lastly by the current Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mr. (I’m not opposition any more but define the term toe-the-line) Majeed Al-Alawi, who really has nothing to do with it as he was appointed very recently, so instead of washing his hands of the subject, he went on the defensive and defended his predecessors! Duh!
So we have a situation here close to stale-mate. We had the Mps threatening interrogation, and what does the government, embodied in the Prime Minister do? Go on a very public visit of support to all three ministers in their own offices. Meaning? Threaten all you like, we don’t give a damn and we’ll stand by our ministers!
If you had caught a thief, what do you do? Reward him or throw his ass in jail to rot for a few years? Ok ok, this is all conjecture at the moment as all of the accused are simply that, just accused and no court of law has been involved nor the parliament to clearly apportion blame and indict these ministers. But still, logic would tell any government in the world (the real world that is) to run as far away from the accused as possible. For God’s sake, just a hint of this scandal would surely topple a government, the whole government, not just present a minister for questioning.
But no. In our version of the world, if you’re caught with your hand deep in the cookie jar you will not only be rewarded for your onerous effort, but you will enjoy public support from the highest person in government. Go figure.
What’s the Speaker got to do with this then? Well, Mr. Khalifa Al-Dhahrani is scared but goodness knows of what. He has tried in the past to “solve” the situation by trying to convince Mps that he can “fix” the situation by just talking nicely to the government using his own personal influence. He is “scared” that this head-to-head attitude will result in the dissolution of parliament and turning Bahrain back to where it was 30 years ago. Well Mr. Al-Dhahrani, who gives a shit? If this is what you’re afraid of, you are not the man for the job! What does this guy think? Democracy is a bed of roses? That we should protect parliament by continuing to be meek and bow to the government wishes? By “avoiding confrontation” just in case that results in the dissolution of parliament?
What kind of parliament is this that acts in collusion with the executive branch of government? Under Al-Dhahrani’s leadership, I’m afraid that this is exactly what the parliament will/has become and I cannot wait for the next elections to vote this joker OUT.
There are better men ready and willing to take the mantle. Your job, if you will allow me to remind you, is not to be at the government’s beck and call, yours is to ensure that your parliament oversees what the government is doing and hold it to account, it is to tell the elected Mps do their duties, but not allowing them for instance to just be municipal representatives solving people’s sewerage problems and legislating speed-bumps on roads. They are voted in parliament to be our chosen strategists and ensure the well-being and continued sustained growth of the economy, by ensuring that appointed officials in government know that there is a sword hanging over their heads at all times and they should be honest and serve the people, by ensuring that all officials in the country are aware and respect human rights, that you create and maintain an atmosphere of tolerance, by creating and encouraging new job opportunities. Not involving yourselves in municipal matters.
So we arrive at the latest chapter in this saga. The government has officially responded that the questioning is invalid due to: (1) individual ministers have already been questioned previous sessions so they cannot be questioned again, (2) that the government has responded to everything that parliament has demanded in its report on GOSI and the Pension Fund, and lastly (3) that under law 45 of the internal parliament law Abdul-Nabi Al-Sho’ala cannot be questioned as his term as Minister of Labour was before the first session of parliament, therefore he is immune from questioning.
My response to all of these points is that (1) no they have not been grilled yet so they should be, (2) no it didn’t, one clear demand is to censure these ministers, and (3) law 45 can be used to hide behind, but would you if you are an honest person? Wouldn’t you try to clear you name? And lastly, this is people’s money? Real people, real workers who worked all their lives to feed their families and want their pension money to live on after they retire, should that be protected at all costs?
So what’s the government to do then? Well, there are quite a number of rumours going around at the moment that a ministerial change is imminent. This, the government hopes, will let it off the hook. But what I personally think will happen is that the ministers will just be re-assigned to other ministries. This will be a real shame because this situation is another real golden opportunity that the government should take full advantage off. What they should do is drop these three ministers completely and get others into cabinet who are more capable. If they do, it might prove that the government is actually listening to the people and are a real partner in this drive pioneered by our King for transparency. If on the other hand they don’t and just re-assign them even as ministers without portfolio, that would be a real slap in the face of parliament and the people of Bahrain.
Either way, the ministers involved if proven guilty should be followed in civil courts to get the “missing” money back where it belongs.
Stick’em parliament! Don’t let them get away. This is not only your golden opportunity to prove your worth, but once and for all you will shut those up who want to see you fall flat on your faces. If you don’t, the boycotters will most definitely be exonerated and their cause of boycotting the elections will be valid.