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Something’s amiss (redux!)

The papers are full this morning of the King and the Crown Prince visiting the Prime Minister at his office. When this sort of thing happens, you just know that someone somewhere has “talked bad” about the ruling family or the prime minister specifically.

Thinking on it, there was supposed to have been a seminar on poverty in Bahrain (arabic) by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights at Al-Uruba Club on Friday, the panel for which included Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah (BCHR vice president), Ali Salman (Al-Wefaq) and others. A day or two before the seminar went ahead, the Ministry of (dis)Information demanded that they do not show any film or video as they have no approval from the Ministry to show it, and the seminar has to be authorised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

I seem to remember that Nabil Rajab (president of BCHR) said in an interview in a local paper that he submitted the intention to do the seminar at Mina Salman Police Station and he stressed that doing such seminars is guaranteed by the constitution and the only thing they need do is just inform the police authorities rather than seek permission.

Recipe for disaster. This is almost exactly what happened almost a year ago when the same centre did a seminar on discrimination in Bahrain. After that seminar we had a lot of these visits and the “traditional” papers labeled the centre and its personnel traitors. There was no end of messages of support sent to the ruling family, and a similar number if not more castigating the Centre for sowing dissent and prejudicial thoughts in the community.

Well this time the seminar went ahead, the film was shown and then apparently at 11:00pm Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah was asked to present himself at the Mina Salman Police Station where after a 15 minute interview he was arrested. No one knows what he was charged with. However, some reports suggest that he has been taken to the Dry Dock Police Station and imprisoned there.

News of his arrest were broadcast on both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television stations.

Why?

As happened in the Discrimination seminar last year, Abdulhadi once again demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, putting all the blame for the economic and political failures of decades on his shoulders. If he would not resign, he demanded that he be fired.

It appears that Abdulhadi has now gone on hunger strike in prison, and is refusing to talk until the Prime Minister resigns!

I’m all for people speaking their minds, but come on guys, why are you trying to sprint before you can even walk for goodness’ sake? What has your call to the resignation of the prime minister have with poverty in Bahrain? Shouldn’t you concentrate on finding solutions to problems rather than exacerbating them?

The results of the seminar were very similar to the suggestions of the Labour Market Reforms, the only difference there is that you demanded a set minimum wage and the acceleration of employing Bahrainis, providing a social system and fund for poor families and provision of funds for training. This time the Crown Prince has stolen your thunder, so you probably have thought that demanding the prime minister’s resignation is payback for it?

I would have thought that a good thing for you to do, as the proposed labour market reforms are very close to your goals, is that you would extend a hand to the government and add your voice in advice and advise. There are better ways at arriving at your goals than coming out like a bull in a china shop.

Ok, maybe this way you appeal more to the “street.� If this is what you want, then fine, go for it, but if you really want to help this country grow, then criticise by all means, but criticise in an acceptable manner so that your voice is heard.

That doesn’t of course means that I support Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah’s incarceration. No way. His arrest and imprisonment is political for sure and he is now the only political prisoner we have in Bahrain. The government should have handled the situation better as well, there is no reason for putting him in prison as he is a citizen, and he was speaking his mind. If the government doesn’t like what it hears from him then tough. Sit down with him and try to change his mind, but political prisoners? What is this, are we going back to the 90s so soon?

Various political societies including Al-Wefaq and the NDA as well as the BCHR are organising demonstrations outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministry of Justice) throughout the coming week to pressure the government to release Abdulhadi Al-Khuwaja and promise to continue the demonstrations until he is released without charges.

Expect some fireworks over the next few days!

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3rd session of parliament shaping up very nicely…

MPs seek clamp on phone pornography

By MOHAMMED AL A’ALI

MPs are calling for a new law to combat untraceable pornographic broadcasts between mobile phones.

Girls are reportedly being harassed by youths misusing the Bluetooth technology now available in some mobiles.

Bluetooth can trace any similar receiver phone within 10 metres and transmit to it without dialling up the number.

These means pictures can be broadcast without leaving any trace of who sent them, said parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and national economy committee vice-chairman Abdulla Al Dossari.

He is proposing a new law to combat the misuse of such facilities, which can also operate from personal computers.

Mr Al Dossari is planning to submit the proposal next week to parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani.

Mr Al Dossari, who is also Independent Bloc spokesman, told the GDN yesterday that the wording of the proposal was being carefully studied by the bloc’s legal adviser and would be hopefully ready by tomorrow.

“I have come up with the idea after receiving several complaints from families saying that their daughters were being harassed by young men who send them pornographic material using Bluetooth,” he said.

“Others have also complained about pictures and clips of their daughters being spread through mobile phones, without any trace of their origin.

“It is hard to know who sends these picture and clip messages, since dialling up the receiver isn’t needed.

“Most cases have been reported to have happened in malls, restaurants and event at Bahrain University.” Mr Al Dossari said that he was not proposing banning Bluetooth, just regulating its use.

“Everyone acknowledges the vital role technology plays in people’s lives today, but it needs to be monitored to ensure people don’t misuse it,” he said.

“Batelco has thankfully helped trace many people who were misusing the Internet, by identifying the location of the transmission, since it is being done through a phone number.”

But he said it was hard to catch those who misuse Bluetooth, since no one knows who is sending the information, or from where.

“Bluetooth is now available amongst half of Bahrain’s population and its use has become so common,” said Mr Al Dossari.

He said he hoped the proposed law would help protect people’s privacy and combat indecency.

“A similar law has been introduced last week in Kuwait and we hope that our government will do the same,” said Mr Al Dossari.

GDN Aug 31st, 2004

Ah what fun… trying to control technology, trying to control the untraceable, and adding a veneer of religiousity to it as well. Very nice. Can we expect anything from these carpetbaggers other than what has happened in the last two sessions?

I for one can’t wait for the next elections.

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Hurraay! The Ministry of (dis)Information is to be disbanded!

This just in from the GDN quoting Akhbar Al-Khaleej that the Ministry of Information will be immediately disbanded and a part of history! At last someone listened, this corrupt, bankrupt, stifling government organ and brown-noser is no longer! I am SO happy for Bahrain that they should make today, August 26th a national holiday for ever!

Information Ministry to be axed

MANAMA: The Information Ministry is to be abolished and its responsibilities handed over to newly-created commissions for tourism, radio and television and culture and national heritage, it was revealed last night.

The first new body, the Tourism Commission, will come into being on September 1, informed sources told our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej.

Members of this organisation will be drawn mainly from the private sector and it will be chaired by a hotel company official. The existing tourism directorate will be abolished.

The second new commission will be formed in October or November to oversee culture and national heritage.

The sources said the Information Ministry would be dissolved at the beginning of next year. There was also a possibility that the Directorate of Printing would be affiliated to the new Culture and National Heritage Commission.

The sources added that it was likely the new Bahrain Radio and Television Commission would be set up at the beginning of next year as an independent commission. None of the commissions will be attached to a ministry.

GDN

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no power, but I still have the internet!

Thank you Batelco for having an independent power supply, and for me to have bought a good UPS for the office, now I can surf while the WHOLE OF BAHRAIN has no power!! It went out about 20 minutes ago (around 9am) all of a sudden, so I wonder who screwed up…

No matter, heads will NOT roll for this one, it’s an all too common a scene in the summer here… And of course no one is to blame for the fiasco they call the Ministry of Power and Water.

The traffic lights are all out, so we expect some gruesome accidents and death on the road before the power comes back on. But because so many people get frustrated, the accidents will continue even after it is established. We’re not the best drivers in the world when there are traffic lights, so just imagine the situation now. Anyway, frustration will rule, traffic signs are going to be completely ignored for a few hours after the power is established, and we will hear of a few more accidents and deaths tomorrow in the local rags.

And of course the traffic dept will not be blamed, and no heads will roll there either.

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Red-Indians? Aborigines? Indigenous Bahrainis? They existed at some time? Wow!

It took them six months, reports, research, questioning, exploring, insider information, legal advice, interviews, and testimonies and our illustrious exalted MPs couldn’t determine that there were extra-legal naturalisations.

Let alone the fact that a Bahraini passport would cost you between BD 4,000 to 10,000 to get, no questions asked.

Let alone that virtually the whole of the Bahrain Defence Force and the Ministry of Interior’s “foot soldiers” are foreign.

Let alone that these same “foot soldiers” get a house, a job for life, free health and education for themselves and their brood, hell, even free underwear, bath towels, tooth brush and paste and instructions on how to use them when they get off the plane.

Let alone that we have by some estimates 30% unemployment.

Let alone that we’re suffering a BD 700 million budget deficit.

Let alone that the areas that these “new Bahrainis” live in are “no-go” areas for “old-Bahrainis” with threats of life and limb.

Let alone that these “new-Bahrainis” have no concept of human rights.

Let alone that in a population of 450,000 citizens, 20% of these are “new-Bahrainis”

Let alone that in a country which is just 600 square kilometers you can’t afford to buy a house or land.

Let alone that if you are fortunate enough to buy land, you won’t be able to afford the building materials.

Let alone that ALL Gulf Cooperation Council citizens are now automatically eligible for Bahraini dual-citizenship, yet Bahrainis are NOT in their countries.

Our MPs have all but unanimously endorsed the “report” exonerating the government of any ill-doings in granting citizenship haphazardly, politically and in a clear attempt to change the demographics of this tiny island.

It will be no wonder that the indigenous Bahrainis will be recorded in history as a race that has disappeared from existence, as the North American Indians and the Australian Aborigines.

I wouldn’t be surprised that we get put into “reservations” now. All of course thanks to our MPs, the guardians of democracy, transparency and the Bahraini ancient culture.

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Eight months’ investigation, 3 ministers questioned and the end result? They’re saints!

What a farce. Everybody on the street knows the transgressions that ALL ministers in this country have committed. The huge amounts of money embezzled and the continuous gratuities they receive in various forms (money, land, and privileges) so much so that a minister enters the government a pauper, but leaves it a billionaire. How else would one amass such wealth in such a short time? They go in with thoughts like “I can’t afford to fix my punctured tyre” but soon thereafter they own compounds and huge tracts of land…

So the “services committee” composed of Dr. Ali Ahmed Abdulla (Menbar), Ali Mattar (Asala), Dr. Ibrahim Al-Abdulla, Dr. Sa’adi Mohammed (Menbar), Dr. Isa Al-Mutawa (Asala), Mohammed Al-Khayat and Mohammed Khalid (Asala) have found that there are no wrongdoings to indict any minister.

And the committee’s vote was unanimous. Give me a break.

It’s abundantly clear that the majority of such an important committee is limited to pro-government MPs and their findings were a predetermined conclusion.

No indictment?

When put to the open vote in parliament only 8 MPs voted to indict Abdulla Saif, the Minister of Finance and National Economy, but you need 10 votes to indict a Minister:

The MPs voting for indictment of the Minister of Finance were Sameer Al-Shuwaikh (as if his vote counts, this guy is himself under a felony suspended sentence!), Othman Sharif, Ahmed Hussain, Jassim Abdul A’al, Abdulhadi Marhoon, Abdulnabi Salman, Mohammed Al-Abbas, Yousif Zainal.

Ali Mattar chickened out and abstained (by him leaving the chamber during the vote!) and he’s a member of the committee, does he know something that we don’t? Are these his “high Islamic principals” he’s harping on about forever? Or is it what’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander?

Eight months and this is the result?

I can understand that under the current law, they couldn’t touch Abdulnabi Al-Sho’ala. I can understand that the new Minister of Labour Majeed Al-Alawi has got off, but Abdulla Saif is let go?

What a farce. ALL of these jokers in parliament now should NEVER be elected again. They are very simply and generously described as morons who made an art of wasting time and posturing.

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Shenanigans

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!

Why?

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.

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CONVICTED! First Bahraini MP to be handed a jail sentence

Soon to be ex-MP Sameer Al-Shuwaikh, (the guy I voted for!) was handed a six-month suspended jail sentence yesterday for issuing a dud-cheque. For 158,000 Dinars (US$ 419k). His defence of ignorance and that “he only presented the cheque as a guarantee” were thrown out of court. You ain’t got money, don’t write cheques. Even my 10-year-old son knows that. He probably thought that becoming an MP would shelter him from prosecution, and it did for a while, but his immunity was lifted.

So it looks like we’re going to have to elect another person to represent us quite soon in our area (Northern Governate, Constituency #3, Barbar) , and hope that this time there will be a better choice to pick from.

C’mon Parliament, what are you waiting for, let’s have an election and see if that too is going to be boycotted! What fun!!

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Societal limits

Commenting on my article Field visit to Big Brother Arabia bahrainia wrote:

Mahmood, I respect and appreciate your very logical reasoning, and im glad we’ve taken the debate to a higher level. Why should I be offended, u were ever sooooo polite which is nice for a change:)

You raised important points which I have learned from. Im not against a businessman making a profit from fair trade.

What im essentially trying to question is the agenda in the media. Now, every newspaper, every TV channel, every internet site has an agenda, be one that belongs to an individual or a government or a businessman. No im not saying, its a conspiratorial agenda, but some sort of goal or framework in which the information they broadcast or publish is communicated with this in mind. When I say ‘islamic’ media. I dont mean one that is just full of sermons and historic dramas looking at victories past, the ‘golden era’ or whatever. Im saying one, that at least doesnt defy the religion. If you look at a standard Western channel, taking for example again the BBC, everything is kind of acceptable up until the 9pm watershed (ok excluding a few kisses and hugs here and there in some soaps- but these scenes will hardly go amiss if filtered out).

I gotta disagree with you. I found the ramadan program line up on most of the Arabic channels ‘quite’ entertaining, and some programs even made the headlines for their storylines. In line with the spiritual nature of ramadan anyway. About the different religions. Im all for pluralism, why not have a program for the other religions?

Actually Ive just met a very interesting kuwaiti lady finishing her PhD in islamic entertainment and recreation. I’ll post something when I have a chat with her about where to draw the line in entertainment. And Yes a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Pornography is entertainment (and very profitable indeed), and even for the sadisticly minded, paedophilia is entertaining, does that make it acceptable on a mainstream arab channel?

As for the constitution and the parliament, to be honest, it is by definition a non-contractual one. I know i’ll probably get bombarded with hate comments for saying this. But what ppl voted for in the National charter is not the same as what eventually came in the 2002 constitution. The National Charter only got the 98% yes vote after the King made certain promises regarding the power of the two parliamentary chambers- promises which he completely threw out of the window. Hence, I feel, like many others, that everything is based on a deception and I give no credibility to the so-called ‘democracy’ that exists in Bahrain whatsoever. Moreover, other issues such as the geographical boundaries that were drawn, were all made on sectarian lines. In addition, to the 100,000 politically naturalised, on top of the sectarian discrimination that exists in the country. This isnt a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. Then what pisses me off, is when I read comments as the one posted here, that all the ones following in this line are extremists and terrorists. Well what drives terrorism and rioting is poverty. True Al mo3awda sparked off the whole Ajram debacle with his statements, but in the end it was a few teenagers who rioted outside the concert hall, with no orders from anyone. Bahrainis are peaceful people, and islam is a religion of peace and harmony.

BhraNia

I felt compelled to split this topic from the original due to the various valid points raised. Here is my personal opinion on the matter:

It would indeed be interesting to find our what your Kuwaiti friend has to say about this subject, her opinion will be valuable as she arguably has researched the subject much more than I or the majority of people, that being her thesis. Good luck to her with that.

I have commented before that the limits of democracy and personal freedoms is a fine line which is defined essentially as “your freedom ends where someone else’s freedom begins”. The same is true of how to define the limits of freedoms of expression, be that in art, television, film, the written and spoken word or however a person in concurrence of current laws interprets his/her personal space for self expression.

Therefore the line in essence is hazy and not a single person can tell you where it lies, as everyone will bring their own personal prejudices and “historical baggage” to bear on defining where that line is or should be.

Let’s take some accepted art in international circles, does one regard the photography of Bill Brandt for instance of the female body as pornographic? There is no doubt that some people will take offense to his work as they will with a multitude of others’. Like Bill Brandt, they have every right to voice their opinions, but they surely shouldn’t have the right to tear down his photographs and destroy them.

Some people might regard pornography and pedophilia as another form of art and self expression which should be respected. This is a very difficult question and I cannot but apply my own prejudices to it: to me, I am personally against gratuitous pornography and will actively sensor its images when and if my own children are exposed to it through no fault of their own. It is also my responsibility as a parent to tell my children why I choose to censor that particular content. But this is me, a parent exercising our prerogative and imbuing our children with what we think is right and wrong simply to help them evaluate their own future choices in life.

I am however opposed to state/religious censorship in all its forms. I am strong advocate of freedoms of expression, and a strong believer that it is the responsibility of parents to educate their children of their interpretation of social norms.

Taking my views into consideration let me tell you this: We have several pornographic channels being broadcast on free-to-air and pay-per-view channels on satellite receivable in Bahrain, and obviously the rest of the Middle East. I do not have any free-to-air receiver myself, but have seen such channels at other locations. What I have is much more “destructive” and that is an always-on internet connection.

I have installed a network at home connected to a computer in every child’s room. I have a server through which everyone at home accesses the internet. There is no “filter” on the server to disable any particular site nor content. We (my wife and I) have however explained our expectations to our children and encouraged them to not go to such sites. We also told them that due to browser hijacking, viruses, worms etc they might be “pulled” to an innocent sounding site but its content we might find objectionable. If that happens they are encouraged to come and tell us about the experience and I will fix their computer by removing the virus or correct the browser hi-jacking. I have of course installed a virus checker on each and every computer. But I cannot blame them if they have been tricked into getting to a site they have no control over.

On installing the network at home, we made up a contract between us the parents and the child (we have 3) and each had to sign this contract and stick it up on their wall next to their screen. In it we detailed when they can use the internet (duration, after finishing all school homework, cleaning their rooms, etc.) and what to do if they find objectionable content, making especially sure that they understand that we will not punish them if they do inform us promptly. This worked very well. It’s been three or four years now. True to their word, they did inform us when they encountered problems with their browser, or they have clicked an innocent looking link in a spam email they have received etc. We know that we can trust them now because of this experiment.

The constitution

I agree that the 2002 Constitution was a surprise, and I applaud the various political activists and some members of parliament’s efforts at redressing the balance lost by the birth of this document. There is outright rejection and on the other hand full acceptance. Such is the polarisation of our society in this issue.

My personal view is this: the ballot was cast and parliamentarians elected based on the 2002 constitution. For although the Charter for National Action is a legal document, it is not the constitution, it was a referendum on “fundamental law and visions” and as it has been approved by 98.4% of the populace. If 55% (I forget the actual figure of people voted) then cast their ballots and choose their representatives regardless of any other issue at hand, then the majority of the country have chosen this new constitution as a binding document between the government and its citizens.

Yes the demarcation of electoral districts was obviously wrong and imbalanced. Yes perceivably wrongly and politically motivated naturalised citizens did vote. But as the vote was cast, the outcome must be respected.

If fault is to be borne by anyone then surely it must be the opposition! It was their responsibility to ensure that the people knew their point of view and explain why they are boycotting the elections. It was their responsibility in which they abjectly failed in transmitting the message to the populace that what they are voting for is an aborted democracy with a changed, non-binding and one-sided contract. But because of their divided nature and their inability to coordinate their efforts, they have lost the battle.

Now we have an elected parliament, we have an accepted constitution by the majority of the public, and we have a framework to change that constitution. We have to use the methods allowed under the constitution to change it. We have to depend on our chosen representatives to change it and ensure that it gets event better than the constitution of 1973. And the “outsiders”, ie the societies who boycotted the elections must review their position in society and create a clear vision and collective strategy to induce this change, not by violence and rhetoric, but by clear steps to be adopted such as working hand-in-hand with the chosen representatives of the people.

So why did 55% of the population vote? In my view it is because they saw these societies as serving a certain sect, religion, or ethnic belonging, rather than the whole of Bahrain.

Why should someone from Riffa care or give a whit what Al-Wifaq does or says? Al-Wifaq markets itself ONLY for shi’as! What political party in the world is allowed to even exist if its (hidden) declaration is to a certain ethnic and religious sect or sub-sect? Does that mean that a Sunni from Muharraq will not be able to join the ranks of Al-Wifaq? How about a Shi’a from Duraz attempting to join Al-Asala?

These “societies” should not be allowed to exist legally. What they do is divide the society and propagate the segregationist policies of failed ideology (no, I’m not talking about Islam here).

A political party should not be allowed to restrict its membership to a religion, sect or thought. They should be allowed only to convene with the ultimate and only view to strengthen national unity and work towards a goal of the betterment of the country as a whole, not a sub-sect of society. The political party must be open to all sects, religions, and ethnic background to gain legitimacy with its own people.

Hence, political parties by definition MUST be irreligious, but have an active and well thought of agenda to raise the standard of living of the whole country, not just a collection of cities, towns or villages. It should concern itself with guarding and guaranteeing freedoms of expression, creativity and invention. It must actively seek out laws which prevent incoming investment opportunities and negate them. It must protect the dignity of the human being. Not be exclusive to a certain group.

This is the failing of all political societies in Bahrain. I just hope – as I am sure you do to – that they will realise this failing and put in mechanism to correct the situation. Before all is lost.

What happens in the absence of all of this infrastructure and ideology is riots, terrorism and corruption. Adel Al-Moawdah is absolutely responsible for the riots and the untold damage done to local business opportunities.

His declaration that he will forever “fight vice and promote virtue every time an event like this happens” referring to whenever a singer is invited to the island to perform, should have automatically disqualified him from parliament as these comments absolutely were the ignition point of the riots.

It is ironic that he instigated this event, but the executors where his diametric opposites: it was Shi’as who demonstrated and destroyed, while he is an abject Wahabi Salafi who traditionally are completely opposed to Shi’as and their ideas.

So parliamentarians’ comments carry much farther than their immediate circle, other people with their own agendas will use them to their own effects. This of course demonstrates the naivety of not only Adel Al-Moawdah and his ilk, but the whole parliamentary exercise in Bahrain.

But then, haven’t we had 30 years’ experience in parliamentary life? No, what we had is 2 years of parliamentary life 30 years ago, long forgotten and its proponents largely dead. The only survivor of that era is Al-Dhahrani, the chairman of the Council of Representatives. And he amply demonstrated his unsuitability when he urged and begged the parliament to “let him fix the problem of GOSI and the Pension fund directly with the government!” This is the chairman of the parliament urging this infant democracy to go the route of nepotism and personal relationships rather than work within the framework of the constitution!

So if a representative of the “golden era” of Bahraini parliamentary life is so at odds with the concept of democracy and institutions, the very one who was elected to this exalted position by his colleagues largely due to his “experience” and “sagacity” due to his involvement with the 1975 dissolved parliament, why should we even care for a dated document like the 1973 constitution?

The method is certainly wrong, but the concept is correct. I’ve read somewhere that a medieval king would give his right arm to have the wide ranging powers that our King has given himself! And that is true when you look closely at the 2002 constitution. The fact remains however that the constitution is not a Heavenly inviolate text, hence it is our collective responsibility to work within the current framework to achieve a proper end-result, and that is to change the constitution to be a current, encompassing, and empowering essence to the Bahraini citizen.

Having Islamists in parliament gravely concerned with the morals of society, a television show, and a concert will not lead us unto a path of human dignity and creativity, just to abject poverty and ruin.

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something’s amiss

browsing various news sources this morning, I found a very small piece in the local rag entitled: “Clubs rap bid to harm unity”, I can’t provide a link to it as they change their stories’ links when they go into the archive, stupid way to manage a newspaper’s website, but there you go, so allow me to copy it for you here:

Several Bahrain clubs and their members issued separate statements early today condemning speeches that were made at a symposium at Al Oruba Club last night.

The statements said the speeches were designed to create differences between the Bahraini people, harm national unity and damage the reforms programme initiated by His Majesty King Hamad.

The clubs, including Muharraq Club, Manama Sports Club and the Al Hala Sports Club, said Bahrain was now living in a democratic environment and denounced any efforts to disturb security and stability. In their statements, the clubs affirmed their support for the reforms programme being carried out by the government.

Source: Gulf Daily News

Huh? I already announced this event on bahraini.tv yesterday and was actually meaning to attend this seminar but couldn’t for various reasons.

So trying to investigate further, I found that the Voice of Bahrain site is still blocked as is a popular Bahraini Forums site called “BahrainOnline“.

WTF! So searching some more I fell on alduraz.net which is ironic as I live right next to Duraz village! Anyway, they have a post in their forums entitled Sectarian discrimination in the kingdom of Bahrain:The Unwritten Law which I thought is very close to the title of the seminar last night. That article (scroll down for the English version) is very interesting reading, and to us Bahrainis it’s really nothing new.

I suspect that the seminar last night was to present primarily this paper which is written by Nabil Rajab who is the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

I’ll try to dig some more and find out what actually was presented last night… stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the archive of the seminar again from alduraz.net, however it’s in Arabic only,

UPDATE 2: Forget about most of the links in this article, in less than an hour from posting them, they’ve almost all have been blocked. When I find the articles again (at least the English press release or working paper presented at the seminar, I’ll put them up here for your edification.)

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