I 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.