Tag Archives bandargate

“Cleaner than a white dress”

“Cleaner than a white dress”

Is a bastardisation of the translation of an Arabic idiom which is better transcribed in English as “Cleaner than a white thobe” at least – thobe being the Arabian traditional male garment – which might have taken away the derogatory insinuation given by the use of the word “dress”. This Arabic proverb is akin to the English idiom “pure as the driven snow”, but for reasons not apparent to me, the GDN decided in its own lack of wisdom to translate it as such in relation to the Bahraini minister bin Rajab’s declaration of innocence. My suspicion is that they are taking sides, we do not see the same skew in reporting when they talk about the other minister under investigation by parliament.

Not that it would make any difference whatsoever of course; parliament itself is skewed in its current make up, which is sectarian to the core. Am I at all surprised then that Attiyatallah himself was declared innocent of misleading the country by a committee whose members already amply declared their position, even before he was greeted and led to his plush seat in the investigation committee by beaming members of the investigation panel? Of course not. This is a foregone conclusion.

As is the matter of convicting bin Rajab for his financial and administrative irregularities. In that committee, Al-Wefaq’s has the numbers.

The downside for the future of this country is once again the affirmation of the cloud of sectarianism; one in which a person votes for his tribe and sect regardless of the guilt and culpability of the person or issue in question.


Shamlawi contesting electoral districts

Posted on

Lawyer Abdulla Al-Shamlawi suing the government for the iniquitous electoral boundariesLawyer Abdulla Al-Shamlawi suing the government for the iniquitous electoral boundariesOne of the main grievances people of Bahrain have is the iniquitous distribution of the electoral districts. We find that in the 2006 elections for instance, the Northern Governate contains a total of 91,874 voters electing nine members of parliament; while in the Southern Governate, the voters there number only 16,571 but they get to elect six members of parliament. This means that while members of parliament in the Northern Governate average one MP for every 10,802 votes, we find that in the Southern Governate the average is one MP for every 2,761 votes!

This means that one vote in the Southern Governate equals two and a half of those in the Northern Governate. Iniquitous by any standard, but when you consider that this results in direct representation in an elected parliament, one cannot help but think of clear discrimination on the part of the government against a large swathe of the country’s population. Comparing numbers in other districts affirms this clear and unadulterated prejudice.

One person is taking the government to task about these issues where it counts; lawyer Abdulla Al-Shamlawi is suing the government in its own courts [Arabic] for this iniquitous distribution of electoral districts on behalf of a citizen in District 1 in the Northern Governate, a Mr. Mattar Ibrahim Al-Mattar.

Al-Shamlawi’s battle is a winning one logically and he is driving the Legal Department – representing the government – into a spiral of self destruction as he is taking every illogical single point they throw to the fore, deconstucts it and replies with facts and solid logic, especially when you consider that they are trying to defend the indefensible.

Apart form the various seminars and workshops and demonstrations which are almost a weekly occurrence since they drew the illogical and completely illegal electoral boundaries, this, I feel is the cherry on the cake and the most effective method to get this iniquitous situation corrected.

Well done Mr. Al-Shamlawi. Much respect and admiration and God’s speed.


Will it explode?

Posted on

If you’re in Bahrain, you must have felt the tension over the past few months. This tension could in large part be attributed to the Bandargate scandal in which some members of the government and royal family have been implicated in disseminating sectarian strife; a conspiracy which has kept the Bahraini political and apolitical scenes alight.

That powder keg is very close to explosion.

Over the last 3 weeks, parliament, at least the House of Representatives part in it, could not be convened due to vociferous demands by Al-Wefaq (+1) to question the main minister involved in Bandargate on financial irregularities which might be enough to impeach him. The other side of the House adamantly refused to let that intrinsic legislative tool be used claiming that the questioning is unconstitutional and using every single trick they can get hold of to hinder it. So much so that the House’s main legal council quit rather suddenly and flew back to his native Egypt – some say due to him being pressured and cajoled to change his position of which he maintained the constitutionality of the motion.

The “loyalists” as they have become known – wrongly in my view – ditched the main legal council’s advice, ridden roughshod on the second council who agreed with the first, and took the advice of the most junior of councils who seems to have given them what they want.

Al-Wefaq and Aziz Abul continue to hold onto the constitutionality of their demand and did not budge from their position. They want to question Ahmed Attiyatallah and have threatened to continue to disrupt the House’s proceedings until they get their demand. According to the Constitution and the Bylaws, they are well within their right to question said minister.

If you have been following the snippets of news over the past few days, there has been several shuttle meetings between Al-Wefaq and the higher powers in society; Al-Wefaq even met first with the prime minister and then the king to share their views with them. Both, apparently, did not want to interfere in the legislative process but gave their overt blessings that any minister – even if from within the royal family – is not above questioning.

Al-Dhahrani, the speaker of the house, still insists on the unconstitutionality of the motion and wants the house to vote on it. A process that Al-Wefaq is completely against due to it being against the House’s bylaws first, and second, because they can never win that vote given that the current make-up of the House is 22 against and 18 for. You will be interested to know that Al-Wefaq is represented by 18 votes in the House, even though they have gained 63% of the actual vote! But that’s another story.

Tomorrow promises to be stellar. Will parliament be dissolved because the intransigence of the proponents and the opponents of the motion, or will it continue to be disrupted without a solution in the offing?

I personally do not believe that it will be dissolved. A magic solution – as is typical in this country – will appear at the last minute and will save the moment. The stakes are far too high for this “democratic experiment” to fail now.

My mind is still boggled as to why the parliament itself is against using a very important tool like questioning a minister. Other than them being interfered with and pushed into their respective positions, I really have no explanation to this laughable situation.

Well, tomorrow is another day. The sun will continue to shine and business will continue to be done and migrant workers will continue to strike and buildings will continue to be built in spite of everything. The “boom” that we are experiencing; however, might well have a different sound to it come tomorrow.

We shall wait and see.


Change at the GDN?

You know how much I love the GDN, right? And hold it at the highest regards? Yes, I’m being sarcastic here, but even with that, I am really surprised by a few changes in their reportage I have witnessed over the last few weeks; one might even use the adjective “daring” to describe some of the things they printed.

Take today for instance, right there on the front page they trespass on the law and actually use that dreaded word “bandargate“!! It possibly is the only national paper which have had the balls (recently) to print it. I wonder if they now will be penalised and shut down for a while for their temerity!

Have a look yourselves:


So the question is, where did the balls come from, or is the guy who usually applies the brakes on holiday?


Parliament suspends its authority


For the third week running, parliament abrogates its basic responsibility to oversee the operation of the executive branch by completely negating both the Constitution and Parliamentary Bylines. [audio clip]

I feel that this “experiment” might have reached an impasse now. I don’t foresee an effective way forward other than going back to the drawing board and adopting a new constitution which respects the foundations of human rights and dignity. What we are witnessing now is nothing more than a direct result of the inequities visited upon us by the contentious 2002 constitution and the behind the scene machinations which are further strengthened by the absence of real political will to seek a solution.

If these basic things are not resolved, and resolved quickly, the apparent milk and honey which a few are enjoying will disappear faster than the trust people have put in this new new era.


Damn, missed it!

Whenever I’m away, the first thing I do when I wake up is check the news back home. It continuously brings me back to our own version of surreal reality.

Yesterday’s news hit the mark quite squarely, thank you very much; our illustrious parliament dropped the second impeachment proceedings [translate] against a sitting minister. Of course, as expected, the “opposition” within parliament preached fire and brimstone and demonstrated their objection by occupying the parliament’s chamber while it was in recess. That is, they had a nice “sit in”.

That will teach ’em.

Contrast that with a mingling session we were invited to last night on Capitol Hill. I had a chat with several staffers who work on several committee in the House, a few of those in the Oversight Committee. My questions to them on how they go along their business must have appeared quite childish, I suppose, because of the look on some of their faces: “Your chairman can subpoena anyone he likes and no one can interfere? No way!” and “So who’s watching the watchers in your case then” and more of that sort of stream. Well, the answers were quite mundane to them. In the first instance it’s a resounding yes, while in the second was “the Press of course.”

Going back to our own situation, the metrics are a little different. The answers to the same question, should I ever have the misfortune in mingling with our own parallels, would most probably have been “only when we think that the king would allow it” to the first, while the second would resoundingly be “the government, of course!” Silly me.

Well, I shan’t lose sleep over this latest episode. It’s just not worth it as they will never change. They are peons put in place to continue the charade of pseudo-democracy in order to score points with the outside world. “Of course we have an elected parliament!” and those from the outside naively believe the good stuff and give us the requisite pat on the back and we continue to blunder toward an uncertain future.


Winograd, from another perspective

The following cartoon appeared in Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper (thanks to Jaddwilliam for the heads-up) reflecting an alternate perspective on the findings of the Winograd Commission. However, it failed to stop me in my tracks.

Winograd cartoon in Al-Quds newspaper

The bubble says: “They admit their defeat and they hold their negligent accountable!! God curse the Zionist fads which intrude on our genuine Arab traditions!

I am unfortunately very familiar with this situation, as is the case with almost every other Arab, I suspect. Our situation is that if we do identify grave negligence or even culpability in nefarious initiatives which could destroy whole societies and puts whole countries in turmoil, is elevate those implicated and pretend that the situation never actually happened. We just continue to spout useless platitudes about our “true Arab heritage” and that “those fads are not of our make-up”. What’s more is that the very people who were elected to ensure the application of proper oversight actually become tenacious defenders of the offenders! They methodically destroy any chance at our progress as a responsible human race.

Sweeping things under the carpet is an age-old tradition.

Maybe it’s high time that we did away with old and completely bankrupt ways and learnt to face our problems head-on in order to learn from experiences and get on to a better future. If that lesson comes from whom we call enemies, then so be it. But for God’s sake let us be courageous enough to at least attempt to solve our problems.

Without accepting and recognising failures, success will continue to be elusive.


Bandargate, closure in the offing?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read in the papers over the last couple of days that MP Salah Ali of Al-Menbar (Muslim Brotherhood) political bloc is spearheading a campaign to open the Bandargate scandal and issue forth a “truth and reconciliation” effort to treat and then close this folder and move on as a country.

Although I want to believe Ali with every atom of my body that he has no vested interest in this and wants indeed to achieve a long awaited closure, my mind tells me to not jump the gun and reminds me that it was him and his friends in the Muslim Brotherhood who perceivably benefited the most by the machinations described in the Bandargate report – from mysterious financial contributions to bulldoze them through the elections to those travelling posse of 8,000 votes the sums of which was certainly very telling.

I also no longer believe that there is any intent by the people who have access to the national buttons to actually do anything about this. It’s not even a matter of burying heads in the sand as poking their fingers in our eyes and directing us to the closest wall to bash our heads against. No movement, in other words, will ever happen without a clear and courageous political will which is sorely lacking at the moment.

I really really want to believe that this initiative is genuine, but there is just far too much stink around this latest endeavour to pull my nose off the muck and enjoy the roses.


Interests and friends

When Lord Palmerston said the eternal words which translate to a country does not (and should not) have perpetuals enemies nor allies, but permanent interests, who would have thought that we would see this tenet acted out in our very own parliament by two self-appointed stalwarts of political Islam in Bahrain to attain their own ends? Both are targeting their arrows at sitting ministers; Al-Wefaq wants Attiyatallah’s head, while Al-Asalah wants Fakhro’s.

I can understand the first; as their leader’s public promise on the still-felt repercussions of the Bandargate scandal, but I can’t understand the motives for the second.


The papers reports about the Bahrain Investment Wharf project in Hidd, which is owned by Ta’ameer, suggest that Al-Asalah have determined that it was let for 50 years to BIW at considerable sub-market value and they want to exercise their parliamentary privilege and create an investigative committee to look into this project. The minister of industry and commerce Hassan Fakhro is adamant that not only did he and he ministry not do any wrong, but have benefited the country in this deal when compared to like-projects in the surrounding area.

The parliamentary by-laws require a minimum of five members to submit a request for the formation of an investigative committee and as Al-Asalah’s members in parliament exceed that, they didn’t need Al-Wefaq’s support in order to get that committee request tabled. When they will need them; however, is if (or is it “when”) they table a motion of no confidence against the minister to ensure that they will get the two-thirds majority to force the minister to resign. Whether it will actually be allowed to get to that stage is anyone’s guess. Mine is that it won’t.

We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are perpetual and eternal and those interests it is our duty to follow.
Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary, 1848

The upside of this is that both blocs have unequivocally demonstrated that when it comes to political interests, all other considerations get sidelined, even ideological ones which they themselves have heretofore held sacrosanct. They’ve even had this marriage of convenience notorised by appending their signatures to a hastily hand-written document which set their agreement in effect; they will not stand in each other’s way in applying the various constitutional tools in their over-sight roles.

Meaning? Al-Wefaq now have the written agreement to go forth with the Bandargate investigation, and finally, maybe, boot the one who should not be named out. But at the expense of Fakhro’s head and goodness knows what else Al-Asalah will rummage through in the future, which given their past stances against Bahrainis’ freedoms, does not bode well.

But time will tell whether that written document will actually hold any water. We’ll wait and see.

I think there are a few people in the island who are squirming in their seats this morning. Or maybe they’re still blasé about the effectiveness of parliament especially as they seem to enjoy untold support and protection from those who are higher and mightier.

UPDATE 071101: Well this “agreement” didn’t take long. The papers this morning are carrying reports about Al-Asalah back-tracking and spinning it as it has never been and they didn’t enter into any such agreement. Typical. No back-bone probably because the wind-up butterfly wasn’t cocked properly.


He’s not off the hook yet

Bandarite AttiyatallahWhy does it take the House of Representatives five whole months to notify the council that the parliamentary probe proposed by Al-Wefaq into the allegation of ministerial misconduct by Ahmed Attiyatallah and his connection to the Bandargate scandal

Isn’t this a primary abrogation of the elected chamber’s main responsibility of governmental oversight?

has been administratively dropped in compliance with the Chamber’s Bylaws? Isn’t this a primary abrogation of the elected chamber’s main responsibility of governmental oversight? Or was it – as customary to that august institution – acquiescing once again to pressures?

Regardless. The guy is not off the hook, as he should never be, until an honest and deep probe is effected into his self in full view of citizens not to gloat of course, but to set a solid stake in the ground which can serve as a clear and unambiguous warning to corrupt people and with those who live their lives with malicious sectarian intent.