Tag Archives bandargate

Ah, “reshuffle” announced

Two new faces replace old and bedraggled ones after being “harassed” by an Islamist-led parliament. In other countries this kind of “harassment” would probably be classified as nothing more than a gentle tickle, but hey, some good things are happening and we should be positive.

new cabinet ministers join - Faisal Al-Hamar and Jehad Bukamal

I don’t know much about Al-Hamar, other than being the brother of the previous Minister of Information and majority stakeholder in Al-Ayam newspaper as well as being the special media consultant to his majesty the king. Mr. Faisal Al-Hamar has been in the Ministry of Health for 32 years, most recently he was tasked with the deanship of the College of Health Sciences so he had some managerial history under his belt, whether he will be able to tame the beast and turn it into even a scowling and bad-tempered tom-cat remains to be seen, an outcome that a lot of Bahrainis would be rather satisfied with. Such is the reputation of the Ministry of Health which he has taken over which doesn’t need resuscitation but major invasive surgery to get it to a station at which Bahrainis would not tend to kiss their loved ones goodbye and hand them a shovel before entering its hallowed halls.

Jehad Bukamal takes over the Ministry of Information. Now that could be a breath of fresh air. Let me tell you why, Bukamal is first and foremost a businessman, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and an ex-member of parliament. He is also a moderate, so maybe – it is my fervent hope in any case – that he will drag that ministry from the dark ages and bring it to the real world, and maybe he will break the Islamist’s hold on that throbbing organ and let it release its creative juices which has been suppressed for ages, most certainly since it’s departed MP sat on it.

Maybe now – I hope once again – we will see less of the useless pre-packaged religious programs (especially those presented and chaired over by sitting members of parliament! Talk about conflict of interest!) and change them with community-centric ones and maybe we will actually get some entertainment out of that very important edifice. Who knows.

Oh, maybe we will even get to hear the myriad of beautiful different accents from all over Bahrain and see their faces, and not get presented with just one “type” for a joke or be presented exclusively in degrading situations.

Maybe we will finally get rid of that stupid and inappropriate slogan of “The Arab Family TV” and replace it with a much more appropriate “Bahraini Family Fun Channel”!

Maybe also now hotels will collectively exhale!

Maybe now the tourism department will actually change into a real tourism-encouraging catalyst rather than continue to be nothing more than thinly covered Religious Police with a political drive.

One continues to hope.

One also hopes that this rather limited reactionary change in cabinet is an aperitif and not the entrée. There is at least one more who has sold Bahrain and Bahrainis that still needs to be removed, to save what is left of our face.

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It’s coming…

Bahraini smart identity card

Regardless of anyone’s apprehensions regarding the Smart Card, the PR machine in its regard has been accelerated of late to shove it down our throats with various PR pieces and laws as well as whole governmental divisions being enacted.

How is all of this going to affect us in Bahrain is anyone’s guess. My private guess is that it is going to be detrimental to our freedom – at best. Not because the card itself is a bad idea, not at all, things are moving in that direction the world over anyway. It’s failure in Bahrain is the almost complete absence of its supporters simply because of the people who have been assigned to oversee it, and the clandestine organisation that is pushing it.

No project can succeed if it lacks the basic necessity of trust. This one, for all the potential good that it can otherwise bring, is destined to doom. Bahrainis simply lack the necessary trust to make it successful. Oh they will go and get that card issued, to be sure, because as we have seen with the CPR card that preceded it, no earthly transaction could be completed in this country without it.

What’s left to do but tell those who care to simply “brace brace brace” as this thing will come crashing down, or at least will never reach its full potential.

Unless of course full transparency is adopted and those who have hijacked this project for nefarious deeds are removed.

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Country Divided

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Strategic rift in Bahrain’s royal court

Some members of the ruling family reportedly back hard-line Sunni groups; others advise helping disenfranchised Shiites.

Leading members of Bahrain’s royal family have thrown their weight behind hard-line Sunni Muslim groups, some of whom share the outlook of Al Qaeda, in an attempt to counter a perceived Shiite threat, government officials and critics say.

The strategy, first exposed in a government report that surfaced last year, has revealed a rift within the court of the ruling Khalifa family.

One faction believes in reconciliation with the Persian Gulf nation’s disenfranchised Shiite Muslim majority. The other believes in suppressing Shiite aspirations, even if it means supporting Sunni groups propelled by the same ideologies that inspire Osama bin Laden.

A ranking government official who is a member of the royal family said there was “no doubt” that a hard-line movement existed within the Bahraini power structure.

“Then, there are the moderates who believe that cohesion is the way to go forward,” he said.
LA Times – 7/7/07 – free registration required, full article also appears here and here. Thanks for the heads-up JJ

Count me in with those who want social cohesion. 110%. No qualifications.

The thing that needs qualification; however, is why would a country as minute as Bahrain make it with such heavy-duty articles to some of the world’s top publications other than the world is somewhat sitting up and taking notice that inequity should not go unreported? The spotlight has been shining on us for decades but its beam has specifically been focused on us especially over the last few years and all the world is seeing is the aggregate negative that emanates from this country. That doesn’t mean that the positive is ignored, not at all, this particular article is a case in point. However, for the positive to start to outweigh the negative, we need to stop the frivolity of accepting the various diversions from our main causes and problems by giving weight to worthless pursuits such as going for Guinness world records or paid for prizes and treating those as the germane issues of the day and expending countless litres of ink in their discussion.

What needs to be done by those of us who are “moderates” is to pony-up and do something concrete to further our points of view and tell the hard-liners that they can’t play their game any longer. Their dirty laundry has been spoiling our horizons for long enough and we are taking back our future.

It’s time for them too move aside and we shouldn’t be overly concerned of their just final destination which surely cannot be anything but the growing garbage heaps of history.

Need we really give them the time of day then?

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Temporary cessation of hostilities announced

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And this is how the political situation – or at least what they want to desperately term as political – goes. A continuous cat-and-mouse game with no regard nor any attempt is made to encode and inculcate just laws which serve as a benchmark that is applied to everyone regardless of shape, colour or size.

The king has ordered the the case dropped which was levied against Hassan Mushaim’i, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Shaker Abdulhussain for “publicly inciting hatred against and scorning the regime and broadcasting news and rumors that may cause internal unrest and publicly inciting resistance to the authorities and not to bow to laws.

That is excellent news of course, especially – as I predicted earlier – at a time when quite a number of Bahraini villages were rioting against not only this particular case but due to the general anger people are feeling on how this “democratic experiment” is going.

So the case is dropped, no more rioting (hopefully) will occur on the 21st, a day which was earmarked as “support Mushaim’i day” throughout Bahrain, but how long will this situation last? Any spark here will light the fires again because there is no equitable base to maintain a state of political equilibrium.

It seems that the government only reacts when it is absolutely necessary for it to do so, giving the impression that they are telling the people that they will only get what they want only if they forcefully demand it, or drag it out from between the government’s clamped jaws.

This “getting it by force” attitude was quite evident recently with the government’s repeated attempt to derail the newly proposed Press & Publications Law submitted by five members of the Shura Council by submitting its own amendments to the old law immediately! According to parliamentary bylaws, the government’s submissions take precedence, therefore, the Shura submitted laws will constitutionally be ignored.

One has to ask the question; however, if those amendments were obviously ready for some time, and demands for the Press & Publications Law number 47/2002 have been continuous, why did the government wait for an action to effect a reaction?

My view of governments’ function and primary task is to not just establish a bar to which all can strive to, but also continuously raise it in order to encourage creativity and competitiveness engendering continuous development; thus, raising the standard of living of all its citizens by doing so by placing the country at good international competitive plains at which it will excel by virtue of these functions.

What this government seems to be doing is quite the reverse. It is high time that it woke up from its lethargic slumber and realize that the times have been changing and the world no longer can afford to wait around for us to catch up. We will simply be left behind and quite quickly forgotten.

It is high time that the constitution and laws be retooled to take this into account and the sooner we get this done, the faster we can really turn the page and get on with our lives within a modern world order. Comprehensively retooling the constitution (which is the mother of laws) and removing the shackles on criticism, freedom of speech and personal freedoms will afford us the necessary agility to compete in this day and age; continuous cats-and-mice games will not.

I salute his majesty the king for ordering the case against these activists be dropped, but I also implore him to lead the kingdom into the future by ordering already agreed constitutional amendments to be adopted so that we can truly be a globally competitive Constitutional Monarchy.

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“Inciting hatred” is becoming a fashionable charge

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Soon, Bahrain’s streets, villages and towns will once again live several days of a perfumed atmosphere. The wafts of tear-gas and the sounds of rubber bullets will be infused in decrepit narrow streets, while that effervescent smell of burning rubber, that major adrenaline aphrodisiac normally only experienced when paying hundreds of dinars at the F1 racetrack, will be available completely free of charge while cars dodge the flames and probably accompanied by thrown rocks and sticks; all of those terrorist acts by kids who – because of their reaching the legal age of maturity which is 15 in Bahrain – could be imprisoned for a very long time, but could never dream of exercising their energy and intellect to vote for a representative who could speak with their voice. When those kids are from the 55% of the population that only got 18 representatives while across the fence they see that they do not count as much as those 35% who got 22, then they deserve everything that they get!

And they will get the usual “inciting hatred of the regime” charge, get locked up and the keys get thrown away awaiting a usual royal pardon a few weeks later.

And the cat-and-mouse games continue.

Soon too, three citizens who believe in the adage that one should be patriotic to ones country all the time and only be loyal to its government when it deserves it will be taken to court with this familiar and oft-used charge:

التحريض علانية على كراهية نظام الحكم والازدراء به، وإذاعة أخبار وشائعات من شأنها إحداث الاضطراب الداخلي بالمملكة والتحريض علانية إلى مقاومة السلطات وعدم الانقياد للقوانين

which translates to:

    Publicly inciting hatred against and scorning the regime and broadcasting news and rumors that may cause internal unrest and publicly inciting resistance to the authorities and not to bow to laws

Okay, talk – against another old adage – is not cheap in Bahrain. It can cost you your freedom!

Throughout my observation of the political scene here, and from the various video clips that I have seen of Al-Khawajah and Mushaimi’s speeches and lectures, I have never, not even once, heard them publicly calling for violence against the regime. Never once did I hear them demand the removal of the ruling family, nor did I hear them call for their death either. Yes, their neophyte and overzealous followers regularly call for the death of Al-Khalifa and I know that is more passion than fact but those calls are ignored by the two in question.

From what I see from an objective point of view is that they are both exercising their full right to speak freely, which is their constitutionally guaranteed right. If and when they do extend that right to calling for violence or the illegal exclusion of the ruling family, then and only then should the legal authorities react and put them through the grinder.

Ironically, I know of one person (at least) who should be charged under those felonies because he and his team have been fully inciting hatred against and scorning the regime and broadcasting news and rumors that may cause internal unrest and publicly inciting resistance to the authorities and not to bow to laws but all they got are bagfuls of cash and various other incentives for a job well done!

Strange times we live in…

update: I found an interview with lawyer Hassan Radhi in today’s Al-Waqt very appropriate to this topic:

عندما نتحدث عن الوطن فإنا نتحدث عن الحقوق الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والسياسية، حق الحياة والتمتع بها، بناء الوطن هو بناء البيت والمسكن وإيجاد المأكل والمشرب والملبس ومساحة الحركة والتمتع بثروة الوطن وأرضه وسمائه ومياهه وهوائه.

الكل فيه ينبغي أن يكونوا سواسية، وأي تمييز بسبب الدين أو المذهب أو المعتقد، هو معصية دينية وجريمة في حق الوطن واعتداء على حقوق الإنسان التي تقررها الشرائع السماوية والأرضية على حد سواء، وأية دعوة قائمة على التمييز والتجزئة من أي طرف كان، خيانة للوطن وتصب في خدمة الأعداء، وعلى مؤسسات الدولة خصوصا العسكرية والحكومية أن تكون القدوة الصالحة وإلا انطبق علينا المثل ”إذا كان رب البيت بالدف ضاربا، فشيمة أهل البيت كلهم الرقص”.

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ألا تعني الأساليب الحقوقية الالتزام بالقانون؟

– الحق فوق القانون، والقانون شرع لحماية الحقوق وليس سلبها، القوانين التي لا تخدم الحق لن تكون مصانة من التمرد عليها كما كان شأن قوانين أمن الدولة، لكن الإخلال بالأمن والسلم باللجوء للعنف والقوة هي في نظري محرمة ومرفوضة من أي طرف كان خصوصا من جانب الدولة.

الوقت – ١٧ مايو ٢٠٠٧

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Crafty!

Could it be that Al-Wefaq has taken everyone for a ride with this Attiyatallah parliamentary probe?

  • They tabled the probe motion very late in the first session and even by optimistic timeframe, they would have only had one day, May 30th to question the minister
  • They knew that they would be opposed heavily and must have known that they would not get a majority to allow them to question him
  • They walked out “in disgust” at their opposition finding alleged constitutional fault with their motion to question, even though the office of the chairman and his legal consultant have not as they not only tabled the motion in the parliamentary agenda, but also voted for it
  • Yesterday the parliament voted again on the motion and it did not get a majority yet again. Interestingly, this debacle saw two stooges changing their track from acceptance (of the motion) in the steering committee, to abstention through to utter opposition, clearly showing their flip-flopping ability based on the strength of pull of their strings. Even Filbert is more independent in his thinking than these so called representatives of the people!

Bandarite Ahmed Attiyatallah

The result according to Parliamentary Bylaws is that the motion to question the minister automatically gets deferred to the next parliamentary session starting in October.

Is this what Al-Wefaq was banking on all along? If they have, they have short-circuited their opposition as they have gained a lot more than they lost so far!

  • They have demonstrated to their supporters that they have stuck to their election campaign promises in investigating Bandargate
  • They have demonstrated that they will go after any corrupt official even if that official is a member of the Royal Family, as fringe as they may be, but “royal” nevertheless
  • They have “outed” Asala and Minbar, but good
  • They have gained a whole 7 months to pursue this investigation at the immediate start of the next term, so even if the “loyalists” demand that the probe be done first in the Legislative Committee, in which Al-Wefaq has a majority anyway, they will have ample time to play the game and drive the boat to their own shore.

So if this is the way that they have thunk it and they pull it off, they are a lot more of crafty buggers than we didn’t want to give them credit for!

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Asala bloc prevents Attiyatallah from defending his honour

Bandarite Attiyatallah

الأصالة تتمسك برفض إحالة الاستجواب إلى«المالية»

لفت نائب رئيس كتلة الأصالة الإسلامية النائب إبراهيم بوصندل إلى ‘’تمسك الكتلة بموقفها الرافض لإحالة طلب كتلة الوفاق باستجواب وزير شؤون مجلس الوزراء الشيخ أحمد بن عطية الله آل خليفة إلى لجنة الشؤون المالية والاقتصادية بالمجلس’’، وذلك في حال عرض الأمر مجددا للتصويت خلال جلسة النواب غدا (الثلثاء).

وأوضح بوصندل في تصريح لـ ‘’الوقت’’ أن ‘’الكتلة (7 نواب) ناقشت الموضوع في اجتماعها أمس (الاثنين)، ولم تطل النظر فيه’’، معتبرا أن ‘’هناك قناعة سواء كأعضاء في الكتلة أو في جمعية الأصالة أن هناك الكثير من الثغرات القانونية والدستورية التي تشوب الاستجواب’’.
وتابع ‘’ليس من الإنصاف مناقشة الاستجواب بهذه الطريقة، إذ لا نريد محاباة الحكومة أو كتلة الوفاق، وذلك بغض النظر عن الوزير المستجوب’’.
الوقت – ١٤ مايو ٢٠٠٧

Ahmed Attiyatallah, the minister mired in the Bandargate scandal and accused of gross financial irregularities who is now once again the centre of parliamentary attention with Al-Wefaq demanding a full probe into him, has himself and in public demanded that he be given the chance to clear his saintly name; yet, the Asala bloc – who most probably will be joined by their Muslim Brotherhood friends Al-Menbar as well as the indistinct “Independents” – are preventing him from doing so.

These political societies don’t know the damage they are doing to Ahmed’s reputation which is tarnished now and the only way forward for him to regain his credability is to fight tooth and nail to clear his name.

He might take up Jawad Fairooz’s challenge and go for full disclosure of his financial status – as every single public official should in the first place – and accept a public debate.

[audio:fairoozchallenge.mp3]

I utterly and fully support Ahmed’s right to do so. After all, a person is innocent until proven guilty and every person should be given ample chances to clear one’s name.

After all, what is life without honour?

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لا تبوگ و لا تخاف

Bandarite Attiyatallah - courtesy Al-Wasat Newspaper

He’s still unperturbed.

Unrepentant.

And completely without shame.

Whatever.

Another favourite idiom that comes to mind in addition to the above, which by the way translates to “don’t steal and don’t be afraid (of being caught)” is من أمن العقاب أساء الأدب which loosely translates to “if you secure immunity from punishment, you will do as you please”.

So why should Ahmed Attiyatallah be afraid? He shouldn’t and he probably has never come across that feeling in his life, at least the fear of breaking the laws of this country and being held to account for it. It appears he not only secured himself immunity against punishment, but has the full backing of the government in addition to more than half our elected parliament fighting tooth and nail to allay him the discomfort of facing questions about financial irregularities which he himself has admitted to in black and white.

Not only that, but he brazenly puts out a very wordy statement last night the Arabic language of which is poetry! I never thought he was capable of such literate and poetic language before, but I raise my hat to him, if it indeed was written by him in the first place. I had to re-read it a couple of times to try to get to the gist of it as it is teaming with idioms, lore, advice, castigation and flowery prose.

Poetry though does not exonerate one from perceived crimes, and putting out statements rather than facing questioning in committee in parliament as set in the constitution and parliamentary bylaws is once again a transgression that no minister should consider.

So, Ahmed, advice from me, if you do want to clear your name and exonerate yourself from those heinous accusations, do yourself a favour and present yourself voluntarily for questioning by parliamentary committees as I am sure you would not want to restrict the questioning simply for financial irregularities, but face your accusers also for your perceived role in the Bandargate affair (which the gutless press can now write about directly without having to go round the houses as the court has made its decision in that case, so that ban has automatically been lifted).

I am glad that someone had dissected the minister’s statement for me though, so thanks go to Adel Marzooq whose analysis of that statement in today’s Al-Wasat rips the respected minister another orifice.

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Hold the presses, Attiyatallah wants to be questioned!

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عطية الله: لاتبوق ولا تخاف

Here you go, he said it himself: “don’t steal, don’t be afraid” (of questioning).

The honourable minister of cabinet affairs Ahmed Attiyatallah is not afraid of being questioned because he doesn’t have anything to hide. Well, give the man a biscuit, put him on stand and ask him the questions that the whole of Bahrain is waiting for answers for, don’t limit it to just perceived financial irregularities allegedly performed by the respected gentleman, he said that he is not guilty and is ready to take the stand, so why stand in his way?

It is the duty of the parliament to allow the right honourable gentleman to clear his name which has undoubtedly been sullied since September last year and has got our country into various states of vertigo.

Let the man clear his name; all those who opposed the motion to send him to the parliamentary investigation committee should now shut up, vote in favour of the investigation motion and let the man speak.

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18 MPs withdraw from parliament this morning in protest

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Bandarite Ahmed Attiyatallah

وأكدت الحكومة لمجلس النواب أن طلب الاستجواب المعروض مشوب بعيوب منصوص عليها في المادة (145) من اللائحة الداخلية، وبالتالي فلا يجوز التبليغ عنه، ولا يجوز أصلاً إدراجه في جدول الأعمال، وطلبت الحكومة من المجلس عدم إحالة طلب الاستجواب إلى اللجنة المختصة، إلا بعد الفصل في مسألة أولية يتوقف عليها دستورية أو عدم دستورية الاستجواب، وآلية ذلك أن يطلب الرئيس من دائرة الشئون القانونية بوصفها هيئة مستقلة لإبداء الرأي القانوني في دستورية أو عدم دستورية طلب الاستجواب، ومدى خلوه من العيوب الدستورية والقانونية التي نصت عليها المادة (65) من الدستور والمادة (145) من اللائحة الداخلية، وهذا حق للرئيس المجلس بموجب المادة الثانية البند الرابع من قانون دائرة الشئون القانونية.

وذكر الفاضل انها هناك مخالفتان المخالفة الأولى المتعلقة بالنطاق الزمني للمسئولية السياسية للحكومة والوزير أمام مجلس النواب، وصلاحيات المجلس في ممارسة دوره الرقابي في هذا الشأن، والمخالفة الثانية فهي مخالفة طلب الاستجواب لمبدأ الفصل بين السلطات، لما تضمنه الاستجواب من رقابة على أعمال الحكومة بصدد موضوع معروض على القضاء
إيلاف – Ù¨ مايو ٢٠٠٧

That seals the fate of parliamentary life in Bahrain. Non-existent would be a gross over statement.

22 of the 40 members voted today not to put the bandarite Ahmed Attiyatallah through the discomfort of being questioned for financial irregularities.

This is a sitting minister, a member of the ruling family and the main person accused of sponsoring sectarian strife in a report released by an ex-government consultant. He has copiously indicted himself while trying to wriggle out of the Bandargate accusations, but parliament, the body which by definition is put in place to over-see the government and ensure that democracy does not get derailed, voted today to not question him resulting in the 18 members of Al-Wefaq parliamentary bloc, the sponsor of the demand to question him not in the whole affair, but just the financial irregularities which he freely admitted to, walking out of parliament.

If anyone has any reason to believe that this is actually the “new age of freedoms and democratic life” in Bahrain, then they’ve better wake up and smell the stench.

update:
What apparently happened this morning according to an informed source is that the Asala bloc said that the Wefaq demand for interrogation was unconstitutional as it is construed as interfering in the judicial powers. The 17+1 Wefaq members withdrew in protest and to discuss the matter further, meanwhile and while the Wefaq members were out of the chamber, Salah Ali, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood Menbar bloc immediately tabled the motion to vote on the lifting of his member Mohammed Khaled’s immunity from prosecution as requested by the minister of justice in regards to the defamation case brought against him by the Bahrain Journalists’ Association’s president Isa Al-Shayji; with the 18 Wefaqis out of the picture, the remaining 22 members voted against the motion with only Adel Al-Assoumi agreeing to it and Al-Dossery abstaining, hence the vote was fully carried to oppose the lifting of Mohammed Khaled’s parliamentary immunity.

How parliament can refuse the interrogation based on their assumption that it interferes with the separate Judicial Powers and pass a motion not to lift the immunity of a member of parliament for the very same Judicial Powers to take its course is anyone’s guess at this duplicity in standards.

As to the Bandargate thing, parliament is once again expected to vote as to which committee the interrogation should be held in and that vote is apparently scheduled for Thursday.

The full BJA statement follows:

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