Tag Archives corruption

mum’s the word

This sounds SO familiar!

وقال العضو البلدي ربيع في رده على الاتهام الموجه له: أنا قلت ما قلت من باب ممارسة دوري الرقابي الذي يكفله الدستور لي كمواطن وكعضو بلدي، وقد ناشدت جلالة الملك بالتدخل لإصلاح أوضاع الوزارة إصلاحاً كلياً.

وأكد «أنا لم أهن أية سلطة، وإنما كنت أمارس دوري الرقابي، وهدفي كان الصالح العام وليس توجيه الإهانة لأي أحد».

يشار إلى أن المادة (216) من قانون العقوبات تنص على أنه «يعاقب بالحبس أو الغرامة من أهان بإحدى طرق العلانية المجلس الوطني أو غيره من الهيئات النظامية أو الجيش أو المحاكم أو السلطات أو المصالح العامة».
الوسط – ١٩/Ù¤/٢٠٠٧

The councillor stated that: “I did not insult any authority, what I did was exercise my oversight responsibility and my intention was to the general good of the country rather than purposefully insulting anyone“.

In an email interview, the Jerusalem Post reporter asked me whether the troubles I am facing are symptomatic of attempts by the government of Bahrain to silence criticism. I answered no, of course not, I don’t believe in conspiracies.

I would like to change my answer now to the affirmative.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any shadow of a doubt any more. Any criticism is not taken as just that any more, an attempt from concerned citizens to better their lot and to act in a supervisory role and attempt with their criticism to correct or at least highlight the various ills they experience on a daily basis in their own country, but as personal attacks and summary insults that hurt delicate feelings of purer than pure government organs and their officials.

More gardening and photography posts coming up!

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Squeeky clean government

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Bahrain’s is the only country in the world that can claim that its government organs and personnel are completely free of corruption.

Saying anything to the contrary, even if you were an elected official, would put you in the dock.

How is that for an ordinary citizen then?

I think it’s probably safer to avoid even hinting of these things from now on…

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Con man – Bahraini style take 2

تأجير المناهل

بعض الإخوة الأعزاء نوابنا الأفاضل .. نراهم يتعاملون مع ديننا الإسلامي بنفس طريقة تعاملهم مع الشؤون السياسية معتقدين بأنه من الممكن لهم تشكيل الدين وما يحلله وما يحرمه حسب ما تمليه عليهم ظروف ( البزنس ) الموجودة في السوق .. يتلاعبون بالحلال والحرام ويكيفونه على المزاج وهم يعلمون بأنهم إن خدعوا الإنسان فلا يمكنهم خداع الرحمن ..

نائب للشعب ومسلم ومصلي للخمسة فروض ومؤدي لجميع المناسك الدينية من صلاة وصيام وزكاة وصدقة ، وهو دائماً ما يعطي صوته ضد المحرمات الدنيوية من شرب للمسكرات ورقص في الملاهي الليلية والنهارية الجهارية مــا يعني أنه ملتزم .. هذا الأخ النائب لديه بناية تجارية حلو ؟ وهذه البناية تقع على شارع حيوي ليلي .. حلو ؟ واستخرج لهذه البناية رخصة لإقامة فندق بثلاث نجوم .. حلو ؟ ومع الفندق رخصة بارات ( آسف يسمونها مناهل ) ورخصة للشكشكة الليلية فكيف يكون هذا حلو ؟ ..

الأخ النائب المسلم استخرج ترخيص ( فقط ) لبيع الخمر والرقص واستلام النقوط في فندقه ، ثم قام بتأجيره إلى مستثمر خليجي ولم يقم هو بالبيع أو بالإدارة والإشراف واستلام الحرام من المال .. بما يعني أن الأمــــوال التي يستلمها مــــن المستــأجر ( المستثمر لفندقه ) حلال زلال ، وإذا كانت هنــاك ( شبهة ) في مال الخمر والرقص فهو منها بريء وسوف يكون مثواه الجنة إن شاء الله .. أما الذي سوف يذهــب إلى النار ويكتوي بالمال فهو المستأجر ..

آنه إللي باط كبدي إنه يتاجر بشغلة ويتبرأ منها ويصوت ضدها في مجلس النواب .. يعني ألحين إللي يصوت في المجلس ضد الحانات والبارات وضد المراقص العربية والكباريهات في البحرين ويطالب بإغلاقها أليس المفروض منه والأحسن له الابتعاد عـــن المتــاجرة فيهـا نهائياً ؟ وإلا شرايكم يا جماعة ؟ ..

طبعاً إحنه لا نتكلم عن المستثمر الخليجي إللي تورط في إستئجار الفندق لاحقاً مع أنه تمصمص من المدخولات العالية سابقاً .. ولكننا بس ننصح الناس إللي عندها بيوت من زجاج بأن لا ترمي بيوت الآخرين بالحجارة والحصى .. الآخرين لو تكسرت بيوتهم فلا من شاف ولا من درى ، لكن النواب عليهم العيون مفتوحة .. فاحذروا ..

Salman bin Sager :: Al-Waqt :: 2 April, ‘2007

Salman bin Sager is calling our attention to a sitting MP who owns a hotel but in order to stand for parliament and appear more acceptable to his voters he got rid of the hotel (temporarily) by leasing it to a Saudi investor. It’s a crappy 2-star hotel but has a bar and a disco and is on a main thoroughfare; hence, is assured of a good income.

What the investor did not bank on; however, is the right honourable MP diligently working within parliament to support the motion to close all bars and discos in hotels of sub-five-star standard. That naturally included the property he leased too! That of course resulted in loss of income and obviously he felt cheated by the good MP and wanted redress. Off to court he went to salvage what is left of his investment.

That investment is – according to another report – is a lease of BD27,000 a month (US$71,400) and he wants to retrieve the post-dated cheques he paid the MP with, 14 of them according to the report which equate to BD378,000 (or about a cool million US). I somehow think that the MP will sit this one out. He’s enjoying parliamentary immunity too much, you see, he can’t be touched, even though that he negated the spirit of the agreement and acted in bad faith, he can’t be touched.

The investor lodged the case against the MP in a Saudi court (which in itself is a brain fart! imagine him explaining to the Shari’a judge that he lost his income because an MP in Bahrain lobbied against bars and discos! I can tell you what that judge will do, probably throw the investor in jail!)

Just so you know, during the run-up to the parliamentary elections I noticed that one candidate was very active in some vigilante activities in apprehending hookers in Hoora and Gudaybia to “clean up the area” he said. The fact that he happens to own a hotel, which, according to the Commercial Registrations records is called the Relax Inn, did not deter him at all. Some have suggested that what he was really doing is getting rid of competition!

I wonder if this is the MP that is implicated in all this?

Anyway, if the MP has any decency, he would not only return those uncashed cheques to the investor, but also compensate him for the breach of trust willingly. He should also change that vice den of his to apartments and rent them to his destitute constituents at a reasonable cost, especially considering the length of time “his people” have been waiting for council housing.

I somehow don’t think that any of these suggestions will happen any time soon.

We deserve the parliament we voted for.

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Skewed Tenders

Tell me something, if you had a project worth over BD250,000 that you are bidding for, would you advertise it only 2 weeks before the closing date? Would the lead person for that project refuse to meet potential suppliers for more than 5 minutes? Would the organisation refuse to let potential suppliers at least have a look at the venue the equipment for which is being tendered? If it is a complete integrated system that you are tendering for, and if you are not looking for consultancy, would you not at least expect that the tender document would have engineering and architectural drawings of the locations? Would you not expect to have an electrical functional and schematic diagram of the required system?

If you then receive official letters from two of the local suppliers asking for an extension of four weeks to prepare the tender response, would your rules not insist on granting that extension?

The University of Bahrain has released tender 40 of 2006 to build a theatre, media centre, and television studio at a minimum cost of hundreds of thousands of Bahraini Dinars, yet they are not prepared to grant the extension and the lead on that project refuses to meet with potential suppliers for more than 5 minutes… because “he’s really busy with the exams.”

What do you call this other than signed, sealed and delivered?

Now you know a potential answer for why the University is suffering on more fronts than one.

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Get Rich Quick. Guaranteed!

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Land grab in Busaiteen

Alternatively called “the big land grab” in Bahrain. This time, as the map shows above (look at the lower section first – by the way click to open it in much larger scale in a new window) that a big plot of land has been earmarked for “public use,” that is, this plot of land was to be developed as a communal garden, play park, sports courts, etc for the area. Someone decided that it is better to use it to get rich quick and suddenly it was sectioned into 4 plots and made available for sale!

I have no idea who’s pocket the dosh would end up in, but whoever it is should be thoroughly ashamed of him/themselves – actually to hell with shame, before this concludes he/them should be apprehended and tried for corruption if there is a case. This is land earmarked for the public and it has been corruptly apportioned.

As Bahraini blogger Khalid – who unearthed this crime – reports that this Busaiteen plot in the island of Muharraq is worth a total of a cool 7 million Bahraini Dinars, that is US$18.6 million green backs. Here are the details according to Khalid:

    The big plot was divided into 4 discreet plots;

  • One plot’s size is 96,833 square feet, with each square foot priced at BD 19, that would bring it in at a total of BD 1,839,808.
  • The other three plots bring in BD5.2 million.

And he asks, as I do, which would you consider better, BD7 million corruptly deposited in pockets, or land used for the creation of play parks, public gardens and other public uses?

It’s just a question. Indeed it is.

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Make a loss and attribute it to being a culturual institution!

BIC Main Grand Stand at Night

For something that cost more that BD150 million, making a profit revenues of just over BD5 million in the 2nd year of operation, racking up a loss of BD49 million representing 65% of your paid up capital while giving away BD1.2 million in free tickets must have quite a few warning fog horns blaring. Is anyone listening though? I sure hope so….

And if they are, the first thing that should be done is fire the whole board of directors with the top management and replace them with 6th form kids as I’m sure they won’t be able to screw such an investment up so much and then claim that, hey, this is really a cultural institution and we don’t have to make money! For God’s sake, I think the hardly-visited National Museum probably makes more money that the illustrious Formula One Circuit, and that is a cultural institution!

Quite sad really, but I’ve seen it go down the pipes for more than a year now and I am not at all surprised by what the Transparency Report has found out so far, yet I’m sure that there are quite a few other bits and pieces still hidden even from their view. The report cited quite a few irregularities at the circuit (that even a cultural institution is required to avoid):

    1. Non compliance with bid tendering regulations and awarding bids directly or single-sourcing without proper justification,
    2. Holding far too much spares, some unaccounted properly,
    3. Giving away tickets worth BD 1.2 million,
    4. Improper, imprecise and irregular financial reporting procedures,
    5. Not collecting on sales worth BD2.8 million since 2005,
    6. No connection between the sales and accounting systems,
    7. No discount strategy, discounts are given haphazardly

And I’m sure many other aspects… here are a few that could be added or at least answered honestly if they could:

    1. Why is the circuit still renting large screens from a German company rather than buying these things outright?
    2. Why does the circuit not properly tender the rental of these screens in an open manner?
    3. Why does the circuit still does not have very much required experienced broadcast engineers and an experienced broadcast manager to take care of their huge broadcast investments, rather than depending on someone with just PR experience to manage the whole infrastructure?
    4. Why aren’t the broadcast equipment even put on maintenance contracts with their supplier in order to prolong their useful lives and protect the investment?
    5. Why did the circuit allegedly buy some 30 Holden cars through single sourcing the bid from a person whose company was bankrupt?

I can spill a lot more beans about the circuit and how badly it is run, but the above should suffice for now; let’s see how they try to justify their existence now.

Full disclosure: my company supplied a number of the circuit’s broadcasting capabilities in 2004.

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Al-Wefaq are just a little pregnant

Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society LogoWhoever said that a woman cannot get just a “little” pregnant is totally wrong. Al-Wefaq Islamic Society has put paid to that myth. They are – officially – just a little pregnant. They mounted an excellent electioneering campaign in which 17 out of 18 candidates fielded won seats in Parliament, and they were even more successful in their Municipal efforts, but they are refusing to participate in the parliament they fought tooth and nail for. They have boycotted the inaugural session last Friday, and they are boycotting its meeting into which the chairmanship and its vice chairs will be decided.

They backed liberal parties and candidates even though liberals are not regarded as their traditional partners, but demonstrated political astuteness by supporting them as those liberals are considered government opposition with some presence in the political arena.

Al-Wefaq supported the liberals as best as they could without physically giving up certain seats, and that support also created excellent momentum for the Wa’ad candidates and gave them legitimacy within Al-Wefaq’s house. Even though none of the liberals actually won a seat this time, they most certainly won thousands of hearts and minds throughout Bahraini society, which is much more important at this stage, than winning actual seats in parliament. This support however will translate into winning seats in the next parliament, I am sure.

Al-Wefaq are not stupid; they have demonstrated that every step taken has been amply studied before its adoption or rejection. Their own shura council and steering committees have demonstrated their independence and their general secretary has had to acquiesce to those organ’s demands and work within the framework they provided. They have gone into the elections fully aware of the constitution, the parliamentary by-laws and the general political environment, particularly as far as Bandargate and the purported discriminatory and exclusionary policies that scandal exploded onto the Bahraini political scene. Further, Ali Salman, ascertained when asked about the number of seats his party was expected to win, that the maximum number he expects do not exceed 14, however, because of the changes in constituency boundaries before the elections, his party actually gained 3 more certain seats due to these changes. They gained 17 of the 18 contested seats. Add Aziz Abul’s seat – who is regarded as being very close to their line particularly as far as required constitutional amendments are concerned, Al-Wefaq therefore effectively has 18 of the total 40 seats in the elected chamber. That constitutes 45% of the parliamentary block, making them the largest bloc in parliament; however, they do not have a full parliamentary majority.

The beauty (and ugliness) of politics is finding the middle ground, forming malleable alliances and compromising enough to push through legislation. That of course is how most democratic parliaments actually work. In Bahrain it is a somewhat different matter. The democracy we are experiencing now is somewhat abrogated and incomplete, evidenced by the alleged meddling of the royal family, the government and the control they both this body directly and indirectly through their assigned and supported MPs. We have various examples of this which allowed the passing of contentious legislation through the previous parliament: Gatherings & Assembly and Terrorism laws are just two examples which restricted our freedoms possibly irreparably, the forced passing of the national budget for 2007/2008 in a record 2 week period at the end of the previous parliament’s tenure, the botched up investigation into the bankruptcy of the pension organisations and the refusal of MPs to issue a vote of confidence of ministers involved, the inconclusive naturalisation investigation and of course the holding back of information and general non-cooperation of the government with parliament are all indicative of the power exerted by the government and ruling family by inference onto the elected body. If you also consider the fact that the appointed Shura Council which includes 40 members all of whom are selected by the king and the power they enjoy which exceed or match those of the elected officials and the chairmanship of the Shura Council chairman on joint parliamentary sessions, it leaves no doubt whatsoever of how this elected parliament is supposed to work, or indeed the rationale for having it there in the first place.

Regardless, what I am exploring here is the justification for the new Wefaq boycott and the rationale they used to justify it and decide what they might gain from it.

Let me first look at the level of fairness of the elections; Ibrahim Sharif, the secretary general of the National Democratic Action Society has done some research in this and I tend to agree with his conclusions that the past elections where unfair, mainly due to the gerrymandering of electoral districts, arbitrary changes in the election laws and the government interference in all aspects of the elections from the constitutional changes through to the creation of out-of-constituency general voting centres through which bogus votes were cast either physically or through the instructions given to security forces on how they should vote. With the absence of a proper voting register and without releasing the voting roll as instructed by the then Justice Minister, there is no way for monitors to find out what actually happened. However, with various reports about the happenings in those centres, we can only assume – with some measure of certainty, especially if one would take into account the differential of votes received by pro-government candidates – that some fraudulent activities might have happened.

Immediately after the final elections on Dec 2nd, all we have seen from Wefaq is the good steps it has taken by visiting their supporters and calming the frayed nerves of businessmen and their continuous support of their liberal partners. They have also taken it upon themselves to invite all winning candidates to a banquet in their honour; all of these things ameliorated nerves and added to the celebratory atmosphere in Bahrain. However, Al-Wefaq has never made any reference whatsoever as to the positions it would like to have in parliament. I cannot remember a single article or occasion in which Al-Wefaq has come out unambiguously stating that they seek to head any of the parliamentary committees nor did they demand the chairmanship or a vice chairman position. In fact, what I do remember is various reports in the press suggesting that Ali Salman supports Al-Dhahrani to return as the speaker for the second term.

So what changed? Why did Al-Wefaq make demands now that as they are the largest party gaining 62% of the total vote they should automatically get the chairmanship of parliament? Especially as they are fully aware that there is no constitutional basis whatsoever for this demand? And why are they insisting that there is no way for them to gain that position by forming alliances within parliament to ensure that they get that seat?

My reading of the situation is that it is virtually impossible for them to get it, simply because the remaining 22 pro-government loyalists’ seats who cannot conceivably cross a line and support Al-Wefaq. Therefore, and as we have seen, heard and read that the top positions in parliament, including all the other primary positions are all a foregone conclusion: Khalifa Al-Dhahrani has been re-anointed to the position of the Speaker, the 2nd vice-chairmanship has been given to Salah Ali (in place of Adel Al-Mo’awdah who held that position in the previous term, and succumbed to pressure “from above” to give up that position this time for Muslim Brotherhood’s society’s head) while the first vice-chairmanship has been reserved for Al-Wefaq. These positions are so certain that the Royal Court insinuated that the Shura Council’s chair will go to a sectarianaly opposite person, and even though it freed Ali Saleh Al-Saleh – the erstwhile Minister of Municipalities and Agriculture, a Shi’i – and prepared him for the chairmanship of the Shura Council, it did not confirm his position until it was absolutely sure that Al-Dhahrani would take over as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

This clearly indicates that all positions in both chambers are given on a non-democratic but sectarian basis; if a Shi’i takes over the elected parliament, then a Sunni would take over the selected one and so forth.

This is a rather dangerous situation. This puts into place sectarian norms akin to Lebanon, and maybe this is what the rulers do have in mind, this is their idea of a balancing act. It is – as far as I am concerned – a fallacious sense of fairness. No country can really be run on such sectarian lines, and history as well as current events prove that should that be the conditions adopted, then failure would be awaiting the political institution and the country at every turn.

These are the thoughts that must have been doubly realised within Al-Wefaq’s decision making body, and ones which they must have considered very thoroughly, and this boycott must be their way to force new realities on the political situation in Bahrain. They realised that there is no way for them to affect the outcome of parliament, especially with the resolute defeat of their Wa’ad partners, which effectively put them at a complete disadvantage even though they constitute the largest bloc within parliament. Therefore, this move, cannot be regarded as anything but a political move. They must feel that they have nothing to lose, so they went ahead to try to force the royal court’s hand to try to get them to redress the balance.

Where do we fit in all this?

Lost, is the operative word, added to complete frustration. I personally appreciate Al-Wefaq’s position and am as frustrated as they must be for the continuous meddling by the Royal Court or “influential bodies” into the democratic path that must be taken, but with Al-Wefaq perceivably completely out of parliament and their refusal to take any leadership positions within it, what can we expect from the next four years other than continuous strife, inculcation of more restrictive laws and the explosion of sectarian insensitivities on both sides which might well drag this country finally into violent confrontation?

While I am sure that the blessed Shaikh Al-Jamri’s struggles for democracy, rest his soul, did not give birth to a parliament that he nor the majority of Bahrainis have been looking for, Al-Wefaq’s non-participation the last time around resulted in those heinous laws and regulations. With them effectively out of parliament this time as well, I have no doubt that these restrictions on our freedoms will continue unabated. Apart from the single voice of Abul now, there is no one interested enough to protect our rights, and most certainly – and ironically – their absence will move Bahrain further into the clutches of religious extremism.

Suddenly, I am not looking forward to the next four years.

I would rather the whole Al-Wefaq bloc resign, and the king to call for fresh elections and remove the causes of this stalemate, which are specifically the Bandargate heroes Ahmed Attiyatallah from the cabinet line-up and the implicated Faisal Foulath and Huda Noono from the Shura Council, and immediately mount an independent and transparent investigation into the Bandargate scandal.

I am not asking for these to help or even get Al-Wefaq to participate into the parliamentary process, I don’t particularly care for them, but I recognise that they do represent the majority of Bahrain – 62% to be exact – and I recognise that the only way we can peacefully move forward is by courageously addressing these iniquitous situations.

Failure to do so is a disaster waiting to happen.

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Foulath’s buttons pressed again

Shura Council members are to call for the creation of a human rights committee within the chamber.

The request will be made by Faisal Fulad and Houda Nonoo, who are both Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) board members.

“We think Al Wefaq will try to establish a human rights committee in parliament and these committees will have co-operation if we establish them in both chambers,” Mr Fulad told a Press conference at the society, in Manama, yesterday.
GDN :: 15 Dec, ’06

My emphasis, and believe me you don’t need to read the whole “report” of Foulath and Nonoo wanting to establish a BHRWS style committee in the Shura to find their true motives behind it, as I’ll save you the trouble and time. They’ve been told to do so to counter a suggested Human Rights committee in the Council of Representatives by Al-Wefaq.

It is a mark of dishonour to have these two selected as our representatives. As far as I am concerned they do not exist and they are not worthy of carrying on in any position in my name.

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The woman who shook the throne

Dr. Munira Fakhro

So now it seems official. The throne has used its whiles to ensure that Dr. Munira Fakhro does not get elected to parliament.

Up to the initial vote count last night, she had 2,853 votes to the bought and paid for royal puppet Salah Ali’s 2,867. A mere 14 votes difference which ensured that there will be a second round between the two in the run offs on Dec 2nd.

Then came the foreign votes (by Bahrainis outside of Bahrain) which increased her share by 41 votes to a mere 8. Then, the big guns came out in the “general voting stations” where, surprise surprise, the puppet gets 1,191 to Munira’s 332.

Look at the trend, does that make sense?

Is there anyone still questioning the fairness of these elections?

But wait.. there are 4 more protagonists to look after: Abdulrahman Al-No’aimi, Ibrahim Sharif, Sami Siyadi and Abdulaziz Abul, all of whom should win hands down… unless…

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Election fraud?

I got this through an email. I do not know the source, nor the authenticity of this clip, but I am sharing it with you here to give the chance for refuting what it actually shows. I hope that the authorities take it with extreme seriousness.

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