Tag Archives government

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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Whores in Bahrain – circa 1936

Organising whores in Bahrain in the 1930sIn the nothing to do department, I thought I’d share this scanned image with you people. This was a notice by the “British Representative” aka the Governor of Bahrain by Her Majesty the Queen of Britain, that time Bahrain being a British protectorate. Click on the thumbnail to see the whole page:

So let me translate what it says to you:

============ QUOTE =============
The Government of Bahrain
Notice

Number 1355-50
WHORES

We publish this notice to bring to your attention The Government of Bahrain’s Notice number 1350-21 dated 17 Jumada Al-Thani of the year 1355 (Hijri) (corresponding to 4th September 1936)

1. All practicing whores are ordered to live only in designated areas and they are not allowed to live in the respectable neighbourhoods of Manama or Muharraq.

2. The neighbourhoods assigned to practicing whores are Qibla in Manama and Garandole in Muharraq.

3. Home owners in the respectable areas are fully responsible in front of the Courts should they allow practicing whores to live in their houses or use their houses for gambling activities.

4. If after one month from the date of this Notice any practicing whore is found staying in the respectable areas and has not moved to the designated red-light districts shall be punished in Court.

5. Any foreign whore who disregards this Notice will be extradited from Bahrain.

Issued on 27 Thu-Al-Qi’dah, 1355
Corresponding to 8th February, 1937
============= END QUOTE =============

This “situation” existed until the early or mid-1970’s and then both areas were shut down. I was too young to remember it, but as my dad owned a stationary/bookshop at that time, I do remember an “investigative” report by one of the weekly magazines – I think Sada Al-Isbou, it might have been another magazine, bit fuzzy there where they talked about the red-light district in Bahrain. I remember asking dad about what “Garandole” means and got a slap for my trouble!

At the same time, we used to sell Playboy and Penthouse and the Gulf Daily News actually had a page 3 topless girl in there!

Needless to say, we don’t have any of this sort of thing happening in Bahrain now. None at all. Just underground activities with lots and lots of AIDS cases which everyone ignores.

I’ve even read a few weeks ago of an AIDS infected man who was refused treatment at the emergency in Salmania Medical Centre and that his own family refused to pick him up! He was reported to have made a nuisance of himself though.. soiling himself and attacking doctors and nurses. No idea if that is true.

Anyway, thought I’d share with you this picture that I came across a few days ago when re-organising my computer!

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Marriage Fund?

Now it’s the Shura Council’s turn to have a brain-fart.

Some bright spark looked at the marriage statistics in Bahrain in 2001 and decided that not enough Bahrainis are marrying each other with most men opting to have foreign wives, so what does he propose? Throw money at the problem and it’ll go away!

He’s proposing setting up a “marriage fund” where it will provide between BD 1,000 (US$3,770) to BD 2,000 to “help with the marriage expenses”. The enlightened rules he’s proposing putting in place are:

The marriage fund will be over-seen by the Ministry of Justice, and create (another) committee whose membership includes the Minister of Islamic Affairs (president) and 5 officials from various other ministries: Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Economy, Information, Labour and Social Affairs, Transparency office and one person from the Women’s council. Another five each from one of the municipal areas in the country representing the “people”. All of these officials are to be appointed by an order from the Prime Minister’s office after consultation from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. And yes, we do need yet another committee. Gotta keep them in jobs right?

The fund is going to be stoked by – yes you guessed it – the budget, aka, you and me.

So who’s going to benefit? The applicant has to be:

1. Bahraini
2. Shouldn’t be less than 18 years old
3. Wife should be Bahraini
4. classified as “low income”
5. this “help” is only given once
6. shouldn’t be already married

So a Bahraini woman can’t apply to get married, only men need apply. Women? Hah! not so important.

These people have nothing better to do with their time other than increase the number of inbred morons we have in this country. What will this fund do other than encourage people to forget their schools and universities and get married as early as possible, of course have kids as soon as they get married, increase their responsibilities, leave school to provide for the family and generally increase the lines of unemployed and entrenching poverty.

Don’t even think that marriage is a very personal decision and the government and the various do-gooders like Islamic societies have nothing to do with it. Forget about scientifically analyzing why Bahraini men choose to marry foreigners in the first place. Let’s just take the fast road to (1) bankrupt this country with the various harebrained ideas like this, and (2) increase poverty by encouraging people at the very start of their lives to not think of their higher education to get better jobs. Just let’s get them screwed (literally in this case) and they’ll forget about us.

Well done McDuff. Rock on!

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Let’s all stick with Microsoft because this is what we know…

One of the leading “opposition” newspapers[arabic] published today two big pieces on Linux on page 14 which deals with “technology” and what you get from those articles is the a clear smell that Microsoft or one of its agents has actually written or inspired those articles.

The issue is that the Bahraini government, specifically the Central Informatics Directorate has decided to use Linux for their central servers[arabic] rather than Microsoft’s products. It is possible that they will even use MySQL to hold the data rather than one of the big names – but I cannot confirm that. What the articles are doing is completely attacking that choice and pointing the finger (more like blackmailing) the government under the guise of that we do not have any Linux expertise on the island so that we will have to depend on “untrustworthy foreigners who do not love Bahrain as we the locals do to handle very sensitive information.”

Well, I don’t agree with the government’s steps on introducing a smart card that will hold all of our private information, I’ve detailed my objections on this issue on these pages. However blackmailing the government to do away with Linux because we don’t have “experts” hence we must use Microsoft only is just down right ugly.

What the writer fails to realize is that we have to start somewhere, and if this is the first step the government takes on the road of Microsoft independence, then I am fully behind them.

The articles also stress that the university and government training institutes do not have Linux training in their curriculum. I say “wake up and smell the humus!”

I’m not sure what the writer wants as he just criticizes the government’s choice of Linux without offering solutions other that “stay with our friends Microsoft.” The irony is an article on the very same page which clearly states that Germany, Brazil and other countries have adopted Linux and its solution to run their countries and/or cities. What he should have concentrated on is to support the government’s move because this is one thing that is done in the national interest and encourage the government to sponsor Linux training and creating job opportunities relating to Linux.

A few weeks ago, the IBM training centre in Bahrain has received Red Hat certification, so they can certainly be commissioned to train young Bahrainis in Linux system administration, programming and support.

There is no pleasing some people.. I hope that Al-Wasat is not going to be yet another “brown envelope newspaper!”

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The National ID “smart card” idea continues to take hold

yet no answers to the questions I asked are forthcoming, even though the same article has been sent twice to the national papers in Bahrain. No one seems to be interested in protecting their most basic of human rights: privacy. Amazing.

Now the BDF (Bahrain Defence Forces) Hospital which is one of the leading hospitals on the island just signed a contract to use these cards to access patient records, lab tests and various other information.

DOCTORS and paramedics will soon have instant access to life-saving information on patients, thanks to Bahrain’s smart card system.

BDF Hospital yesterday signed an agreement with the Central Informatics Organisation, which will make it the first hospital to implement the system.

People’s medical records will be saved on the new “smart” Central Population Register (CPR) cards, which will be introduced early next year.

This will give doctors, paramedics and other medical staff instant access to vital information, said Royal Medical Services commander Brigadier Dr Shaikh Salman bin Atiyatallah Al Khalifa.

“Paramedics will be able to get the medical information of the patient’s smart card and that will help them determine the best course of treatment,” he said.

“They could also inform the hospital en route of the patient’s condition electronically, by using a GSM device that will be installed in the ambulance, helping staff at the hospital to assess the condition more accurately.”

Great. Although it can and most probably will save people’s lives because doctors will have information about the patient at their fingertips through this smart card, we still don’t know – and it appears that we never will know – how that information is stored, secured and accessed. Who has access to what information stored on the card?

Next step… take this complaint to the parliament.

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Bye privacy… welcome totalitarianism

The government is going to introduce a national ID card next year that will further control our lives, expose our most private details: any and all financial transactions, every time we travel, obtain health care, work, rent or buy a house yet no one asked us, the people, if we support such a totalitarian measure. They didn’t even explain how information is stored and retrieved from the card nor who is authorised to view our private details.

For example, when one uses the card, is all the information contained in it exposed or will there be sub-levels of access? That is, will the doctor only be able to see our health record? The bank our financial transactions? The traffic police our traffic related offenses only? Or will anyone with an appropriate card reader be able to drill down every conceivable private detail stored on the card? Giving our consent to whoever is going to read our details by scanning our thumb-print is not enough if that will result in an unrestricted view of the contents.

The government from what I’ve read so far is selling the concept of convenience. I don’t buy it. To me, this looks much more like total control of an individual’s life.

Consider the case of using a credit card for instance: when this card is used, the authorisation software does much more than merely check the identity and available credit. Before getting an authorisation number a credit card number is transmitted to a central computer which performs a large number of transaction: is the card on the system? Has it been reported lost or stolen? Does the account have adequate credit for the current transaction? It goes further: it checks the transaction history, the nature of the current transaction and compares it with the current proposed transaction to see if this transaction fits the customer profile and compares all of that with profiles of fraudulent transactions stored on the system. Once this operation is complete it assigns a “core”to the prospective transaction which it uses to determine whether or not to authorise the transaction.

I can see the national ID card to follow the same path should strict controls not be specifically introduced.

Say you go to a doctor and some software glitch happens in the myriad of equipment and software, will you be satisfied by the rejection of provision of medical aid because of this glitch? What if you want to buy a ticket for a concert and you give your ID number to a distant clerk on the phone who then taps your number on his terminal and not only knows your full home address, but now also when you’re NOT going to be at home? Can the government vouch for the honesty of every clerk? Or will the information be restricted for that type of transactions? If so, what will that clerk have access to?

The proposed card is a huge invasion of privacy, and privacy is one very basic human right. Do we give this away as citizens without question? Why is the government so insistent on knowing every detail of our private life when we see a whole continent like Europe almost doing away with passports? Why does the government want to track every aspect of our lives?

We should at least let Parliament examine these issues closely before even starting such a pervasive scheme. What I’ve heard so far is everyone applauding a clearly “big brother” scheme without any thought given to the real effect that such a card will introduce, whether we like it or not.

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Veiled women allowed to drive

While road-deaths have increased in Bahrain from 54 in 1995 to 81 in 2002, the number of cars increased from 169,318 in 1995 to 250,978 in 2002 and not a day passes without a serious sometimes fatal road accident, we now have a law allowing veiled women to drive!

That is, women who cover their faces completely with semi-transparent cloth. Some I’m sure will say that the cloth does not restrict vision and it’s like sun-glasses. Yeah sure!

This is the result of our infant Parliament. This is their major achievement in their last session. I’m sure that next they will find other very worthy cause to take up. And we all know that we do NOT have any other immediate problems to resolve like unemployment, a high increase in crime, continuing road congestion, etc. Allowing veiled women to drive is of the highest national priority.

Apart from that, now if you are unfortunate enough to get involved in an accident with a veiled woman driver, you have to wait for one of the seven traffic police-women to come to the sight of the accident to resolve the matter, NOT a normal traffic (male) cop.

Here are some recent links so you can form your own opinions:
– Anger over accident blackspot
– BD 200 million to be spent to slash road deaths
– Indian killed in traffic accident

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…and I thought democracy means constructive criticism?

The Bahraini press is threatening national unity and abusing the democratic system, the Minister of Information was quoted as saying yesterday.

Nabeel Al Hamer was quoted during a meeting with newspaper editors as saying the government will not tolerate those in the press who are trying to “sabotage” the democratic reforms.

“We will not, under any pretext, tolerate those abusing the democracy now available in the kingdom in order to sabotage the democratic achievements,” he told them.

Gulf News | By Mohammed Almezel | 10-06-2003

and this comes from a journalist! The minister was the managing editor of Al-Ayam newspaper for a very long time. It’s heartening to find his views have changed somewhat since he became the minister of information.

So what the hell is happening here then? This “outburst” was due to a couple of articles in the papers that I think constructively criticised the government. And isn’t constructive criticism the basis of democratic life? So what should we do now? Just turn a blind eye to everything that might be deemed “offensive” or against the government?

gimme a break.. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, either be democratic or let’s just go back to where we were before ’99. At least then everyone knew what the rules were and where the red-line was. Democracy as far as I understand it doesn’t have any red-lines. If the law on the other hand did set a red-line that no one is allowed to cross, let the (competent) courts handle that through laws, but don’t just keep shifting the line here and there at a whim.

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