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Shamlawi contesting electoral districts

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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.

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Kneejerk Reactions

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Divine intervention couldn’t have come at a more fortuitous time for the government to start to re-impose another heinous State Security Law, the very one which Bahrain suffered from for 30 years and was the main cause of the dissolution of the 1973 parliament and suspending parliamentary life in this country until it was rescinded by his majesty king Hamad on him assuming the throne.

Now, with the killing of a policeman in mysterious and unsubstantiated circumstances – as some observers maintain – the government has latched on to this particular incident, painful as it is, to start the process of imposing a clampdown not unlike that of the State Security Law:

Tough new policing measures were urged by Cabinet yesterday following the killing of an officer in Karzakan. These include [1] banning Molotov cocktails, [2] closely monitoring sectarian websites, and drawing up a [3] police masterplan to combat violence. Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa has been instructed to draw up a plan aimed at further empowering Public Security forces. Chaired by Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Cabinet reiterated its full trust in the forces to assume responsibilities, stressing the need to further enhance levels of readiness.

The Cabinet was also updated on the Karzakan crime and the efforts to track down suspects.

The [4] Information Ministry was also instructed to monitor websites inciting hatred and instigating sectarianism in an attempt to drive a wedge in the community and sap national unity. Legal measures will be taken against websites found flouting rules and regulations.

The Justice and Islamic Affairs Ministry has also been instructed to [5] ensure mosques are not instrumental in promoting sectarianism or fuelling hatred.

The Government also called on the legislative authority to quickly approve the [6] law incriminating possession or use of Molotov cocktails.

It also condemned the killing of 24-year old policeman Majid Asghar Ali Kareem Baksh, extending sincere condolences to his grieving family.
GDN

A Godsend? To authoritarian governments, possibly. Here we have full measures that on the face of it would ensure stability and restore harmony, but I cannot help but shudder to think of the restrictions of personal freedoms and those of expression they affirm. It is as if sectarian thought and action could be curtailed by the use of such draconian measures. What they do – those draconian measures, that is – is further entrench sectarian hatred, chase those who promote that hatred underground and penalise those who are brave enough to stand behind their convictions by voicing their opinions.

This is not the way to manage this situation, with all due and proper respect.

Tribalism and sectarianism are two facets which are deep within the fabric of our society, especially over the last few decades. They have come completely to the fore by the use of religiosity to control the minds of naive novices even at state-run universities as is evident by the various publications, audio and video media being continuously and plainly distributed in that august edifice of education; while tribalism – an even more dangerous foe – is being lauded and propagated by events like beduin poetry recitals and romantic flood-lit dances extolling the virtues of war.

What is needed are concerted efforts to recognise what ails this country. An honest appraisal of our deficiencies and put in place actions – not just studies – that will resolve these problems by effecting cultural change to the community.

Through my work on the Just Bahraini campaign, I have raised these points with several people; young and old, businessmen and women, high government officials to normal people in the street to university professors. Almost without exception, the response was a clear recognition of tribalism and sectarianism suffered by the community, some bring in what they feel are solid examples of this discrimination while others, a few, mind you, excuse such behaviour as a natural human trait. To those, who condone and even encourage tribalism and sectarianism as a “natural and intrinsic way of our life”, I have no time, nor do I spend much time trying to change the way that they have been brought up. The exercise is futile.

To me, as I do in sales, I don’t waste time on those who say “yes”, they’ve already been sold. Nor do I waste time on those who steadfastly say “no” as the effort is too great and the end-result is probably not worth pursuing. I do; however, spend the majority of my time on those who say “maybe” as those are the people who might actively receive new information and have the capacity – hopefully – to evaluate situations and have a good chance of changing their points of view and by doing so become better human beings.

How do you think people can change the very culture they have been raised in to be a better one? To be more tolerant of others and their views and to accept that others can and do have differing, sometimes contentious opinions?

Put in laws which criminalise discrimination by all means, we won’t be the first country to adopt such measures, in fact, I think the United Nations already has codes which condemn discrimination in all its forms as do many countries around the world. Bahrain has signed Human Rights codes which already criminalise such discrimination, alas, it has not rewritten its local laws which directly contradict the international conventions. It is this that we should encourage the government and parliament to immediately do. I think that with the application of these anti-discrimination laws and measures, culture will start to change. Yes it might take a couple of generations or more, but a start must be made. We cannot continue to live in this divisive atmosphere.

But action and engagement are probably much more important. If the government is serious about achieving social harmony, it is well within its power to start the process by example. It won’t do so; however, by continuing to restrict the honour of serving in the armed forces and police to members of a certain sect or even worst, to non-Bahrainis. Nor will it lead by example by entrenching sectarian thinking by allowing whole ministries and state institutions to be saturated by members of certain sects, nor, for that matter, will it be the example to be emulated if even the ministerial positions are given on sectarian basis rather than one of capability and applicability to the job being offered.

Engagement also means transparency and welcoming criticism. Where is this transparency in dealing with the Bandargate situation? Could the government’s position be classified by anything but opaque? So far we have seen the apparent government’s machinations even within the parliament – the chamber in which the protection of democracy and democratic institutions should be protected – to restrict any action which might be taken in this situation’s reparation. Let me not mention the judicial case which necessitated the complete gag imposed on the press in discussing this rather important situation which – ironically – could easily be used as a rallying point of complete cultural and societal change to the better.

I have hope, of course. But I must confess that my optimism is waning when I see articles as those quoted above. Rather than opening up and recognising a problem, what we continuously find instead are paroxysms of denial and rules by violent reaction, rather than by common sense.

So prepare yourselves, my friends, for living under a new State Security Law. Watch your step because the Ministry of Interior might have unlimited powers in looking through keyholes at what you might do. The Ministry of Information will further restrict the Internet and the press while the Ministry of Islamic Affairs is going to dictate how you practice your religion.

The end result is Big Brother all over again. Or in our case, the 1990s to be exact.

Welcome to the New New State Security Law. One in which I can’t think that anyone in their right mind is going to regard Bahrain as Business Friendly.

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Bahrain, a failed state?

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Bahrain unrest continues unabated in the absence of the political will to resolve basic issuesOnce at the vanguard of developing Gulf city-states, Bahrain has now lost that position to sheikdoms like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as well as neighboring Qatar. Although Bahrain’s capital, Manama, has some of the glitz of other Gulf capitals, its early lead in development — achieved during the 1970s with the creation of a dry dock, an aluminum smelter, and offshore banking infrastructure — is no more. Similarly, political reforms appear stalled, with little or no progress made since the bicameral legislature was introduced in 2002. The 2006 elections were manipulated, if not rigged, to ensure that Shiite legislators did not win a majority. And members of the royal family still hold the majority of cabinet positions.

Perhaps most worrisome for Washington, the regime no longer seems to be exercising the canny balancing of political tensions that other Gulf rulers employ to ensure stability. Instead, Sunni-Shiite friction is being played out on the streets — never a good way of attracting foreign investors.
The Washington Institute – Small Island, Big Issues: Bahrain’s King Visits Washington

No comment.

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Provisional UNHCR report on Bahrain

unhcr-report-bahrain.jpgKiwi Nomad alluded to the “special” way that the GDN chooses to report the news, especially when the news is somewhat critical of the government. In this case, Geoff Bew seems to have chosen the ‘glass half full’ approach (of maybe his editor did? I don’t know) and printed the effervescent headline “UN report praises Bahrain’s progress” to describe how the UNHRC Advanced Unedited report on Bahrain human rights record classifies the country. While he is technically correct, the report does praise Bahrain for some advances, he neglected to highlight that more than half of the 45 issues raised are negative and urges Bahrain in unequivocal language to clean up its act.

You can download the report and read it yourself, but as far as I am concerned I fully stand by their requirements for change to the better – every single one of them – and I have called for the very issues to be championed and adopted.

I fully believe that should the government take up the task and implement the recommendations, our society as a whole will move inexorably forward to a better future.

I guess this is the golden opportunity for the government to show its probity by implementing the recommendations now, especially as parliament is a bit busy these days.

update 2306: hot on the heals of the UNHCR report, the US State Department released it’s report on Bahrain. Thanks to the BCHR for the heads up.

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Bahrain on the front page

There is nothing better than having a warm breakfast on a very cold day. Couple that with reading a good newspaper and find that your country is mentioned in a good light on the front page, and one would have an excellent start to the day:

Alcoa Faces Allegation By Bahrain of Bribery
By Glenn R. Simpson

A company controlled by the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain accused Alcoa Corp. of a 15-year conspiracy involving overcharging, fraud and bribery.

WSJ - ALBA corruption caseA suit in federal court in Pittsburgh by Aluminum Bahrain BSC alleged that Alcoa steered payments for an aluminum precursor ingredient to a group of tiny companies abroad, in order to pay kickbacks to a Bahraini “senior government official.” The Bahraini firm, known as Alba, alleged that Alcoa had overcharged it for the precursor material, alumina.

Bank records and invoices show that more than $2 billion in Alba’s payments for alumina passed from Bahrain to tiny companies in Singapore, Switzerland and the Isle of Guernsey. The suit alleged that some of the money found is way back to officials involved in granting the contracts.

“Defendants…furthered their fraud through bribes paid to one or more official of the Government of Bahrain,” said the suit, which didn’t name the officials and didn’t cite any direct evidence of such payments.
The Wall Street Journal – 28 Feb, ’08 subscription required for full article

Fantastic, not because something is seriously about to unravel here, and hopefully several culpable morons would be indicted (holding breath) but the real good story is that it seems Mumtalakat has opted to file the suit in a US court against a US company. Why is that significant I hear you ask? Well, because the defendant in the US court will ask for full disclosure of documents to sustain and support the fraud allegation, something I believed that Bahrain and its government is not ready to do, but this – hopefully – will prove my error. Washing dirty laundry in public sends a clear message that the cause of that dirty laundry will no longer be tolerated. Transparency has a chance of infusing all levels of the system.

It is high time that this squandering of resources, corruption and nepotism is ended and funds judiciously used to better the lives of regular Bahrainis.

Carry on like this for a little longer and get some results in actually impeaching and throwing corrupt officials in jail for the rest of their natural, and I would be the first in line to elect Talal Al-Zain as Speaker, Mohammed bin Essa as Prime Minister and their boss as God!

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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.

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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.

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New era at the Ministry of Information?

Bahraini minister of information Jehad buKamalI was thrilled to read in Al-Waqt in the weekend that the new minister of information, Jehad buKamal, affirmed that the new new Press & Publications Law will not stipulate any prison sentences against journalists [translate], except for denigrating God or the king.

The exception is accepted – for now – as otherwise the law will never get through this parliament. I will be really surprised if a brightspark or two of our esteemed members of parliament don’t stand against such a law and counter it by demanding that every single journalist or writer should be assumed guilty first and not only should they be imprisoned for their troubles, but also levy some public lashings against them too. Oh hang on, this actually had been suggested in the past, so let’s see how far they go this time!

The new minister has been a breath of fresh air at that ministry in particular and the government in general. So far, he has released some books which his ministry’s censorship office has withheld from publication or summarily banned for reasons they know best, has come out publicly against the imprisonment of journalists (and hopefully all opinion writers as guaranteed by our constitution anyway) and has lately commission none other than Al-Jazeera – which has so far been banned from reporting from Bahrain – to mount an investigative journalism course for several journalists and media personnel.

buKamal should certainly be encouraged and his steps fully supported.

This country has been quite haphazard in its information policies since the late Al-Moayed was relieved of his duties. Although much disliked for his strictness, he certainly was the one who dragged the ministry by the scruff of the neck and forced to work in a modern way. The staff at the ministry still remember him with fondness to this day! Whenever I speak to any of them about “the old days” you can see the dreamy look come across their faces as they speak of Tariq Al-Moayed. Like a strict headmaster, he was feared to be sure, but much loved too!

All those who have come after him were probably politically driven with a specific agenda which they believed was their duty to execute. However, the world instantly saw through their “valiant” PR efforts and labeled the ministry of information as nothing more than a government mouth-piece given exclusively to propaganda.

I know that buKamal has only been at the helm for a few months, but his actions so far bodes well. I just hope that what we see from him now is not another new manager honeymoon, soon to be replaced with the tried and tested “nodding dog” and “Yes” men syndromes which will invariably lead to the old ways.

I personally don’t think this will happen in buKamal’s case. He was an elected MP in the first parliament, then assigned by the king into the unelected Shura Council for the 2nd parliamentary term before being given this ministerial position. He also comes from a known merchant family and is a businessman of repute. All of these factors should undoubtedly help him turn this ministry around. Hopefully he will also be instrumental in closing it down altogether and delegate its traditional roles to the private sector by opening up the horizons for private media ownership.

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Frustration, a good catalyst for change

I can fully understand our Crown Prince’s frustration with the government and officially welcome him into our ranks, the ranks of I would say the majority of Bahrainis whose only recourse to their frustration is to habitually bang heads against solid walls of stasis and fear of change. To the government, they think that they are simply doing their job, to the rest of Bahrain, we once again recognise yet another missed opportunity to progress.

The cost is huge. It is truly a matter of life or death to this country. What is amazing is that for 40 years or more we have been on a downward spiral which almost got us to the state of a forgotten backwater, when those around us have been enjoying the fruits of their foresight. Yet, when we get someone who wants to effect real change, he and his sincere ideas for progress find inordinate opposition.

It is as if they are saying that change, whatever it is, is not welcome in this country.

Labour reforms, educational reforms, economic reforms as well as political reforms have all but died in the last few months. We are at a stage now of lethargic existence. ‘Who cares’ is a phrase oft repeated by all and sundry.

His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, addresses luncheon guests and members of the US-Bahrain Business Council

From the heydays of 2001 when enthusiasm for welcome change and new beginnings was palpable. When a Bahraini walked tall in the streets and wore a beaming smile welcoming an expectant and inclusive future is all but been destroyed now. It is a state that one is forgiven in believing that it is completely stage-managed: ‘Get the people so frustrated in order to kill every single spark of enthusiasm for this country and its people’.

The proof of this condition is quite plain to see: frustration is the norm, torturers continue to walk amongst us with impunity, sectarian hatred is rife and its perpetrators continue to go unmolested – in actual fact they continue to be promoted and enjoy complete immunety from accountability, the dangerous policy of demographic change goes unabated, transparency is opaque at best and corruption has escalated. Almost all international metrics about this country have deteriorated and there seems to be no will to correct them.

This of course translates into public unrest. People have become so frustrated that they now believe only complete change will correct the situation. 2007 saw some 113 demonstrations a lot of which turning violent. These resulted in imprisonment, hospitalisation and even fatalities.

Parliament continues to exacerbate the situation even further. They have not considered any action beyond narrow sectarian parameters. They have even abrogated their intrinsic responsibility of oversight by habitually refusing to utilise one of their constitutional tools to question ministers due to nothing more than sectarian considerations. Their role has been limited – willingly – to publication of press releases castigating people for using their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of expression!

Anti-naturalisation demonstration in Bahrain

The country is directionless. It is in dire straights and requires a good captain to step up on deck and take control of the rudder to navigate it out of these turbid waters.

I believe that our crown prince, with his amply demonstrated leadership qualities and commitment to the country, is the right person to lead this change. He has shown that he can take criticism with an open mind, is inclusive in his approach by eliciting and acting upon views even from the opposition as we have witnessed through his various reforms workshops. He is young and tenacious with a clear vision. He should be given an honest and unfettered chance to push that vision and ideas through.

playClick to listen to the Crown Prince’s interview with Turki Al-Dakheel at FIKR6
Arabic :: mp3 :: 38 minutes

His frustration has obviously been brewing for some time. The evidence of which was during the recent FIKR6 conference in Bahrain where to everyone’s surprise (and other’s chagrin) he digressed from his planned opening remarks by appending a passionate and clear appeal to the people to show the leadership that we are frustrated with the state at which we find our country. He went further and encouraged everyone to highlight government meddling and its hindering of necessary projects. “Get your voice to the leadership” was a resonating call in halls filled with intellectuals and decision makers.

He amplified on this call even more during his interview with Turki Al-Dakheel where he boldly pointed out that a government’s main job should be limited to three things: Defence, Security and Justice.

He was time and again harassed by the interviewer who rightly pointed out that this is not he case at all in any Arab government, but the prince was adamant in his belief. He time and again affirmed his vision that he wants Bahrain to go in this direction. He seemed to not have any doubt in his mind that this is the way to go. This is the ultimate vision he is working toward.

Those remarks, so publicly expounded, must have shaken a few cradles. His efforts continued to be thwarted. But now, it seems he has reached a turning point. In a highly visible public gesture, he has notified the King of his frustration and laid the ball completely at the King’s feet. It is now up to the King to ensure that the government change and that the role of the Economic Development Board – which the crown prince heads – is affirmed in unambiguous terms to be the exclusive agency in charge of national economic policies.

That mandate has now been given.

What the effects of this clear mandate is, will become clear in the next few days and weeks. I just hope that those effects will be expedited by the removal of the gargantuan guardians of that wall of regression. New blood must be infused into a representative and forward looking cabinet to effect much awaited and desperately needed change.

The world does not wait for us to make up our minds and does not stand on ceremony either. It wants results and a clear indication that we mean business in a modern and transparent way; else, other markets are wide open to receive the world’s benevolence. We are very welcome to continue to reside in the quagmire of one of the last remaining backwaters in the world.

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Equitable solutions

Name any country that does not recognise the sacrifices of its citizens, and I’ll guarantee that its government has no real legitimacy in the eyes of their own constituents.

Sure they rule, but that is most probably due to the use of oppression to perpetuate their authority. Their tenuous hold on power promotes the culture of fear. Theirs is the law of force, rather than the force of law. That government will not last too long, but even if it did, it would do so on a bed of unrest and strife rather than stability.

This is not the situation which we have signed up for when 98.4% of us voted for the new charter, whose central tenets are human rights and modern institutions of governance. How different we are today – a mere 6 years hence – of those days of hope. What we are now left with is confusion and mistrust which feeds the continuous skirmishes we suffer from at almost any occasion.

There seems to be no end in sight. Each side is steadfast in their refusal to listen. Theirs is the view of “not giving in”, as if this is a battle in which an exclusive winner is declared. They fail to realise that the only losing side in this equation are the normal people who have grown tired of this predictably contentious state of affairs.

The resolution of this condition couldn’t be simpler – to me at least. All must recognise those who fell in the defence of this country and its people’s aspirations by at least anointing a single convenient and mutually agreeable date at which their memory is commemorated. That would be a celebration of national pride and will go a long way at inculcating the missing feeling of true patriotism.

The country’s National Day would lend itself completely to this cause. Isn’t it the day that nations all over the world lay wreaths at their martyrs’ graves and at symbolic locations? This act draws the whole nation together, further cementing their sense of belonging to their land. It is by no coincidence that some countries also observe a minute of silence. One in which remembrance is a natural result of contemplation.

What’s so different with us that we cannot fathom a route to that goal? The disparity in positions suggests that there is something intrinsic to this impasse. Could that difference be a disagreement on the definition of the word martyr?

The dictionary’s definition is rather bland, it does not taken into account the cultural aspects of this word. But although the difference in interpretation is wide – one’s martyr is another’s terrorist – the common denominator is rather static: it is the sacrifice of one’s life for one’s belief.

Taken in this context, it is easy to understand the somberly lavish commemorations in laying wreaths at the foot of the Unidentified Soldier to remember the dead in a bygone wars and other calamities. They are all in the past, though.

Our situation is different. Ours is the commemoration of lives lost during a current reign. Having the rulers to agree to this is akin to their acknowledgment of their own culpability in the demise of those we are paying tribute to. This, I feel, is the crux of the problem. It is why laws like the General Amnesty for Crimes Affecting National Security have been promulgated and tremendous efforts exercised to brush these issues under perennial carpets.

As the various conflicts at every martyrs commemoration activity since 2001 attest, this is not a wise resolution. Much needed closure is missing.

A new way of thinking is required to resolve this issue. Another set of sacrifices is needed by the disparate parties to achieve the status of equitable equilibrium. All need to honour the memory of those who laid their lives to provide the foundation for this country. Their memories should be made into a recognised beacon guiding current and forthcoming generations not to take things for granted.

Thirteen civil societies intimately and correctly recognise this condition and its dire need for closure. They proposed a program through which truth and reconciliation is pursued. We know that this works from experience gained from countries which have trodden this path before us. Their enacting such commissions took great courage that paved that difficult road with further necessary sacrifices. The end result; however, was their ability – finally – to turn over a brand new page. It allowed them to go forth into their futures with an assurance that they made peace with their past. From those hard lessons they gained tremendous strength that proved to be a bedrock of their stability.

Isn’t it high time that we consigned tired and empty platitudes to the rubbish heap and boldly trod the courageous road to an equitable future?

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