Tag Archives gvc-mps

Bandargate, closure in the offing?

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

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

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

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

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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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Salah Ali is innocent!

MP Salah Ali Mohammed 4 million dinar deposit slip is a fake!

This is a fabrication.

I’ve just spoken to officials in both banks and they were adamant in refuting the correctness of the deposit slip. It is fake and manufactured. MP Salah Ali is innocent of this particular claim:

  • 1. The bank does NOT stamp “Signature Verified” on deposit slips, further, BISB’s signature verification stamp is in the Arabic language.
  • 2. The account number given does not belong to Salah Ali
  • 3. No deposit of BD4 million was received in any of their branches on that particular day
  • 4. HSBC’s account number format is xxx-xxxxxxx-xxx; the first 3 digits indicates the branch, the 7 digits are the actual account number and the last 3 digits are internal (indicating savings, current, loan accounts etc.) which is clearly not the format of the number given on that slip.

Therefore, and with further assurances of the officials I spoke to, this is a wholly fabricated situation.

I offer my sincere apologies to MP Salah Ali if I have caused any offence by publishing the original article, but I know he understands that it was done in the interest of fairness rather than malice.

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Parliament pays VERY well for some!

Just got this in an email, a deposit slip of BD 4 MILLION, that is US$ 10.6 million, to account number 1-20853224-1 in the name of one Salah Ali Mohammed at the Bahrain Islamic Bank in the form of a cheque drawn on the HSBC bank account number 99123-1-2 cheque number 223598. The deposit slip is dated 19 Feb 2007.

The only Salah Ali Mohammed I know is the honourable member of parliament and head of the Al-Menber (Muslim Brotherhood) bloc in parliament who contested and controversially won the Central District constituency 4 against Dr. Munira Fakhro of Wa’ad.

Now how can a lowly nutritionist come up with this kind of money?

Can anyone corroborate this?

update 12/4/07: THIS HAS BEEN PROVED FALSE! SEE HERE FOR DETAILS

MP Salah Ali Mohammed 4 million dinar deposit slip is a fake!

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A slip of tongue?

State something once, and you would probably be forgiven for a possible slip of the tongue, but if a it is repeated thrice – as a warning – what other explanation could there be other than the person being warned is a known repeat offender?

Thus was the state of affairs between Mohammed Khaled and his boss Salah Ali last Tuesday in parliament, both of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Al-Menber political society, all of whom are purportedly in parliament due to copious votes gained from out-of-constituency voting centres.

No matter. So what was Salah Ali being warned against by his colleague? He was instructed not to kiss ass – to use colloquial parlance – for the right honourable gentleman has been known to have perfected that vocation.

Uncharacteristically, the right honourable gentleman disappoints in that particular situation, or maybe due to the behest of Khalid – or in spite of him, interpret it as you will – he mildly rebuked the government for throwing out the majority of the parliament’s work over the last few years and retained just 12 projects out of 53 to be brought back into this parliamentary term, as is their right as far as the by-laws are concerned.

I wonder if the right honourable gentlemen of Al-Menber would support other MPs in demanding changes to the parliamentary by-laws to ensure such a situation not to happen again?

I’m not holding my breath.

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Och, there’s nought wrong with ’em

ajmi-najjar.jpg

More than two months after the elections, the Transparency along with the Bahrain Human Rights Societies came out with their Elections Report yesterday in which they affirmed – basically – that the elections were “free and fair”. No reservations. No pointing out the obvious. But even condoned the use of the General Voting Centers which have caused the single most important objection to the elections, along with the “floating 8,000 votes” originally claimed by Salman bin Sager Al-Khalifa, and confirmed by some creative maths by some observers.

Why didn’t they point at least one finger specifically at culprits? Well, they “couldn’t find conclusive evidence” for doing so. And I couldn’t agree more. If they couldn’t find the evidence which confirm or deny an event, then that event is nothing more than a rumour. They didn’t say (at least in none of the three press reports I have read this morning) that they had free and full access to bank accounts, to military and police personnel, clerics and mosque preachers, the blatant temporary re-assignment of Al-Saeedi and Mohammed Khalid to Muharraq’s provinces to preach hate against the Wa’ad candidates, the poisonous SMS messages and the “inability” of the authorities of tracing their senders or any of the other factors which should have been considered and enacted.

They just did not get any conclusive evidence.

Okay, I’ll believe them and they did their work… but in doing so and in the absence of the above information, their combined reputation will definitely be somewhat lessened in view of this report.

They did come up with some good recommendations which if enacted would truly elevate the whole democratic experiment in Bahrain:

    1. The National Assembly should be the only party involved in the coding the Elections Law and should be the only one to oversee everything concerned with it too.
    2. Creation of an independent committee to exclusively manage the elections.
    3. Creation of a committee which includes political societies members, judges, statisticians and demographic experts to be charged with delineating the electoral districts
    4. The Election Law should be the only mechanism for creating and the frequency of change the electoral districts without any political pressure
    5. The acceptance of any citizen to stand in any district for election without having to be living in that district
    6. The electoral roll should contain full voter information including name, address, CPR numbers and vocations
    7. Cancellation of the General Voting Centres to increase the public’s trust in the voting operation
    8. The complete retooling of voting for the elderly and infirm and providing proper monitors at the time of their voting (there were a lot of complaints that illiterate voters were duped)
    9. Limit the amount of electioneering spending by force of law
    10. Allow international monitors to monitor elections to increase the legitimacy of the operation nationally and internationally
    11. The Ministry of Justice and the Endowment directorates should completely monitor places of worship and ban their use in electioneering
    12. Allow candidates to assign more than one agent, but only allow a single representative (agent) within the voting venue at a time

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We’ve got a plagiarist for an MP too!

MP Nasser Al-Fudhala is one of the illustrious GVC MPs who fought, and with the Herculean effort of the government won in the recent elections against Sami Siyadi – a liberal MP fielded by the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), and an excellent lawyer by trade. Nasser is actually very multi-talented, if this site is to be believed; he is an excellent “cut and paste” artist! And again according to the site – and they’ve got documented proof – he didn’t use his talents just once, but seven times!

Well then, he will have his work cut out for him in parliament (pun intended), I just wonder who will be the good soul who will allow him to copy and paste their suggestions and unashamedly adopt them as his own?

No prizes for guessing who that might be…

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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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Parliament might actually work!

Ali Salman (Wefaq) warmly greets Adel Al-Moawdah (Asala) at a banquet thrown by Al-Wefaq in honour of the newly elected MPs of the 2006 parliament

This is not a picture that would tug at the heart strings of people like Jassim Al-Saidi and Mohammed Khalid, both sworn to disrupt any move by the Al-Wefaq Islamic Society to discuss or propose any law. Mohammed Khalid is on record by swearing that he will “not let Al-Wefaq touch the Defence budget even at the expense of his own decapitation” which is rather naive coming from a politician whose primary function is to oversee government spending and ensure its transparency.

Neither is that a picture that would sooth the various nay-sayers who somehow got it into their heads that the only reason that Al-Wefaq has joined the political fray is to perform a mass walkout within the first few months of parliament’s convening and create chaos in the country and make it unmanageable.

It is a good picture however, and I realise that these are early days yet, which sends out signals of hope to the community that good things can be expected from what is essentially a divided sectarian chamber but which recognises that these sects have lived side-by-side for centuries in Bahrain; hence, there is every chance that they could peacefully coexist for the next four years and work together for the good of Bahrain. So there is every reason to at least be cautiously hopeful.

This is a picture taken at a banquet held by Al-Wefaq to honour newly elected MPs. All have been invited, 30 turned up, 8 apologised for various reasons while two – the ones mentioned above – boycotted the dinner which says a lot about what is expected of them in the next four years. The whole parliament should be wary of them and not allow itself to be drawn into unnecessary and useless fights initiated by those two.

If the warm smiles are anything to go by, then I am rather optimistic that even without the liberals being present in parliament to calm potential sectarian misunderstandings or all out fisticuffs, that these two parties are going to play nice and hopefully concentrate on issues germane to our country.

The picture shows Al-Wefaq’s Shi’i leader Shaikh Ali Salman on the left warmly greeting the Salafist party Al-Asala’s spiritual leader Shaikh Adel Al-Mo’awdah at the banquet; some people might have regarded the two as arch enemies, but either this picture proves otherwise, or they are consummate politicians! Flippancy aside, there have been various indications in the past that the two would work well together, there have also been reports of the two meeting even during Wefaq’s parliamentary boycott. There are several other pictures in Al-Wasat this morning, and one even showing a broadly smiling Wefaq MP warmly greeting Sami Al-Buhairi who is a naturalised Bahraini of Yemeni descent. (link is a pdf file)

The same could not be said about Al-Menber’s relationship with either; however. They have run a very dirty and insidious election campaign which ensured their presence in this parliament but which has lost them all hearts and minds of the public. But instead of attempting to fix relationships, the Menber leader Salah Ali (who is popularly referred to now as one of the many GVC MPs) squarely accusing Al-Wefaq of planning to create strife within parliament so that it too would be dissolved as was the case with the 1973 parliament! I am glad however that the person who stood up to him was not from Al-Wefaq, but actually Menber’s elections partners Al-Asala’s president Ghanim Al-Buainain who shot that hypothesis down and seconded what Ali Salman declared in that Al-Wefaq has more in common with Al-Asala and even the Muslim Brotherhood’s principals than their disagreements, and that he is confident the no one willingly entered parliament simply to “walk out”.

Since the elections, Al-Wefaq has impressed me. They did not engage in mudslinging as has Al-Menber, they have sent out good signals to everyone, they have taken the time to immediately thank their constituents and visit all the community religious and society leaders, they have visited various leading businessmen in order to allay their fears, they have created the opportunity to bring all MPs together for dinner and discussions, they have not publicly demanded the Speaker’s chair nor did they bicker with other parties on which committee or position they would insist on, but worked on all of these issues quietly; thus, showing their political acumen and astuteness. I do hope that they will carry on in the same track. They’ve even invited Al-Menber to their functions and I suspect wanted to show them that they are ready to turn a fresh page in their relationship going forward. I just think that the last part – unfortunately – is a wasted exercise on those people.

There is a lot to do over the next four years, and the less useless fighting they have, the more efficient parliament is going to be and, hopefully, the more chances there will be to fix the disasters of the last parliament.

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