Tag Archives Society

Social Affairs?

Mohammed Al-Maskati, head of the unlicenced BYSHRCan someone explain to me the role of the Ministry of Social Affairs please?

Is it put there to encourage social responsibility and enact programs which do good to the community, or is it to discourage such endeavors?

It certainly seems to be the latter than the former.

Take Mohammed Al-Maskati’s case for instance. The guy created and heads the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights and has been quite active in that sphere, yet when he applied to the ministry to register his fledgling society he got refused. Their regulations apparently do not recognise any person below 18 to be of sound mind and body to be socially active, and the BYSHR has generated a lot of interest in that sector. The objection appears to extend to other intangibles, one of which is that Mohammed’s sin is to be directly related to the regime’s supreme undesirable Abdulhadi Al-Khowajah who happen to be the head of the disbanded BCHR. All in all, they seem to have taken offense at this kid meddling in the big boys’ sphere.

Regardless and notwithstanding the aforementioned, I still do not understand why anyone who wants to do good needs to seek express permission to do so in this country!

I don’t know what their motive is, but I’ll assume the best and think that they just don’t like competition.

In the mean time, I would like to express my full support to the BYSHR and affirm its right to exist and to do good by and for the community.

Hands off MoSA, you’re not doing this country any good by those unfair regulations you are trying to shove down the civil societies’ throats.

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Renewed official stance on corruption

Corruption

Like everyone else in Bahrain, I was thrilled to read our Crown Prince’s unequivocal statement that corruption will no longer be condoned and that even if a minister was implicated in corruption, he or she will get their just desert.

I also remembered that our parliament has discussed this issue and the committee tasked with formulating that new law has rendered its decision1 to approve a parliamentary discussion of this law. I hope that with the Crown Prince’s push, that law will see the light during the forthcoming new term.

This re-enforced political will is wonderful to behold especially in view of the accelerating corruption cases brought against various managers in government-owned companies like ALBA, Gulf Air and most recently ASRY. I hope at the very least these people being brought to justice will at least get those corrupt officials to sit up and feel a bit embarrassed and take their thieving hands out of the cookie jar for a while at least. One would hope that this new political will will also force them to refill those jars from whatever that had stuck to their nimble fingers.

Unfortunately however, these kind of promises have been heard before but never sufficiently followed up; or at least if they have been followed up no conviction was been meted out to the corrupt. On the contrary, in some cases, people implicated in corrupt activities were actually promoted, as we have most recently witnessed in someone who was implicated in the infamous Bandargate fiasco.

Cases like the Housing Bank, GOSI and others are still fresh in people’s minds. So calls like these – with all due respect – need to really be followed up and convictions of the corrupt be levied in order for this political will to have some legitimacy and for it to regain its credibility.

Let me remind you that corruption is not only monetary, but other forms do exist as well which must be taken care of. In Bahrain for instance, the financial corruption might not exceed other forms of corruption like nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, avoiding the law, etc. However, corruption is no longer just restricted to these traditional arenas, it is more completely defined as:

Corruption obtains when an official transfers a benefit to an individual who may or may not be entitled to the benefit, in exchange for an illegal payment (the bribe). By taking the bribe, the official breaks a legally binding promise he gave to his ‘principal’ (usually the state administration or a private company) to allocate the benefit to those entitled to it. Corruption is neither a property of a social system or an institution, nor a trait of an individual’s character, but rather an illegal exchange. Nowadays scholars have abandoned the classic view of corruption as the degradation of an individual’s ethical sense, or lack of moral integrity. If corruption is a type of exchange it can, at least in principle, be the subject of empirical, cross-country examination. For data, scholars turn mainly to three sources, the German-based NGO Transparency International; the World Bank, and, to a lesser extent, Freedom House. These agencies all produce large cross-national surveys and ranking of countries, although the data come with a variety of biases. Naturally, illegality makes it hard to measure corruption.

Which brings me to the last few years’ CPI rating for Bahrain which has degraded appreciably. One only hopes that with the affirmation and bluntness of the Crown Prince this time, that things will really get moving in the right direction. Finally.

If I may suggest a few small thing to aid in inculcating the culture of anti-corruption: create a provision in law to protect whistle-blowers, cancel that heinous Press and Publications Law 47/2002 to allow news reports to out corruption and its benefactors and let’s see some sentences handed down against high-profile corrupt public employees and appropriate their misbegotten wealth. I am sure that should these things be enacted, our CPI rating will most certainly rise. Much more importantly of course, Bahrain’s credibility both national and international will be much enhanced, and people’s lives here will be bettered.

Now what’s the Anti Corruption Hotline number again?

[1] pdf document in Arabic

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bin Rajab’s redefines the role of maatems

bin rajab celebrates the healthy return of his majesty the king of Bahrain

I am so gratified that we have visionaries in this society and am doubly so when I find an honourable member of the reigning cabinet extends himself even further by bridging the cultural gap that maatems[1] traditionally play in society.

For instance, what is wrong with local maatems, like the ancient and quite famous Ma’atem bin Rajab, holding meetings to celebrate the healthy return of our beloved king? What is wrong with almost all the maatems in Muharraq putting up boards of welcome and well-deserved congratulations for our illustrious prime minister for receiving the honour of the UN Habitat Medal? Of course this is part of their mandate as they reflect the people’s views from the grass-roots up and their love of this country. It is – I understand – nothing to do with positional politics at all, but a clear and an unadulterated fiesta of gushing love to our beloved leadership.

I shall of course attempt to be present at this national festival of love and urge everyone to do their utmost to do so too.

I wish to congratulate the right honourable excellency Mr. Mansour Hassan bin Rajab for taking this very much needed initiative and pray God that that ancient area of Manama which embraces his family’s maatem not to suffer any electricity blackout during the celebrations and poetry recitals.

[1] Maatems: plural, religious halls of mourning frequented mainly by the Shi’a.

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Lip Explosion

Lip Explosion

Lip Explosion, originally uploaded by malyousif.

I took a visiting friend around to Seef Mall for some “authentic Bahraini cuisine” in the shape of the excellent Yum Yum Tree grill and we both enjoyed the feast!

Anyway, after stuffing ourselves, we walked about the centre a bit and he wanted to buy his wife something nice. We stopped at a perfume shop and what I saw at the checkout desk was amazing. I couldn’t believe what some people would do to themselves “just to look beautiful”. I asked the shop assistant about this product and she told me that this is a rather high moving item!

Doesn’t anybody bother to read the ingredients? When they say “explosion” they’re NOT kidding! I am sure a kid would be able to make such a powerful bomb out of this muck, so how can “thinking” people actually put this on a sensitive part of their body is beyond me.

I wonder if these products ever make it to the Ministry of Health before being made available for general sale.

Anyway, I hope whoever does put this muck on their lips waits a few days before lighting a cigarette, then I have no doubt that their whole face will explode!

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Malkiya Restored

Malkiya saga - riot police protecting the wrong side!

It took two years of continuous struggle and hard work and only a few seconds for the Malkiya beachfront situation to be resolved. The king – yes, himself – intervened and ordered the illegal fish-traps removed. The traps of course were installed to prevent people from “trespassing” in the sea in front of a hardly used estate, and were erected in the first place to compensate for the huge loss of face suffered by the owner of said estate – Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the king’s cousin – when he was ordered two years ago to remove a separation wall he again illegally built.

The papers have branded the removal of the fish traps a win for Bahrain. I don’t. I regard it more as the full highlighting of the complete disregard that some hold the laws, and an affirmation that laws in this country are applied selectively; more-over, the state itself provides the resources for some people to continue to trample all over these laws.

Why else are there riot police stations within the contravening estate hurling abuse at people and officials without and preventing an official work party from removing the traps? Are those “peace keepers” beholden to the transgressor in any way? Are they in his employ, or are they – as they should – in the employ of the Kingdom of Bahrain sworn to serve its people and protect it from harm?

Malkiya fish traps story in pictures

Why is it that after a week of the responsible authority issuing its order to remove the traps from the area their order goes unheeded and it takes the king to intervene in such a trivial matter?

They say that justice should not only be applied, but seen to be applied. Both situations – as evidenced by this debacle – are very far removed from our shores.

I wonder what trick would be employed next to prevent people from “trespassing” on what should be public property, my guess is that it won’t be too long for the press and people to be made busy once again with another brouhaha that would divert the country’s attention from more pressing issues.

UPDATE 070822: Municipal Councillor Yousif Al-Boori is a liar. Neither Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad communicated with him in regards to the Malkiya fish traps, nor did the King intervene and Shaikh Khalid bin Mohammed, the fish traps owner, was the epitome of cooperation in getting them removed and did not hinder their removal. All this morning’s papers are saying so!

إلى ذلك، نفت الهيئة العامة لحماية الثروة البحرية والبيئة والحياة الفطرية تصريحات البوري الذي ادعى فيها أن رئيس الهيئة سمو الشيخ عبدالله بن حمد آل خليفة قام بالاتصال به شخصياً، موضّحةً أن مدير مكتب رئيس الهيئة هو الذي اتصل، مبلّغاً اهتمام سموه بإزالة جميع الحظور «المخالفة» بالمملكة بحسب البرنامج المتفق عليه.
الوسط – ٢٢ أغسطس ٢٠٠٧

So there!

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Rude Awakenings

الأمور بدأت في التحول تزامناً مع الثورة الإيرانية

وواصل بوحسين حديثه بالإشارة إلى ذكريات تجربته بالعمل في الحكومة بعد الثورة الإيرانية في العام 1979، مبيناً أنه كان مديراً تنفيذياً في ديوان الخدمة المدنية، وأنه لاحظ آنذاك تغيراً في توجه الجهة الرسمية، الذي رافقه توجس الحكومة من قطاع من الشعب الذين يمثلهم الشيعة، وخصوصاً فيما يتعلق باندماجهم في وزارات الدولة.

وقال عن هذه الفترة: «نظراً إلى كوني في قلب الحدث الذي تمت فيه الترقيات والتوظيف، بدأت الحكومة بتغيير وزير الدولة لشئون مجلس الوزراء جواد العريض ونقله إلى وزارة الصحة، وكنت حينها في دورة في الخارج، وكنت مهيأً لأن أرأس ديوان الخدمة، وبعد رجوعي لاحظت أن الأمور تحولت في السياسة تجاه طائفة معينة».
(translate full report)

I’m not sure why the government and the people who are in charge of it continue to hide their heads in the sand as far as the problems facing Bahrain are concerned, especially if former high officials and the remainder of the Bahraini populace not only see these problems which have encircled and are throttling us, but actually live and feel their effects day by day.

Are those people so far removed from the street that they really aren’t aware of the dire feelings of despair permeating through the air? Or is the situation really much worse than that assumption as they simply don’t care?

In the recent weekly Al-Wasat Seminar which hosted a former under-secretary, an activist as well as parliamentary members, a number of bombs were dropped and have been documented and reported in today’s paper. The issue is that everyone is now talking about clear sectarianism and marginalisation policies which have been in methodical effect since the previous parliament was disolved; actually, since independence.

If this situation is not addressed head on by a proper political will which can sponsor, create and abide by the findings of truth and reconciliation commissions, this country is in for a very very rude awaking.

Goodness knows how many will perish this time around just to save for a few bruised egos which have taken selfishness to new unprecedented heights.

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Big business delays progress of democracy in Bahrain

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Firm vows to bear 1pc cut in salary
The Bahrain National Holding Company announced yesterday that it is to bear the costs of the government’s one per cent unemployment benefit tax for its nearly 200-strong workforce.

Officials yesterday said the firm had already begun making deductions from staff salaries last month but that following a thorough management study, it was decided to ease the burden on employees. This includes employees of both of its fully owned subsidiaries, Bahrain National Insurance and Bahrain National Life.
more…

This is a message to those companies whose officers are deluded by their “magnanimous gesture” of bearing the 1% unemployment benefits contribution on behalf of their employees: You are not doing Bahrain any favours, what you are doing is simply delaying the country’s progress in the long term.

We’ve all heard that idiom which says that the only two constants in life are death and taxation. Taxation has been hidden in our Gulf countries and has been named anything but its real name because of the prevailing thinking is that taxation is bad and we must promote our countries as tax havens. This is not a good thing. Whether we like it or not, we will have to pay income and corporate taxation sooner or later, and the sooner we get used to paying taxes, the better we will be.

Why? Because our lethargic and submissive culture will gradually change. When one pays their hard-earned cash into the government’s coffers, that person will ultimately demand to know how that money is being spent with all that simple demand entails: ultimately, a proper political representation and a proper voice in how our governments are run.

What these “do gooder” companies are doing is nothing but robbing us of that proper representation chance and delaying its onset by several years if not decades.

They should most certainly re-examine their position and think of the long term competitiveness and political stability of the country rather than providing this silly and unneeded momentary band-aid which will do nothing but prolong a much needed healing process.

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Happy 36th Independence Day Bahrain!

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Bahrain F1 Grand Prix 2005 - 107

Today is the 36th anniversary of Bahrain gaining its independence from Great Britain. Although the day is not officially celebrated saving that holiday to the National Day which falls on December 16 of every year, it should not deter us as Bahrainis from reflecting on this historically joyous event.

Happy Independence Day Bahrain, may your people live long and prosper in social harmony and much happiness.


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It’s coming…

Bahraini smart identity card

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

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

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

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

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

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The results of accountability surfacing?

Chapter 1:

A botched up series of events starting with an inaccurate call to the emergency line alerting an operator that a woman was in trouble and needs immediate medical help led to a delay in dispatching an ambulance to the concerned area.

Ultimately, it took the medical emergency personnel to arrive three hours after the initial call, but only after another doctor intervened and personally called a resident doctor in the Emergency Department at Samaniya Medical Centre.

But it was too late. Ms. Nalli Mariamma died.

Her body was also left unattended for another hour after she was pronounced dead by the medical personnel after which they left the area and the police investigation department who were then the responsible government organ to take possession of the body took another hour to arrive to claim the body.

Such is the respect of our various government departments for human dignity.

Alas, we can look at the positives in this regard in that a report has now been published by the medical authorities and real changes have been undertaken as a direct result of this botch-up. The report just released now carry adopted recommendations that ambulances should immediately be dispatched to the general area they are required and the dispatcher will continue to try to ascertain exact addresses and inform the ambulance driver of that address once known. As Bahrain is rather small, it is hoped that even without a precise address, people will guide the ambulance to where their services are required. All in all, this will allow – I hope – a faster response time which might save some lives.

I also hope that another thing that the report apparently did not consider should be done about inter-governmental communication, especially between emergency and police services. Or is that what the much talked about “Emergency Response Centre” is supposed to do? If it is, then why wasn’t it involved?

Further, if I may suggest, the authorities should bring out and severely action a law which immediately fines/imprisons all those inconsiderate drivers who do not immediately get out of the ambulances and fire engines’ way as well as those who take the chance of those vehicles passing to chase after them at a rate of knots because the way is now open!

In any case, something good has come out of this situation; so thank you Ms. Mariamma, your life – we hope – has not expired in vain.

Chapter 2:

humaidan-aali-papers.jpg

Some reportedly already entered papers into the Ministry of Labour’s computers have been improperly disposed off. The story is still sketchy but it appears that a driver was given a bunch of reams of unemployed people’s application forms to take to a storage depot in Hamad Town but on arrival at the destination they were refused to be received because of improper paperwork. Acting on his own recognisance and switching on his immense creative genes, he decided to dump those papers in a garbage can in the village of A’ali which lies in between both destinations!

Those papers were discovered, the local MP was called for perfect picture opportunities who reportedly has called an under-secretary from the Ministry of Labour to the scene to show him the discovery.

Uncharacteristically, the under-secretary owned up to the feat and offered an immediate apology and promised a transparent investigation into the incident and ordered the papers’ removal for proper disposal. The report was supposed to have been released today so I hope to read its findings tomorrow.

The upside of this incident of course is the discovery that even officials (now) actually do own up to their Ministry’s errors without having to resort to the age-old-tried-and-tested method of Bahraini derrière coverage.

The other upside of this is that the sanctity of private information has once again come to the fore, and that the government and parliament should put in place proper laws to protect our valuable data and hopefully criminalise its abuse. Maybe the parliament can also turn their collective sights on the so called “Smart Card” and include its embedded data under a new and well rounded Data Protection Act.

This two unfortunate chapters have the real potential of being excellent news as they demonstrate that officials have now started to realise that they are under the public sights and are required to do something tangible and immediate about infractions and mistakes perpetrated by their organisations and that taking proper and immediate actions are far better methods of damage control.

Well done to both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour on their actions. We hope to see more ministries following in your footsteps.

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