Vol XXVIII NO. 67 Thursday 26 May 2005
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Our honourable MPs continue to baffle me.
On Tuesday, parliament met to discuss air pollution in Bahrain, among other trivial matters such as our national budget, caring for the elderly and salary increments for civil servants, to name a few.
The problem is that there is so little time left and so much to discuss before they take their long-awaited summer recess, thanks to their endless squabbles on whether music concerts should be allowed or banned in Bahrain.
As a result, issues have to be rushed.
All that time wasted discussing legitimate entertainment activities, which have been approved by the state, could have really been utilised to carefully scrutinise an issue as serious as the quality of the air we are forced to breathe.
Figures issued to MPs by the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife about the quality of air make no sense whatsoever.
However, not a single MP stood up at the meeting to question what they meant.
For instance, figures for the Southern Governorate show that the level of hydrocarbons (other than methane) in the air was 686 times above internationally acceptable levels, in a year.
What the report fails to mention is how many times the level of these gases was checked in a year, to give people a clear indication of what the level of pollution really is.
Another glaring omission is the lack of any data about the levels of such emissions in the Central Governorate, which covers the heavily populated areas of Isa Town and A'ali and the heavily industrialised areas of Sitra and Ma'ameer, because "equipment to measure them has broken down".
It is a common fact that no matter how smart you are, you cannot continue to fool people all the time.
But our MPs continue to surprise us because again, they have been fooled by a few figures which they couldn't decode to begin with.
Not one of them stood up at that meeting to ask why those figures were incomplete.
They should have asked why one of Bahrain's heaviest industrialised areas has been left without checks on the level of air pollution since 1997.
They should have called for the questioning of officials who year after year have pledged cleaner production and close to zero pollution.
If that is the case, and our industry is really clean, how can it be proved in the absence of figures.
If the pollution levels in those villages were really within regulations, why are the figures being hidden from the public.
Or, are the lives of people of Sitra and Ma'ameer cheaper than others?
Vol XXVIII NO. 51 Tuesday 10 May 2005
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
"Amira, hasn't the GDN gone a bit overboard with stories about pimps, brothels and general prostitution?"
This is an SMS message I got on my mobile from a friend the other day.
In addition to being a dear friend, the sender is also a distinguished businessman and someone whose opinions I value and take to heart.
Instead of answering him in person, I chose to respond to it here, as I am fully aware that many readers find such stories disturbing.
As a Bahraini, I am shocked every time we hear about such incidents, even though they have become recurrent themes.
It hurts every time I hear about yet another woman being terrorised by thugs or a young boy or girl's innocence smeared by some human monster who thinks he can get away with his horrible act just because nobody is watching.
I am sorry we cannot change reality and the reality is that such things occur - even in our close-knit Muslim society.
Whether we like it or not, there are children being sexually abused, women raped and young boys sodomised and keeping quiet about it will not solve the problem overnight.
The latest story we carried in the GDN is about a muezzin, the very man who calls for prayer, who made sexual advances to a nine-year-old Bahraini boy at a Hamad Town mosque.
The case was heard in court and the judge jailed the 24-year-old muezzin for two years as a punishment for his hideous crime.
Did the GDN make up this story?
The answer is NO. We did not fabricate this story. In fact, it is not the first time that such a thing has happened in a place of worship and I am sad to say that it may not be the last time because there are hypocrites everywhere - even in mosques, churches, temples and government offices.
Instead of asking a newspaper to cover up on corruption in society, let's face reality and learn how to deal with it.
Maybe then we can come up with solutions and try and educate people about their rights and their responsibilities.
Covering up horror stories happening behind closed doors is not the solution. Sticking our heads in the sand won't take us anywhere and will definitely not take such problems away.
Not reporting those stories in newspapers will not mean that such ugly crimes are not happening in Bahrain.
Instead of blaming the GDN for carrying such stories, let's take a serious look at our society and see what it is that those perverts find sexually exciting in little girls and boys who should be left alone playing with their toys rather than be subjected to such life-damaging experiences.
Vol XXVIII NO. 50 Monday 9 May 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
I would like to applaud Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa for having the courage to call a spade a spade.
In an unprecedented move, he has called for a full and thorough investigation of misconduct and criminal activity at the General Directorate of Traffic.
Now the allegations are not the usual ones we hear about, like someone having influence over someone else to change traffic accident reports, or cancel violations before they are entered into the computer system, or even to pass someone who should have failed the driving test.
No, they are much more calculated crimes, involving heavyweights with the influence and means to abuse their power and look like the innocent flower, while they are the serpents under it.
Shaikh Rashid has ordered a probe to investigate a string of car thefts, involving traffic officials and other influential people.
They have allegedly created a web to steal cars, change their number plates and chassis numbers in traffic records, register them in the names of foreigners who are living here or have left Bahrain and then resell them in the market!
Wow! That's a cracking plan - a great one had it been masterminded by the Mafia and not by the very people employed to safeguard people's rights and protect them from such criminal activities.
It is the fact that those people were entrusted with the responsibility to protect law and order that hurts most.
Who are we to turn to next time our car vanishes from outside our home? You see, not everyone is privileged enough to have a garage with a top-of-the-range security system.
Personally, I wasn't the least bit surprised when I heard about the scandal.
What has surprised me is that the Interior Ministry has actually announced it and is taking steps to stamp such practices out once and for all.
This is a step in the correct direction and corruption should be exposed to set an example for others that such unscrupulous behaviour will not be tolerated in our new democracy.
Just as the crime was announced in public, I hope that the results of the probe will also see light in order to bring respect to a ministry whose main job is to protect law and order.
There will always be certain individuals who are corrupt and who will abuse their positions no matter where you place them, just as there are people who respect themselves, their jobs and their uniforms.
I hope that the purge against corruption at the Traffic Directorate will be extended to cover other directorates at the Interior Ministry which have not moved with the times and are not ready to embrace the doctrines of this new era!
I also wish other officials would show such resolve to stamp out corruption in their ministries.
Vol XXVIII NO. 44 Tuesday 3 May 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
I had promised myself not to lash out at MPs again too soon ... but they are not making it easy!
For our honourable MPs are now working towards getting yet another concert banned.
After fulfilling all their promises to the nation, MPs from Al Asala and Al Menbar blocs are putting up yet another fight to halt Star Academy's concert, scheduled to be held in Bahrain later this month.
Just like the infamous Nancy Ajram concert (staged on October 23, 2003), which was given the go ahead by the Information Ministry, organisers of the May 19 show say they also have official approval.
However, our MPs, who have been elected to uphold laws, seem bent on breaking them every step of the way when it comes to any type of entertainment - because they have appointed themselves the nation's vice squad.
After all, Bahrainis cannot behave themselves and need MPs to tell them right from wrong.
Whether we agree with the concert, or its content, or whether we believe it poses a moral threat, the fact is that its organisers have got official approval to go ahead.
This means that in a country with dwindling resources, someone has sat back and thought of a money-making scheme, to bring in revenue in a legitimate way, in line with all the regulations.
But this is not to be.
I am worried that this concert will take the same path as the Nancy Ajram concert and again make my country the butt of jokes in the region and further afield.
In my opinion, calls to ban the Ajram concert brought more harm to Bahrain's reputation and its security than allowing it to simply go ahead.
People are still talking about the concert and the troubles a group of anarchists, who thought they could stop it, caused.
Had the concert gone ahead without trouble, no one would be mentioning it again.
I really don't see what a concert can do to create moral decay in a country where, according to official statistics, almost 26 per cent of people aged 15 to 30 years, have experimented with illegal drugs!
Instead of wasting public resources discussing petty issues, it is high time our honourable MPs came up with better ways to attack this cancer which is slowly eating up our flesh and destroying our only asset - our youth.