A Push for Reforms Guarantees Security and Promotes Trust

The dilemma of trust between the Government and the opposition is an inherited legacy from the pre- reform period and promoting trust between the two requires time, motivation and favorable circumstances on the ground. During the reform period, various political figures that were once in conflict with each other met and found themselves in a new, open and free atmosphere since 2001, but some fears and anxieties have remained.

It seems that the atmosphere of reform was not properly invested, in order to fill the anticipated gap between the two parties. This problem confronts all new democracies, and reform is supposed to dissipate all illegitimate fears and anxieties among the two parties, and not to completely eradicate them, but to gradually reduce them until real ‘naturalization’ is accomplished and the country’s smooth movement to the next stage is achieved. Both parties’ anxieties are justified and both have made mistakes in the past that contributed to the creation of barriers and hard feelings which reached their peak during the recent months, with the escalation of riots and violence actions.

Currently, and after the royal pardon and the active participation of Al Wafaq (supported by supreme religious leaders and social and political figures) in the easing of tensions, it is possible to say that the gap has been adequately bridged, or at least that the bridging process has begun according to correct bases.

The royal pardon, as Shaikh Ali Salman, the President of Al Wafaq Society, said ‘did not stem from Government weakness’, and we can also add that it did not originate from the weakness of evidence against some of those detained in security incidents, for violence, riots and murders did occur, and material evidence is available which shows a clear connection between some of the detainees and what happened. The pardon is a great national achievement for the country and its citizens, and is a crucial step towards easing tensions at minimum costs in order to regain national cohesion between all spectrums of society.’ This is not the issue, and the only reason for the pardon was to give all parties and especially ordinary citizens the chance to regain confidence and hope by continuing the reform process and cooperation of various parties in order to develop the country and legislations and in order to promote the rights of its citizens. Although the problem of the lack of trust has begun to diminish and take its natural size, there remain some questions regarding the future and guarantees of a lasting calm and promoting that trust, as well as the tools for solving any problems which may arise. The King on his part, and in advisory letter, referred to the strengthening of the legislative authority as the primary determinant of future change, and as a channel of communication between the Government and the people and a route towards obtaining their rights. As for Sheikh Salman, he pointed to two important issues which the Government itself has always demanded: first, continuously calling for the practice of freedom of expression including peaceful protests ‘in accordance with the law’, and second, the Society’s willingness to take to the streets if necessary in order to expose and stop advocates of violence and vandalism, and to deprive them of any political cover they may have.

In order for trust to be built and promoted, there is a great need for another push forward for the reform process in addition to other issues including:

  • Compliance with the law which regulates the life of the people and their political practices, as the lack of an ultimate legal reference point or its disrespect destroys trust. The independence of the judiciary must also be emphasized, as well as refraining from violating citizen’s rights.
  • Expansion of the margin of the freedom of expression and the atmosphere of freedom, despite the fact that much of it is already available, through repealing of obstructive laws. Also the ratification of a law that guarantees the maximum amount of freedoms possible and by allowing even more civil society organizations to emerge and become active.
  • Making the work of the Parliament more efficient, as it cannot be regarded as a real reference point even if it is elected, if it cannot achieve accomplishments for citizens. If truth be told, the performance of MPs in the past period has not been at all convincing, as some were involved in squabbles which weakened their position and increased divisions, and this has also reflected badly on the security situation. In order for Parliament to perform its true role, it is necessary that obstructive and disappointing laws which prevent it from developing itself are amended. At the same time, it is difficult to perform these amendments and increase the responsibilities placed on Parliament without an agreement with the executive authority and a plausible amount of trust.
  • Establishing an honor charter for the media by journalists themselves which prevents the media from becoming a tool for causing social, sectarian and political tensions and which deals with cases and breaches- from any source- in an advisory manner and not with defamation.
  • In order to bring about this desired trust there will be always a great need for good will between all governmental and civil parties and it is crucial that all those involved refrain from exaggeration and searching for the mistakes of others, for one cannot attribute every mistake to ‘a government plan’ or a ‘terrorist plot’. It is also important to ignore some of the breaches or the unintentional small mistakes by the Government, political societies or others, as all parties have not yet reached a perfect level of maturity, and the country is still in a transitional period of trial and error.