Bahraini crown prince opens Manama Dialogue forum, decries West`s scrutiny
BBC Monitoring Middle East
December 08, 2012
Bahrain`s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa speaks at the opening ceremony of the 8th International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Regional Security Summit, the Manama Dialogue, in Manama, December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Report by Sandeep Singh Grewal: “End violence call by crown prince”
The Crown Prince last night called on Bahrainis to unite amidst the political stalemate, stressing he was not “Prince of Sunni Bahrain” or “Prince of Shia Bahrain” but the Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, said Bahrain`s “silent majority” had paid the price for the ongoing street violence and sent a strong message to all political groups, including the opposition, that “face-to-face” talks were imperative.
An end to street violence and open dialogue between the government and political groups is the only way forward, he stressed.
He said responsible opposition leadership was called for as the country heals rifts caused by last year`s unrest.
He was speaking at the opening of the eighth International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Regional Security Summit: The Manama Dialogue 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.
“Political figures who disagree with the constitutional structure or performance of the government must condemn violence. Silence is not the option,” said the Crown Prince at the conference, which is being held under his patronage.
“I call on all of the senior leadership of those who disagree, including the ayatollahs, to condemn the violence on the street unequivocally... and more to prohibit it.
“Unleashing people power means that we must respect the opinions of the people and there is a silent majority who feel their voices are unheard, they are the ones who go to sleep at night with no security at their gates, they are the ones who live in mixed communities representing different sects, ethnicities and political beliefs.
“They are the ones who have to live day-to-day with a spectre of sectarian conflict erupting that may damage themselves, interests, their future or children at any time. That cannot happen -responsible leadership is called for.
“The majority of the people of Bahrain want a solution that puts the events of last year firmly in the past. I believe dialogue is the way forward. Geopolitically, demographically and historically.
“Different political views must be reconciled and only by sitting together and agreeing on a framework where the limit of what is acceptable is the limit of what is unacceptable to the other with ultimate goal being to reach an agreement.”
The Crown Prince also urged Western countries to work with Bahrain in its reforms process and urged them to stop exclusively scrutinising government action alone.
“I call on you to unequivocally condemn violence if it ever occurs. We will continue to do our part, but you will help us all if you do yours,” he said.
“There is a moral responsibility on all sides that we must heal these wounds, we must stop violence, we must reduce the fear and we must stop bigotry. Wishing for peace never works but peacemaking does.
“I am not Prince of Sunni Bahrain. I am not Prince of Shia Bahrain. I am a Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain and this means a great deal to me personally.
“If we hold human dignity, security and justice above all, we will prevail.”
The Crown Prince praised the efforts of the Interior Ministry in its reforms process following the events of last year.
“Changing tactics on ground and under very difficult circumstance with 1,700 police officers wounded, some lost their lives, they (Interior Ministry) continue to maintain discipline required for an environment to bring people together,” he said.
“Security is not only the guarantor of stability. Without justice there can be no freedom and without freedom there cannot be true security.”
The Crown Prince said the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report released last year had fundamentally changed the political landscape, calmed last year`s situation and prevented many people from exaggerating events beneficial to their point of view.
“We must do more to improve training and capacity of our own judges, change laws which stil l can lead to in my opinion judgements which go against protection guaranteed in our constitution. We must do more to stop selective enforcement of law. This is the key that will build trust,” he said.
He also praised the UK government for their contribution in the reform process and GCC governments, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for ensuring security in the country.
“Diplomats, leadership and the government of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of the UK, you have stood head and shoulders above others, you have engaged all stakeholders, you have kept open doors for all sides at a very difficult and sometimes unclear situation,” he said.
“Your help in police reforms, judicial reforms and direct engagement with leadership and members from the opposition have saved lives.”
Heavy police presence was seen at strategic locations in Bahrain ahead of the opening of the Manama Dialogue yesterday. Special security forces and the National Guard were deployed near the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa, where the Middle East`s most influential security conference is taking place. Plain clothes officers were also present inside the hotel.
Source: Gulf Daily News website, Manama, in English 8 Dec 12
© 2012 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
The manama dialogue
December 08, 2012
It is imperative that any dialogue that deals with Bahrain and the Gulf region – especially from the perspective of regional security and stability – includes the following statistics. I call upon all participants to take them into consideration, especially those participants interested in promoting democracy.
It has been documented that radical organisations in Bahrain have, in less than twelve months, committed the following crimes that have been witnessed by ordinary citizens of Bahrain: 11,000 acts of violence since January 2012, equating to a daily average of 34 violent crimes 465 assaults on security officers, out of which 65 caused permanent disability, including severe burns, and six have been fatal numerous injuries to civilians; in the last incident two days ago, three citizens were injured when they lost control of their car due to terrorists spilling oil on the main street 120 police vehicles gutted To undertake such acts of violence, terrorist organisations have used in their illegal protests 2,105 metal rods (equivalent to 18 tons of metal), 556 gas cylinders, and 14,022 Molotov cocktails Since January 2012 Security Forces have confiscated: 8,695 tyres that the radicals were intending to use for burning and blocking roads.
776 gallons of petrol to light these tyres and prepare Molotov cocktails (equivalent to 198 barrels of oil) 14,000 bottles for the production of Molotov cocktails It must be emphasised that any debate concerning Bahrain`s security that does not refer to these statistics will essentially be irrelevant to Bahrainis.
Failure to discuss the above mentioned terrorist acts, and to recognise those who commit them as terrorists will only help to foster terrorism.
The problem is amplified when one recals that Bahrain`s total population hardly exceeds one million, of which less than 650,000 are Bahrainis. The intensive campaign of violence undertaken by the radicals has become a serious obstacle to normal life.
Please allow me to express myself bluntly; we are an ambitious nation, we have recently developed our own experience in democratisation and implementing the proper tools to administer our own affairs.
Our young democracy has been internationally cherished and praised by many world leaders as recently as a few years ago. In 2005, Bahrain signed a free trade agreement with the US, confirming that Bahrain had fulfilled all the requirements for safeguarding public freedoms and democratic institutions.
In less than a decade; 13 political societies were established, together with 650 civil society organisations (an average of one civil society per thousand citizens).
Female representation in the legislative authority rose to 25%. We have local laws that regulate public protests and strikes, and welfare policies that include unemployment insurance.
Bahraini citizens have enjoyed all these rights over the past ten years. There has been an average of two demonstrations organised by different political societies every week. The main political societies who boycotted the elections of 2002 participated later with a list of 18 nominees and won all the seats they competed for thereby creating parliament`s largest bloc.
During this decade annual economic growth reached 6%. The Heritage Foundation Bahrain ranked first in the region in economic freedoms, and per capita income exceeded $40,000. The recent constitutional amendments further enhanced the Representative Councils` authority in approving the government`s agenda or to decline the governments in a vote of no confidence, and the regulatory authority was confined to the representative council in Parliament.
We have not reached a level of perfection but we still have ambitions to develop our democratic experience and we need to develop our own skills over time, but this can only be achieved in a stable and secure environment.
When the political crisis erupted in many Arab countries, radical groups in Bahrain took the advantage of these crises and initiated a campaign of violence to sabotage the political track, which legitimate political forces chose to implement.
During these difficult times the people of Bahrain and various political groups attempted to express their opinions and to demonstrate where they disagreed with radical organisations. However, many Western institutions turned a blind eye to the violations and crimes committed by the radical organisations, preferring to recognise them as the political opposition and demanding that the Bahraini authorities negotiate with them, thereby ignoring other local political groups and denying Bahrain`s achievements on democratisation, which themselves had won the praise of the international community. The leniency which Western governments showed towards violence in Bahrain was a interpreted as a green light for terrorist organisations to escalate their campaign, resulting in great suffering for ordinary Bahrainis.
This one sided policy has been based on misinformation, and the absence of verification or updating efforts has gravely disappointed many components of Bahrain`s pluralistic society, in turn leading to feelings of suspicions towards western countries, a deterioration in inter-communal relations and the undermining of regional stability.
Moderates, liberals, women, religious minorities and sunnis – in addition to investors – were all threatened when the US administration and the UK at some stage sided with radical organisations whose goals were the elimination of their opponents and the destruction of the political infrastructure.
These western policies caused the revival of radicals on the other side. Sunni extremists – which previously had no place in Bahrain – found a fertile environment for spreading fundamentalism and gaining the sympathy of moderates and liberals united by feelings of fear and despair.
Do western governments realise the dangers of these politically incorrect policies? Do they have a proper assessment on the outcomes of these policies on security and stability in Bahrain and the Gulf region? Such questions should be raised in your dialogue, which we hope will benefit the Gulf`s security and stability.
It would be appropriate to recall some of the issues relevant to recent Western policies in the region.
l The multitudes of occasions in which US interests suffered due to an incorrect assessment of the situation in Iraq, in particular when papers and research proved wrong on the ground.
l The abundance of radical groups that have emerged in Iraq since 2003.
l The numerous Iraqi individuals and groups formerly considered US allies that have become a threat to US regional interests, including the Maliki government which is now acting as an opponent and is implementing antagonistic policies, especially in its relations with Moscow, Tehran Damascus, Hizbullah in Lebanon and, last but not least, the case of Ali Daqdouq.
Can we learn from our mistakes before it is too late? Or do we have to repeat them and pay dearly before it becomes obvious?
© Copyright 2012 Alayam Newspaper. All Rights Reserved.
Shiite protesters demand Bahrain PM`s ouster
Agence France Presse
December 07, 2012
Bahraini anti-government protesters listen to the speaker during a gathering Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, in Manama, Bahrain. Thousands shouted “down with the government” during the gathering, called by several opposition societies to demand freedom for political prisoners and democracy in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
Thousands of Shiite demonstrators in a village near the Bahraini capital on Friday demanded the premier`s ouster in the first officially sanctioned protest since a ban at the end of October, witnesses said.
“Get out, Khalifa!” they chanted, referring to Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, an uncle of King Hamad, who was held the premiership of the Sunni-ruled regime in the Gulf kingdom since 1974.
“We don`t want an appointed government, we want a prime minister who serves the people,” Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the main Shiite opposition grouping Al-Wefaq, told the crowd.
The gathering was the first to be officially allowed since the end of October when the authorities banned all protests to ensure “security is maintained.”
Bahrain`s opposition is demanding that the country`s premier come from the parliamentary majority, and not be appointed from among the ranks of the ruling Al-Khalifa family.
Sheikh Salman on Friday asked protesters not to chant slogans calling for the downfall of the Sunni dynasty, a demand of more radical elements of the Shiite opposition.
He said the right to peaceful protest was guaranteed under international conventions, and demanded the reinstatement of the former Pearl Square, epicentre of month-long 2011 protests but now razed and turned into a junction.
Bahrain has experienced unrest since early last year when authorities crushed protests led by the Shiite Muslim majority demanding a constitutional monarchy and greater rights.
Manama came under strong criticism from international human rights organisations over last year`s deadly crackdown on the protests.
An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to investigate the clampdown found that excessive force and torture had been used against protesters and detainees.
According to the International Federation for Human Rights, around 80 people have been killed in Bahrain since the violence began on February 14, 2011.
© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012.