Bahrain Denies Entry to British Subject Briton Richard Mechan, who was due to fly out to Bahrain this evening to mount a legal case against the Bahrain Government for denial of due process has been informed by the Bahrain Ambassador that he will not be allowed into Bahrain to take up a case against the Bahrain Government. This is a complete denial of rights and shows the Bahrain Government in it’s true light. It is now time our own Government raised this issue with the Bahraini’s as to why they are denying a British Subject access to Justice in Bahrain They’ve obvioulsy got something to hide. Contacts Bahrain Ambassador 0207 201 9170 Foriegn Office 0207 008 0190
Richard Mechan 07792693613
Yo-yo parliamentary probe into misconduct of social security funds Bahrain’s controversial parliamentary committee has failed in the self-assigned job of fixing responsibility for mismanagement of pension funds at the social security services. This marked the first test before the so-called the Chamber of Deputies since the infamous elections in October 2004. Bahrain’s “parliament” is a controversial body, as the majority of electorates shunned voting booths in October 2002. The story relates to investigations into financial irregularities at the General Organisation for Social Insurance (GOSI) and Pension Fund Commission (PFC). GOSI handles private sector pensions while PFC looks after public sector employees. The story came to light in April 2003 when a top social security official publicly revealed the likelihood of both funds failing to meet financial commitments to pensioners in the not too distant future. It took several months before the Chamber of Deputies heeded the warning and launched investigations into possible wrongdoing. A 1,200-page report prepared by a committee served as a basis for grilling ministers associated with pension funds. The report detailed cases of mismanagement at both funds. For instance, GOSI wasted millions of dinars setting up a shopping mall at the Exhibition Avenue in Manama, which proved a drain on its financial resources. Also, the PFC wrote off a multi-million dinar loan extended to the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre. The report uncovered frequent government interventions into the uses of funds at both bodies. However, members were not courageous enough to point the finger at the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who effectively controlled GOSI and PFC. The report quoted a specialised examiner warning that the funds would possibly fail to honour their financial commitments towards the pensioners in the years ahead. The doomsday could be 2009 for GOSI. As to PFC, the civilian fund would face difficulties by 2020 while the military fund by 2043. The ministers of finance and labour run GOSI and PFC, respectively. Accordingly, the supposed deputies quizzed the finance minister plus former and current labour ministers. Eventually, the Chamber of Deputies stipulated several conditions to end the fiasco including repaying lost funds, hiring qualified administers, restructuring the funds’ boards and setting up an independent audit body. Amazingly, no auditors had been checking financial figures at GOSI and PFC. Members then went into a six-week recess and thereby left the issue unresolved (jokingly there are merely four sessions per month divided into two consecutive days every other week). The government used the interval to announce (rather than introduce) changes into the boards of both bodies besides strengthening investment procedures. In return, the cabinet suggested that the issue does not deserve further investigations. On March 9th, the deputies agreed to allow the services committee to query the concerned officials privately, hence dropping a full-scale probe. Then on March 14th, the cabinet sweetened its offer by committing itself to return some BD16 million, which had earlier been written off loans extended to Bahrain Hotels Company and Bahrain International Exhibition Centre. But there is no proof of actual reimbursement. The near conclusion of the probe is proving embarrassing to some deputies, who had presented themselves as champions and protectors of people’s funds. At end, they only wasted more resources and achieved nothing. Bahrain Freedom Movement
16 March 2004
An Impotent Democracy Many months have passed since the commencement of the so-called democracy in Bahrain. Although the parliament was designed to function within pre-determined framework rendering it ineffective, the Government of Bahrain has always said that the democratic system offered for the people of Bahrain is not less than that of any other famous democracies around the world. Many have closely observed the performance of this unique form of “democracy” in search for manifestations of possible similairties between what is cliamed by the government and what is practiced. The curtailed ability of the elected parliament members came has proved once again what the opposition has repeatedly said, that the present situation is a significant retreat in the acquired rights of the 1973 constitution. A democratic system gives power to the people to highlight deficiencies of the government, question its performance, contribute in decision-making and take the leading role in the legislations. Considering these rights, the freedom of the opposition has been curtailed by the new constitution in highlighting various issues of concern and debating them within the parliament and progressing them to conclusive results. A number of cases were raised and debated amongst elected and appointed members of the National Assembly. Examples of these cases are the Political naturalization, unemployment, the social Insurance and Pension Funds organizations. Despite the sensitivity of the cases, and the irrefutable nature of the evidence incriminating many individuals in the public sector, or proving that the Government was behaving outside the law, the Government took no action in response to these cases except to say that there are no violations of the law. All the cases that have been highlighted have shown that there is some room to ask some quesitons regarding issues of concern in the country. However, non of these cases went far enough to address the real issues. Political naturalization continues until this day, unemployment is on the rise with more news of dismissals in the private sector (Al Seef Security Team), and the mismanagement of the Social Insurance and Pension Fund Organizations remains unresolved. Observers are now more convinced than ever that the present conditions emphasize an impotent democracy where the opposition has no influence over major issues in the country, while the Government has an absolute control over the economy, politics and press. Bahrain Freedom Movement
10th of March 2004
The Gulf Cultural Club 45 Chalton Street, London NW1 1HY, Tel: 020 7383 2058, Fax: 020 7387 6369 Saudi Reforms: Between Rhetoric and Reality by Dr Madawi Al-Rasheed* “The lecture will discuss the current proposals for reform in Saudi Arabia, and assess their significance and the readiness of the authorities to respond to them. It will place these demands for reform within the general context of the current internal situation and in the context of American intervention in the region both militarily and through pressure to reform the political configurations in the “Arab” world.” 6.30 pm, Thursday 18th March 2003 refreshments available from 6.00 pm, dinner 8.00 pm
*Madawi Al-Rashhed is a senior lecturer in social anthropology at King’s College University of London. She has worked on Saudi Arabia, history, society and politics. I has also carried out research on Iraqi immigrants in London and more recently she worked on Gulf transnational connections. Book Publications include: Politics in an Arabian Oasis 1991, Iraqi Assyrian Christians in London 1998. A History of Saudi Arabia 2002 ,Counter Narratives: History, Contemporary Society and Politics in Saudi Arabia and Yemen 2004.