- Takziah Kepada Keluarga YB Dr. Syed Husin Ali
- [KENYATAAN MEDIA] Ucapan Takziah Kepada Dr Syed Husin Ali
- The Oslo Accords’ calamities
- Israel exploits Egypt turmoil to increase attacks on Gaza farmers
- Rafizi calls for Putrajaya to slash car prices then reduce fuel subsidies
- Anwar will reply to RCI queries raised by Dr Mahathir
- Saudi Arabia’s Road to Implosion
- Dr M must be VERY WORRIED about what Anwar will tell Sabah RCI on Sept 18 – PKR
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 12:47 PM PDT
Kepada saudara seperjuangan Syed Husin Ali
Azizah memaklum kepada saya dengan nada sedih sedu bahawa isteri saudara tercinta, sahabat kami dan pejuang rakyat Allahyarhamah Sabariah Hj Abdullah telah kembali kerahmatullah dengan keadaan tenang diatas riba saudara.
Saya kenal Sabariah, mahasiswi Kelantan yang pendiam tatkala bersama di Universiti Malaya. Kampus, terutama di Dataran Sastera sekonyong-konyong riuh dengan berita pinangan saudara yang kemudian di ijabkabul.
Pastinya kita sering juga berceloteh soal keluarga tatkala bersama merengkuk dalam tahanan ISA di Kem Tahanan Kamunting. Saya terasa lebih mengenali sosok Sabariah, dan ketenagaannya menghadapi suasana kelam dan duka sekian lama. Hanya di kalangan yang mengharungi lingkaran perit derita dapat merasakan beban yang di tanggung mangsa tahanan dan isteri setia.
Namun yang lebih mengesankan adalah kegigihan Sabariah mempertahankan hak penghuni tanah “haram” yang di usir pemaju dan penguasa. Saban bulan pejabat saya di Kementerian Kewangan atau Timbalan Perdana Menteri di hujani fax dari Sabariah mengenai rumah atau perkampungan rakyat yang bakal di robohkan oleh Bandaraya dan utamanya Selangor yang sedang pesat membangun. Malah beliau pernah mencemaskan kami manakala dua bas peneroka Shah Alam yang di usir muncul di hadapan rumah rasmi kami. Saya dan Azizah terpaksa jemput mereka utk jamaah maghrib dan makan sementara menghubungi MB Selangor ketika itu.
Dalam banyak kes, saya secara peribadi dikejutkan dari suasana selesa untuk menghubungi Dato Bandar atau MB agar menjamin pampasan atau layanan lebih adil buat rakyat kerdil. Sabariah memang berjasa kerana tidak ramai yang berani dan di berikan ruang terus ke pejabat peribadi saya. Namun yang di kemukakan adalah nasib serta keluhan rakyat dan tidak pernah selain itu.
Di tahun-tahun kebelakangan ini saudara Syed Husin bisikkan kepada saya dan Azizah mengenai keuzuran Sabariah. Tetapi bekalan doa, dukungan perjuangan tetap tegar.
Kami mendoakan agar ruh Allahyarhamah disemadikan bersama para solehah dan dirahmati Allah azzawajalla.
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 07:22 AM PDT
13 September 2013
TAKZIAH BUAT DR SYED HUSIN ALI DAN KELUARGA
KEADILAN merakamkan ucapan takziah buat mantan Timbalan Presiden Parti, YB Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali dan keluarga di atas pemergian isteri beliau yang tersayang, Puan Sabariah Abdullah yang telah meninggal dunia jam 7.40 malam tadi. Semoga Dr Syed Husin dan keluarga sentiasa tabah, sabar dan redha.
Semoga Allah SWT mencucuri rahmat ke atas roh Allahyarhamah dan menempatkan beliau di kalangan orang-orang yang beriman.
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 01:08 AM PDT
On the eve of the September 1993 Oslo agreements, just before responsibilities were transferred from Israeli hands to the Palestinian Authority, five percent of Gaza’s residents did not have access to running water.
Twenty years later, the United Nations estimates that more than 80 percent of Gazans buy bottled drinking water either because they are not connected to water supply or because the water they receive is undrinkable. The water crisis in the Gaza Strip is just one concrete manifestation of Oslo’s legacy.
Surveying the contemporary Palestinian landscape, everywhere one looks calamities meet the eye. During the first 27 years of occupation (1967-1993), Israel killed an estimated 1,850 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. By contrast, during the 20 years since Oslo it has killed more than 7,100. Following the implementation of Oslo’s so-called separation principle – best captured through Ehud Barak’s slogan “us here, them there” – the average number of annual Palestinian deaths actually increased fivefold.
Along similar lines, the peace accords have increased the economic fragility of the Palestinians. GDP per capita in the West Bank and Gaza has risen from $1,320 in 1994 to $2,489 in 2011, not much more than a $1,000 increase in 18 years. In Gaza, where people now need to buy bottled water, the per capita GDP has risen by less than $300 in two decades, amounting to $1,534 in 2011. Moreover, this minute increase is an outcome of foreign aid and has nothing to do with an improvement of the productive capacity of these two regions. Twenty years after Oslo, Palestinian society is completely dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Just to gain some perspective, during the same period theGDP per capita in Israel rose from $16,029 to $32,123. Thus, the per capita GDP disparity between Israelis and Palestinians increased from $15,000 to a staggering $30,000. Israelis, in other words, have not suffered from the occupation and, indeed, have experienced economic well-being since that dramatic day in Washington, DC.
While there is no causal relation between Israel’s impressive GDP growth and the Jewish settlement project, it too has experienced a dramatic surge. During the past two decades the number of settlers in the West Bank has increased by about a quarter of a million people, from 111,600 settlers in 1993 to more than 350,000 in 2013. If one includes East Jerusalem, then well over half a million Jews now live in the territories from which Israel promised – back in September 1993 – that it would withdraw.
A study conducted by myself and Yinon Cohen from Columbia University shows that during periods of negotiations more Jews migrated to the West Bank. The protracted negotiations, in other words, have only bolstered the settlement project.
Finally, two decades after Oslo, Palestinian society is divided, with the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank suffering from an acute legitimacy crisis.
The crucial question – not least now, when Israelis and Palestinians are back at the negotiation table – is whether these developments are due to some kind of malfunction of the Oslo process, or whether they are its natural manifestation.
Restructuring Palestinian space
The answer lies in the Oslo agreements themselves. If one reads the eight agreements Israelis and Palestinians signed over the years as texts that depict the modification or replacement of existing forms of control rather than peace agreements (as they were presented to the public), then much of what we are witnessing today becomes intelligible. Instead of stipulating the principles for the withdrawal of Israeli power from the Occupied Territories, the Oslo agreements actually specify how Palestinian space would be restructured and Israel’s power would be reorganised.
One cannot fully understand the reorganisation of power in the territories without considering the way the Oslo agreements restructured Palestinian space while preserving Israel’s distinction between the Palestinians and their land. As Israel transferred many of the responsibilities for managing the population to the Palestinian Authority, it retained direct control over most Palestinian space and over what John Torpeyhas called the “legitimate means of movement”.
In order to accomplish this goal, Israel rearranged Palestinian space, creating internal boundaries that produced a series of new “insides” and “outsides” within the Occupied Territories, each one with its own specific laws and regulations. The division of the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C determined the distribution of powers. While in all three areas the Palestinian Authority assumed full responsibility over the civil institutions, only in Area A, which comprises 17 percent of the land, was it given full responsibility for maintaining law and order. Moreover, the areas in which the Palestinians ostensibly have full control are like an archipelago, while the areas controlled by Israel are strategic corridors that interrupt the territorial contiguity of the West Bank.
Intricately tied to the restructuring of Palestinian space was the reorganisation of power, which was carried out in three distinct spheres: the civil institutions, economy, and law enforcement. The overarching logic informing the different agreements is straightforward: Transfer all responsibilities (but not all authority) relating to the management of the population to the Palestinians themselves while preserving Israeli control of Palestinian space and resources.
Following the memorable ceremony on the White House lawn, the changes on the ground were rapid. By August 1994, the Palestinian Authority assumed full responsibility for the Palestinian education system and the dilapidated health institutions as well as social welfare organisations. Full responsibility meant funding and running them, but did not entail full authority.
In education, for example, Israel continued to have a say about the Palestinian curriculum, and could veto the inclusion of certain topics, particularly in disciplines such as history and geography. The representation of Jerusalem is a case in point. Although Jerusalem is presented in Israeli textbooks as Israel’s indivisible and eternal capital, if Palestinians were to depict Jerusalem in a similar manner it was considered incitement. Thus, even in the civil institutions that were handed over to the Palestinians, the agreements stipulated that Israel would maintain a level of remote control.
In the economic field the Palestinians have had even less autonomy. During the first couple of years after Oslo, the word on the street had it that the Gaza Strip would be transformed into the Middle East’s Singapore: Aid would come pouring in, a thriving industry would be established, and the Palestinians would enjoy the fruits of peace.
There are, of course, many reasons why this fantasy did not materialise, including Israel’s ongoing control of all Palestinian borders. One can gain insight into why the optimism was to be short-lived, however, just by looking at the major economic agreement signed by the two parties. The Paris Protocol on Economic Relations established a customs union with Israel based on Israeli trade regulations, allowed Israel to maintain control of all labour flows, and prohibited the Palestinians from introducing their own currency, thus barring their ability to influence interest rates and inflation. The colonial dynamics that had existed since 1967 were simply replicated in this agreement.
This has had far-reaching implications, since the economy serves as the source of revenue for all the civil institutions employed to manage and administer the population, such as the health-care, education and welfare systems. If they do not function properly then a crisis of governance is likely to emerge.
This is one of the reasons why in the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – also known as Oslo II – a relatively large section was dedicated to the Palestinian police force. The agreement expanded the police force, transforming the West Bank and Gaza Strip into zones where the ratio of police to civilians was among the highest in the world. The creation of a strong Palestinian police force was crucial not only because it allowed the Israeli military to shed many of its former policing responsibilities, but also because such a force empowered the new governing body, which had taken upon itself a huge amount of civil responsibility with very few of the tools necessary to provide the services it promised to supply.
A bloated police force was the Oslo response to the increasing loss of legitimacy of both the Oslo process and the Palestinian Authority; its goal was to repress internal opposition.
Oslo’s colonial framework needs to be replaced
All this, it is important to emphasise, is not a matter of interpretation, but rather written in black letters in the Oslo agreements. This is why when Israeli friends ask me why I am not more critical of the Palestinian Authority, I am not eager to the lay the blame on its shoulders. Much criticism is no doubt warranted, but targeting the Palestinian Authority assumes that this governing body is a free agent. The truth, however, is that the Palestinian Authority is a product of Oslo, an Israeli subsidiary of sorts that is confined by structures much greater than it can ever overcome in the current reality.
Reading the agreements carefully it becomes clear how Oslo created the Palestinian Authority as an Israeli subcontractor, and how it transferred to this fledgling body weak civil institutions and a totally dependent economy that could not support the institutions.
The manifestations of this legacy are apparent everywhere – not least in Gaza, where the water crisis serves as an allegory of what Oslo has inflicted on the Palestinians. It is also a good metaphor for the stifling Oslo-effect, particularly because it underscores the fact that Palestinians do not control their own resources – in this case, the water aquifers in the West Bank – and do not have a sustainable infrastructure.
The distribution of water bottles also reflects the type of solutions leaders have offered to the Oslo predicament. Instead of political solutions, they advance neoliberal ones: namely, you don’t have drinkable running water, so why not buy bottles?
Just like Marie Antoinette’s French peasants, who could not eat cakes to sustain themselves, a magic resolution will not emerge from the bottle. It is high time to put an end to Oslo’s colonial framework, and to begin thinking of creative political – rather than neoliberal – solutions to the current devastating reality.
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 01:04 AM PDT
Farming in the Gaza Strip's "buffer zone" is hazardous under the best circumstances. Israeli troops routinely shoot live ammunition at Palestinian farmers in the free-fire area, which stretches hundreds of meters into the besieged territory from the barrier separating it and Israel, and invade their fields with tanks and bulldozers.
But Israel's aggression against civilians in the area has escalated since the Egyptian army deposed elected president Muhammad Morsi and installed a new government on 3 July, according to Gaza's farmers.
"After the coup in Egypt, the Israelis began shooting more heavily," said Abu Jamal Abu Taima, a farmer in Khuzaa, a village in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza.
Abu Jamal is the mukhtar, or elected leader, of the Abu Taima family, 3,500 refugees from Bir al-Saba — a town in present-day Israel called Beersheva — now scattered among the farmlands outside Khan Younis.
He and two dozen other farmers from the family spoke to The Electronic Intifada during and after a meeting they held in Khuzaa.
"Egypt was the guarantor of the last ceasefire agreement [in 2012]," he said. "Now the Israelis are free to do whatever they want."
"Just a few months ago, there was no gunfire. Now there is. We aren't even in season yet, but they have already started to shoot."
Morsi's government brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups on 21 November last year, ending eight days of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip and retaliatory fire from groups in the territory.
As part of the agreement, Israel reduced the "buffer zone," which it had imposed in 2005, from 300 meters to 100 meters, according to the the Israeli military's civil administrative unit, COGAT.
In May this year, following months of conflicting claims about the size of the area by COGAT and the Israeli military's spokesperson, COGAT stated that the "buffer zone" remained at 300 meters ("IDF: 'Forbidden zone' in Gaza three times larger than previously stated," +972 Magazine, 12 May 2013).
But farmers say Israeli gunfire has extended the zone even further.
"According to the ceasefire, farmers could reach nearly all their lands," Abu Jamal Abu Taima said. "These days, the Israelis are shooting farmers at 500 meters [from the boundary]."
He is not the only farmer who attributes the shift to turmoil in Egypt.
"After the coup, the Israelis expanded the area farmers couldn't reach to 500 meters," Abed al-Rasoul Abu Taima said. "Anyone coming closer to the separation barrier will be shot."
Other farmers say they have been targeted even further from the barrier.
"The Israelis shot at me at 800 meters," Zakaria Abu Taima said. "I was preparing to plant when they opened fire. I hid in an iron pipe, but the bullets came right through it."
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) documented one Israeli shelling attack, twelve shootings, and seven incursions — resulting in a death and seven injuries, including two children — in the "buffer zone" during July and August.
Since the beginning of September, Israeli forces have undertaken at least two further incursions to level farmland.
Many other attacks, especially shootings that do not result in deaths or injuries, are never reported, according to farmers.
"It's curious now, when you are talking about these limited incursions," said Khalil Shaheen, head of PCHR's economic and social rights unit.
"Violations define the restricted area. Officially, according to COGAT, the de jure area is 300 meters. But de facto, it depends on the incursions."
Israel's attacks in the "buffer zone," especially those beyond 300 meters, discourage farmers from growing trees or building structures, like electrical pumps or wells.
"They don't allow farmers to plant trees or build infrastructure," said Dr. Nabil Abu Shammala, director of policy and planning at the Palestinian ministry of agriculture and fisheries. "They claim this is for reasons of their security.
"Agricultural activities in this area face many kinds of risks. Farmers avoid it not only because of gunfire, but also the destruction of land and infrastructure," he added.
"We are afraid"
Amid the current rise in Israeli attacks, the potential destruction of their land particularly worries Gaza's farmers.
The threat of Israeli bulldozers leveling fields has convinced many to delay the start of their fall planting.
"We are afraid to reach our land because, after we plant, the Israelis may come and destroy everything," explained Abdul Azia Mahmoud Abu Taima.
"It's regular for the bulldozers to level our land every week," said Abed el-Aziz Abu Taima. "No one can stop them."
When asked about the bulldozers used to raze their fields, farmers described the distinctive triangular treads of Caterpillar's weaponized D-9 bulldozers.
"Caterpillar is the main weapon of destruction for the Israelis in the 'buffer zone,'" said PCHR's Shaheen. "They haven't changed their company policy, despite all the information they've been given on the use of their machines here.
"After the farmers heard that they could access their lands up to 100 meters, they planted them. Now they cannot reach them. They lost their harvest. Israeli bulldozers levelled it.
"It's very important to show what Caterpillar is doing, and that they know what's happening."
Under current circumstances, farmers face a delayed season with heightened dangers and an uncertain outcome.
"We are waiting until November to begin planting," Zakaria Abu Taima said. "Usually, we would have started by now."
"Of course we will plant," remarked Abu Jamal Abu Taima. "But before we harvest, the Israelis may come with their bulldozers."
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 12:58 AM PDT
If the Barisan Nasional government is serious about following the current oil market prices, it should also slash the prices of vehicles in line with global prices, said the PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli (pic).
"They can’t preach selective increases,” he said while noting that Malaysians paid the second highest prices for cars in the world.
“If the government is so intent on ensuring that Malaysians live in a real world and pay market prices, shouldn’t we be paying the current prices for vehicles instead of grossly inflated figures?
”Why doesn’t Barisan Nasional lower the prices of vehicles too?” the Pandan MP questioned in a statement today.
The price of RON95 petrol and diesel was raised by 20 sen per litre last week, to RM2.10 and RM2.00 per litre, respectively.
The 20 sen increase in fuel is expected to spike household expenditures of the lower-to middle-income brackets the most.
Immediately after the increase, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced measures to ease the burden of the lower- and middle-income group in the coming Budget.
He also said Putrajaya is mulling the possibility of increasing the amount of the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) from the current RM500.
Rafizi said the average household income of RM5,000 and below, (which is what 70% of Malaysian households earn) means Malaysians pay more in taxes and toll compared with the fuel subsidy which they benefited from.
“On average, a household uses about 300 litres of petrol a month. With the subsidy of 63 sen per litre, this means that a household receives a fuel subsidy of RM189 a month. But if the household has a vehicle worth RM60,000 being paid off in instalments for seven years (the average for a Malaysian household), the excise duty and interest payments work out to RM3,565 annually.”
“This works out to about RM300 a month. This means that Barisan Nasional is taxing the Malaysian people in the form of vehicle excise duty to the sum of RM300 a month when the fuel subsidy is only RM189 a month, on average.”
Rafizi said this was a clear injustice and persecution of the public. The situation was made worse by the fact that Barisan Nasional refused to admit that it was taxing the public more than the fuel subsidy, which the government insisted had to be reduced.
The price of goods and services has increased since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced an increase in the prices of RON95 and diesel two weeks ago. The price of new housing developments was also reported to have increased by 10%.
The PKR is an advocate of cheaper cars for Malaysians and last July, Rafizi had pledged that a Pakatan Rakyat federal government will slash car excise duties and reduce the triple tax burden imposed on cars sold here, effectively putting more cash in the pockets of Malaysians for other daily essentials.
Ahead of the May 5 general election, the BN promised to revamp the National Automotive Policy (NAP) in its manifesto,.
However, in the first meeting of parliament, the government said its promise would be realised in five years.
Posted: 13 Sep 2013 12:55 AM PDT
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) will reply to questions raised about his role in the controversial Project IC by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he appears before the Royal Commission of Inquiry next week.
"Datuk Seri will give his statement to the RCI next week," said his office in an SMS to the media today.
Anwar, who was sacked by Dr Mahathir in September 1998 following allegations of abuse of power and sexual misconduct, is scheduled to appear before the RCI on September 19.
A day after appearing before the Royal Commission of Inquiry in Sabah, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continued to deny that he had any role in the controversial Project IC, under which identity cards were issued to foreigners, allegedly in exchange for votes.
Yesterday, the former prime minister challenged his detractors to question his former deputy and now opposition leader, Anwar, to find out the truth.
"If that is government policy, why didn't he stop it? Is he going to lie to the commission and claim that I ask him to do all these? He should know, he was my deputy," he said.
When asked whether he was referring to Anwar, Dr Mahathir replied in jest: "Maybe."
The RCI, which began in January, is investigating claims that citizenship was given to illegal immigrants in Sabah during Dr Mahathir's administration.
Dr Mahathir told the RCI on Wednesday that he was not aware of "Project IC" and blamed overzealous civil servants for what happened.
He also agreed that the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah was a very serious problem.
“Yes, it’s true. It is a serious problem, which has existed for decades. But resolving the issue does depend on who is the person-in-charge at that moment,” said Dr Mahathir.
He told RCI chairman Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong that during his tenure as prime minister between 1981 and 2003, he had instructed his officers to consider identity card applications and to act according to the law.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 09:58 AM PDT
As the budding blossoms of the Arab Spring of 2011 wither in the fall of 2013, Saudi Arabia's fragile stability hangs from the shriveled stem of the House of Saud. The threat posed by a region in turmoil to the kingdom's ruling elite, the strategic interests of the United States, and the health of the world economy is not so much the danger of an explosion of political unrest within the kingdom as an implosion of the country itself.
Although vast expanses now encompassed within its borders were never occupied by a foreign conqueror, Saudi Arabia did not find unity and statehood until 1932, when Abdul Aziz al Saud pulled together under his rule diverse regions containing tribes of the desert and families of the cities. But Abdul Aziz and his descendants over the last eight decades have never attempted to implant an overarching identity beyond the Wahhabi sect of Islam. Instead, Saudi Arabia is a family enterprise ruling over six distinct regions held together by theology, tribal alliances and the largess that flows out of the House of Saud.
Historically, the Hejaz, the western coastal area that is home to Mecca and Medina, always held itself separate and aloof from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. Yet the machinations of the British and the Bedouin soldiers of Abdul Aziz triumphed over the rival Hashemites in the redistribution of power after World War I.
While the Hejaz as a region ranked high in importance because of its religious significance, al Hasa on the eastern coast of the peninsula ranked first in economic importance because of trade within the Persian Gulf and, after 1938, the pools of oil that lay beneath its sands. Enfolded into Abdul Aziz's kingdom were three other regions—the Asir, the green, mountainous area south of Jeddah, where the ties to Yemen are strong; Jizan on the far southwestern coast that looks toward Africa and hosts Saudis of African descent; and the northern frontier that has always seen itself as more a part of Syria and Iraq than Saudi Arabia. But it is the Nejd, the great heartland of the peninsula that reveres the Bedouin ethos, fiercely protects the Wahhabi sect of Islam, and holds the ancestral home of the al Sauds, which has always controlled Saudi Arabia's politics, economy and culture. Yet for reasons of history and culture, the Hejaz still disdains all other regions; the Hasa celebrates its cosmopolitanism; and the Nejd regards itself as the soul of Saudi Arabia. And the people of every region remain divided, for every Saudi is first and foremost the member of a family that claims kinship within a tribe defined by blood ties to a real or contrived common ancestor.
What is so remarkable and at the same time distressing about the Saudis today is how little they have changed since I lived there in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when isolated, poverty-stricken, and xenophobic Saudi Arabia was making the swift transition to an oil-rich country forced to engage with the outside world. When I arrived in 1978, central Riyadh still contained many of its old mud-walled structures. Basic telephone service was erratic, at best. And sewage and debris, including the carcass of the occasional donkey, ran down the center of the Batha souk, prompting expatriates to make a run on T-shirts reading "Batha Yacht Club." In the euphoria of money descending on the kingdom, the wisecracking Westerners failed to grasp the extent to which the Saudis were psychologically engaged in a highly anxious struggle between the physical benefits of modernization and the challenges to traditionalism.
The top leadership of the House of Saud understood the conflict more than is generally recognized. Those of us cognizant of the challenge to the existing political order watched their political machine build an infrastructure that delivered roads, housing, hospitals and schools while at the same time zealously guarding the sanctity of the royal family and the faith. Although this balancing act between modernization and tradition helped the House of Saud pilot its kingdom through the hurricane winds of change in order to protect its own interests, it did nothing to prepare Saudi society for genuine nationhood.
Even if the House of Saud had not protected its own interests by playing one group off against another, using oil wealth to build genuine unity among the Saudis would have proven difficult. Before oil, generation after generation had survived on the desert without protection of any authority outside the family. Thus generation after generation instinctively distrusted anyone outside the kinship group. After they were stitched together by Abdul Aziz and gifted with great wealth, the Saudis continued to live apart. Today, urban areas, in which the majority of the population now resides, are a patchwork of walled villas, family compounds, and apartment developments in which the majority of residents share ties of region and kinship. They continue to live under the strict dictates of a patriarchal society. Above the father of the family is the sheikh of the tribe, who's expected to provide for the corporate welfare. This is the model under which the House of Saud—the high sheikh, the defender of the faith, the protector of tradition, and the distributor of wealth—has ruled. It has worked in part because the Saudi people are so passive.
Instead of the popular Western vision of aggressive warriors pushing Islam out of the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, the Saudis in reality fear and abhor disorder. They also refuse to accept responsibility for themselves or the welfare of their country. It is the common expectation that government provide education and health care, subsidize utilities and gasoline, and serve as the employer of first choice. The highest levels of individual initiative and ambitions are found among females, who face the high walls of sexual segregation in the job market. But this is only part of the female population. The majority are content to live under patriarchal control in return for security within the bosom of the family. The same could be said for the protection of religion. For both men and women, Wahhabism undergirds the family, the family undergirds the society, and alliances between the religious leaders and the House of Saud undergird the political system.
Despite the ballast of tradition and the rudder of the social contract between the House of Saud and the Saudi people, the ship of state has entered rough waters. The expansive infrastructure that delivered blessings of indoor plumbing, running water and air conditioning eventually opened the kingdom up to satellite television and the internet. Improvements in living standards also resulted in a population explosion. At the height of the oil boom, the Saudi population was estimated by the Third Five-Year Development Plan to be somewhere between seven and eight million. Today it is twenty-one million, with an astounding 47.8 percent under the age of twenty-five. It is the young who have grown up in contact with the outside world who are most seriously challenging the established political and societal order. There is increasing lawlessness in the kingdom, which was all but nonexistent when I lived there at the peak of the oil boom. The lawlessness is coming from the young, many of whom are in a state of rebellion because they are bored. They want more social freedom. They want more of a share of the national wealth. The more serious demand more transparency in government. What the vast majority do not want is Western-style democracy or to have the responsibility of governing put into their hands. With reforms that would more equitably distribute wealth, most Saudis across the age spectrum are willing to continue to support the status quo maintained by the House of Saud. The question then becomes how much time is there for the House of Saud to loosen its grip on the treasury before the shrinking pool of oil money is no longer large enough to grease the gears of the political system.
From the time of Abdul Aziz, the House of Saud has based its legitimacy on its claim to be the protectors of the Two Holy Mosques, in Mecca and Medina, and the patriarch of what amounts to an alliance of tribes dependent on its largess. Both pillars are crumbling, undermined by moral and monetary corruption. Abdul Aziz lived the life of the sheikh who rules with the blessing of the religious establishment and delivers just rule to his subjects through his deeds. Although an authoritarian ruler, he retained the support of most of his subjects. When he died in 1953, his successors, all brothers or half-brothers, defended that image in varying degrees. His son, King Saud, was a wastrel who was removed from the throne by the family. Faisal was the intellectual, pious reformer who set Saudi Arabia on the path of modernization. Khalid was the kindly sheikh who was happiest on the desert with the tribes. Fahd was the playboy who lived an extravagant life and violated most of the rules on which respect for the sheikh is based. At the age of ninety, Abdullah, the current king, is respected and personally untainted by corruption. But his days are numbered. Who comes next? Another aged brother who will not last long on the throne? A member of the next generation? If so, which of the grandsons will become the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques? Will he try to hold the al Saud model of religion, politics and economics together, or seek to change it? Who will succeed him—one of his sons, thereby creating a dynasty within one branch of the family, or one of his cousins chosen by consensus by the family that now contains seven thousand princes, all direct descendants of Abdul Aziz? Only time will tell. That is the challenge. The turmoil unleashed in the Arab world in 2011 narrows the window of opportunity in which the House of Saud can find a way to hold onto power.
Those who depend on Saudi Arabia's oil hold an enormous stake in what happens. The Saudis as a whole remain too passive to rise up in revolt. Even if they gathered the energy and commitment to forcibly overthrow the House of Saud, they possess no ideology or institution capable of creating an alternative system of governance. Nor is there any foundation on which to build for the common good, because there is no concept among the Saudis of benefits for anyone beyond the family. That means that either the House of Saud remains too ineffective to preside over the deteriorating social fabric, which encompasses the military, or the country implodes. The kingdom's regions—the Hejaz, the Hasa, and the Nejd—spin off from each other followed by Asir, Jizan, and the northern frontier. The Shia of the Eastern Province, who essentially run ARAMCO, throw off the yoke of the Wahhabis. Family and tribe look after their own. And greedy outsiders with powerful militaries gather to compete for the oil resources of the collapsed kingdom. With turmoil and spiraling oil prices, everyone loses—the House of Saud, the Saudis, and the world economy.
Posted: 12 Sep 2013 07:36 AM PDT
PKR leaders said they were not surprised to hear that former prime minister Mahathir Mohmad had tried to deflect blame for the notorious Project I.C. onto Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is due to take the stand at the Sabah RCI on September 18.
“This is typical of Dr Mahathir A lot of insinuations that amount to nothing. I think he must be very worried about what Anwar has to say and is trying to preempt the fallout,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“But let’s be patient and let Anwar clarify it himself when he testifies at the RCI next week.”
Worried that Anwar will expose him?
Without naming Anwar, Mahathir said “a Pakatan Rakyat leader” who had served as his deputy prime minister had never questioned him about ‘Project IC’.
Mahathir, who had a day ago testified before the Sabah Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal, appeared to be a bit more ‘sensitive’ to criticism than his usual self.
His wholesale denials of not even knowing that there was a Project I.C. “until recently” had drawn hoots of laughter and sarcasm around the country.
Be that as it may, and perhaps to regain some composure, Mahathir today urged his critics to question Anwar’s silence over the matter instead.
"He was in the government, he knew the government’s policy. If that was the government’s policy, why didn't he stop it?" Malaysiakini reported Mahathir as telling reporters on Thursday.
Asked whether he was referring to Anwar, Mahathir jokingly said “maybe”.
Demographics and votes to cling to power
The Opposition chief has given his statement to RCI investigators who flew down to Kuala Lumpur to meet him last month.
He is due to attend the RCI hearing at the Kota Kinabalu High Court next Wednesday, the 18th.
In his statement to the RCI investigators, Anwar had named 3 people he believed were the culprits behind the scheme, which he has described as being “treasonous”.
His lawyer, Latheefa Koya, declined to reveal the names of the 3 culprits identified by Anwar but it is believed the trio are Mahathir, former deputy Home Minister Megat Junid and Mahathir’s private secretary Abdul Aziz Shamsudin.
Project I.C. or Project M (M for Mahathir) has been blamed by Sabahans for causing their abject economic and social conditions.
The project was alleged to have been a bid by top Umno leaders to change Sabah’s demographics by giving out citizenship to Muslim illegal immigrants so that they would outnumber the mostly Christian locals.
Mahathir and his Umno party have also been accused of using Project I.C. to offer citizenship to undeserving foreigners in exchange for their agreeing to vote for the Umno-BN coalition during elections.
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