Jarba in the White House
Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba spent 10 days in Washington and met with about 30 US lawmakers with many of them being either opponents or skeptics of supporting the Syrian revolution. His visit was crowned with the meeting of President Obama at the White House.
Obama’s meeting with Jarba has several connotations. Although it lasted only for 30 minutes, it is a strong indicator of US political support to the revolution. The interesting factor is that Jarba visited the White House and met with President Obama while Bashar Assad did not get that opportunity. He had greeted Obama when he was elected as president for the first time and had invited him to visit Damascus. Today Jarba is in the White House and Assad is hiding in the security ring with the support of Iran.
Now the question is whether the Obama-Jarba meeting would make any change in the Syrian crisis? It would be difficult to predict the next step of the US but it seems that Washington is convinced about the need to make a move now. Otherwise Obama would not have received Jarba. The main demand of the National Coalition is to get arms required for confronting the regime forces. Reports indicate that Jarba’s talks with Obama and other US leaders were very clear and open and it dealt with the Syrian crisis’ negative impact on the region as well as on the West.
— By Tariq Alhomayed
MERS and the ministry
The increasing number of MERS cases in the Kingdom indicates not the strength of the deadly virus but the weakness of the ministry in handling the infectious disease in an effective and professional manner.
MERS was discovered in the Kingdom two years ago and there was adequate time to conduct research about the disease and create public awareness on taking necessary precautions. The ministry terminated the contract of the expert who discovered the virus and did not inform the public about the need to take precautions against it.
Many of the victims who contracted the virus were health workers and this again shows the lack of infectious disease control measures and procedures inside public hospitals.
A number of experts including Dr. Abdullah Al-Huqail, head of infectious diseases at King Faisal Specialist Hospital said the ministry’s decision to hide the facts about Coronavirus delayed efforts to create public awareness on the disease.
The newly appointed health minister did the right thing when he instructed the ministry to publish the number of deaths and infections everyday with transparency. The new minister’s success in handling the crisis proves that it was an organizational problem rather than a health crisis.
— By Dr. Ziyad bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh
Saudis in Iraqi prisons
I cannot see a convincing reason for the hatred displayed by Nouri Al-Maliki’s government toward Saudis. I am sure that it is part of his enmity toward the Sunni Muslims in the Arab world as he uses his military forces to destroy Sunni strongholds in the country’s northwest. He also uses militias to kill Sunnis in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
This animosity against Sunnis has extended to people in neighboring Arab countries. But Saudis are the major victims of Al-Maliki’s oppressive policies as they are being targeted at Iraqi courts that issue verdicts on sectarian and political grounds. Saudis who cross into the Iraqi territory face the charge of terrorism. In most cases, they are sentenced to execution or imprisonment for life.
Saudis account for the majority of people sentenced to death in the country and if the execution is delayed for some reason they are sent to the worst prisons in the country where they are tortured. Former militias who are professional killers and torture experts manage some of these notorious prisons.
The Rasafa and Nasiriya prisons are allocated for the leaders of Al-Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Some Rasafa prisoners have reportedly joined ISIL. The Iraqi justice minister had given instructions to put Saudis in Nasiriya prison. Saudi Arabia had requested the Iraqi government to shift Saudi prisoners to Kurdistan but Al-Maliki did not agree to it and gave instructions to keep Saudis in Nasiriya.
— By Jasser Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser
Wasta and corruption
According to Transparency International, corruption means misuse of power to achieve interests of a person or his/her group. The Oxford dictionary has explained it as follows: “Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.”
Corruption has different ways and means and the most important among them is wasta or influence. This will help a person to jump over regulations to achieve their goals. The use of wasta proves that the person was unable to do his/her work alone in accordance with regulations. The Kingdom’s Anti-Corruption law has listed wasta among punishable practices. “Any public employee who does or does not do his job as a result of his desire or advice or mediation will be considered among those who receive bribe and punished for not less than three years and fined not more than SR100,000 or either punishment.”
This tough punishment was imposed considering the negative impact of wasta on individuals, societies and productivity. The Saudi law bans such people from continuing in a government job. But wasta has become a culture of the society as people look for an influential person to get things done at a government department instead of following legal procedures.
— By Bakheet Al-Ghabbash
Saudi women and Ramadan
The countdown for Ramadan has begun. During this month, Saudi families, especially working women, require maids to get their works done. There is a dire shortage of maids in the market and recruitment companies have failed to solve the issue. If these offices can supply maids to work for days or hours it will solve the problem temporarily, especially during Ramadan.
The shortage of maids has forced Saudi families, especially working women to accept any conditions, including high salaries.
This necessitates a foolproof system to supply adequate number of maids required for Saudi families, either to work throughout the year or for days or hours, according to their needs.
— By Ibtihaj Adnan Al-Menyawi
Contradictory labor laws
Some of the new laws issued by the Labor Ministry contradict with other regulations issued by the Kingdom. The ministry has promised that it would not pass any new regulations without consulting with the public. In my opinion, the ministry should hold a meeting with experts and professionals before finalyzing its regulations.
The ministry has asked the public to express their opinion on various draft laws that have been published on its website but only few people respond to them. The ministry should make sure that any changes it makes must be for the better.
The ministry’s recent decision allowing foreign workers to change sponsorship without the permission of their existing sponsors goes against a Cabinet decision issued 18 years ago.
The ministry should have discussed all aspects of that decision before passing it. It would certainly have a negative impact on businesses as outgoing employees would reveal business secrets to their rivals in the market, thus damaging their business.
— By Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Masoud