Editorial: Welcome back, Oman!

Updated 29 December 2016

Editorial: Welcome back, Oman!

Oman’s decision to join the Saudi-led coalition of 40 Muslim countries to counter terrorism could not have come at a better time. It is a harbinger of good news, one that signals the coming together of the forces of good against the forces of evil. As we are about to enter 2017, this augurs well.
It is a most welcome development because the unity this move will bring about among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and other like-minded Muslim states will make it that much more difficult for enemies to exploit perceived chinks in the regional armor.
Oman belongs to this region. It is among the founders of the GCC. It has a rich history and is a haven of stability. It shares its history and destiny with other Gulf countries. It is back where it rightly belongs.
This will provide a major boost to the military alliance, and will isolate those who have been trying to exploit disunity in regional ranks. In one fell swoop, Saudi Arabia and Oman have scored a massive diplomatic and historic victory.
Credit for this must go to the sagacious leaderships in both Riyadh and Muscat. They rightly realize that the challenges this region and the Muslim world face can only be countered by closing ranks and presenting a united front. Now regional unity is complete.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely credited for forging the Islamic Military Alliance, has repeatedly underlined at many GCC meetings the need for unity in the face of fast-changing geopolitics. He has highlighted the benefits that can accrue from standing united.
Oman has always been a key part of the GCC. For various reasons, it decided to keep away from the alliance when it was first announced in December last year, but it is now firmly back. What has happened in the past is the past. This heralds a new chapter in regional and Muslim unity.
By presenting a united front and seizing the initiative at a crucial time in the history of the Muslim and Arab worlds, the GCC states have clearly demonstrated that they are the real leaders of both worlds.

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

Saudi drivers take a flooded street in Jeddah on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2017

EDITORIAL: Jeddah floods a reminder of why we need the anti-corruption drive

It has happened again. The roads, streets and many underpasses in Jeddah were flooded with rainwater on Tuesday. Many areas were turned into lakes because of the heavy, though forecast, downpour. In some areas, water was knee-deep while in others it was chest-deep. People were stuck in their vehicles and many were seen pushing their vehicles to the side of the roads with great difficulty. In low-lying areas, citizens struggled to remove their belongings from flooded houses.

For the residents of Jeddah, rain has, more often than not, brought trouble and devastation. Whenever the skies open up, thoughts go back to that “Black Wednesday” of November 25, 2009, when more than 100 people lost their lives and property worth billions of riyals was destroyed. An investigation was opened into the disaster and some of the guilty were taken to court and tried; some of the small fry were even jailed. As has been the case in the past, the mighty arm of the law could barely touch those at the top who enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

And so it was business as usual until the rain began to wreak havoc again, reminding us that the laws of nature take their course and that hiding your head in the sand does not chase the clouds away.

Having said that, it must be admitted that, yes, lessons were learned. A disaster management team was set up. The weather forecast department became active in issuing alerts. In fact, Tuesday could have been far worse had it not been for the timely alert from the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and a prompt decision by the Ministry of Education to suspend classes, schools and universities in and around Jeddah. That helped in keeping people and vehicles off the streets. At noon on Tuesday, it looked as if the city were under some kind of curfew.

The questions that are on everyone's minds right now are: Why is it that rain renders the city helpless and immobile at this time every year? Why have efforts to create effective rainwater drainage systems not borne fruit despite pumping billions of riyals into new projects such as dams and canals? Why is it that the authorities are found wanting whenever heavy rain occurs? More importantly, what is the solution?

Here is the answer. These floods are a stark reminder of why the current drive against corruption is so essential. It is required in order to instill the fear of law into high-ranking officials and heads of construction companies and civic bodies who have failed in their responsibilities. Those who have cut corners and have pocketed public money, those who have not delivered on the projects and who have provided substandard services must pay for their sins of omission.

This is exactly what is happening. No one is above the law. The guilty, whoever they are, however high up they are, will have to pay — and they are. In this new era of transparency and accountability — initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — word has gone down from top to bottom that no one is immune. If you are guilty you will be punished. Those responsible for the havoc of the floods on Tuesday will have no rest either.