Editorial: For the sake of humanity, Russia!

Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov listens during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. headquarters, on Wednesday in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 06 April 2017
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Editorial: For the sake of humanity, Russia!

The horrible images coming out of Khan Sheikhun in Syria’s northern province of Idlib are both shocking and mind-numbing. The pictures of lifeless little ones in the arms of their parents and relatives are heart-breaking.
No words can describe this and other horrors that have been visited upon the innocent people of Syria by an inhuman and murderous regime.
This is not the first time the Bashar Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people. Nor most likely is it the last. The first time these weapons of mass destruction were used was in August 2013 in Ghouta.
The Assad regime was not held accountable for that, despite tough talk from the then-US President Barack Obama.
In contrast this time, the world seems united in its condemnation of the regime’s barbarous and abominable act. Nonetheless, there is one country that continues to stand by a dictator whose appetite for blood-letting and killing does not seem to have been slaked even now.
Russia maintains the attack came from opposition fighters. There is, however, clear evidence to the contrary. The attack was, according to the evidence, the result of an aerial bombing and only the regime has aircraft. The opposition has none.
It defies logic and good sense as to why Russia would stand on the wrong side of history. How many more Syrians need to die for the calculations in Moscow to change? More than 400,000 have died in the war and more than 5 million have been uprooted from their land and scattered to countries far and near.
The chemical attack is — as US President Donald Trump rightly said — an affront to humanity.
There has been far too much dilly-dallying at the UN. For much too long, the fate of Syrians has been held hostage to the deadly game of Russian roulette. The business of the veto must stop. And with it, the dance of death in Syria can also be stopped.
Russia must, for the sake of humanity, join the world in stopping the devil in Damascus from raining more death and destruction upon innocent people. 

 


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
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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.