Editorial: Crown prince sets the record straight on terror

Updated 10 October 2016

Editorial: Crown prince sets the record straight on terror

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif has had a forceful impact at the United Nations in New York. In two addressees to the General Assembly he urged greater generosity toward refugees and increased cooperation in the face of international terrorism.
Besides his two important public statements, the crown prince held an intense round of meetings with world leaders. These included discussions with US President Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France.
The UN’s summit for refugees and migrants, which the crown prince first spoke at, could not have come at a better time. The UN Refugee Agency has produced a deeply disturbing report. It shows that the world has never seen such a high level of refugees. Every single day, some 34,000 people are forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution. Around the world, 65.3 million people have been on the move. Conflict and oppression account for 21.3 million refugees driven from their homes. More than half of these unfortunates are under the age of 18. Their chances in life are much diminished by a lack of access to schools. In Syria the fighting has left no less than 2.1 million children and adolescents without access to any education.
The crown prince told UN members that the Kingdom had given refuge to 2.5 million Syrians. Some 140,000 Syrian children were being educated in the country’s schools and universities. He stressed that Syrian families were not treated as unwelcome refugees. They were given residence permits and were greeted as guests.
Nor has Saudi Arabia’s helping hand ended there. The government recognizes the challenges of the sprawling refugee camps established by countries neighboring Syria. It has already given $800 million to help support these camps. On top of this, Saudis and expatriates have contributed very generously to two separate countrywide appeals for Syrian refugees. Saudi charities are also active in the camps. One of their most important jobs has been in counseling Syrians, particularly children, traumatized by the horrors they have seen.
The Kingdom has been equally concerned by the refugee crisis in Yemen caused by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebellion. Operation Decisive Storm to restore the Yemeni government is crushing the rebels. But at the same time more than half a billion dollars have already been provided in humanitarian assistance. A generous welcome has been given to Yemeni refugees in Saudi Arabia itself. More than 285,000 Yemeni students are being given free education. And Yemeni refugees elsewhere have not been forgotten. Aid worth $42 million has been provided to Yemenis who have fled to Djibouti and Somalia.
In recent years the global scale of the refugee tragedy has increased steadily. The UN has often struggled to draw in crisis funds. Governments still facing domestic austerity were reluctant to find spare cash. In the face of recessionary forces, the Kingdom has rejected austerity. The launch of Vision 2030 is the ambitious alternative route it has chosen to follow. And the decision to invest for economic growth is mirrored in help to the outside world. The crown prince pointed out to UN members that Saudi Arabia was the world’s third largest donor in terms of emergency relief and humanitarian and development aid. In the last four decades it has provided an extraordinary $139 billion in international assistance.
When he spoke to the General Assembly for a second time, the crown prince addressed the issue of terrorism. He said that long before 9/11 the Kingdom had itself been the victim of a terror campaign. It had confronted 100 terror operations including 18 terrorist attacks. It had been among the first to condemn the 2001 attacks on America. It was therefore, he said, “puzzling” that Congress had pursued a bill, which would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Kingdom on the basis that the majority of the attackers had been Saudis.
And it is indeed perplexing. With the Americans and Italians, Saudi Arabia heads an increasingly effective coalition to cut terrorist funding. It is sharing the security expertise it has gained so painfully in combating terrorists within the Kingdom. It has pioneered and financed UN-based coordination of the fight against international terrorism.
It has long been clear that its enemies are intent on trying to link Saudis with terror. This is to stand the truth on its head. The chief accuser is Iran. Its motives are obvious. It seeks to undermine the Kingdom’s key regional leadership. And the hypocrisy is stunning. Iran, not Saudi Arabia, is a sponsor of terrorism. Its bloody work can be seen in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

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.