Sunday, April 20, 2008

From Kuwait Elections for Parliament to American primaries—a Landscape of News, Self-Censorship, Non-sense, and the Outrageous—along with Governments

From Kuwait Elections for Parliament to American primaries—a Landscape of News, Self-Censorship, Non-sense, and the Outrageous—along with Governments & Societies Needing Reform

By Kevin Stoda in Kuwait, the on-line opponent to John McCain and others



After watching the U.S. media make a fuss about Barack Obama’s bad bowling this past week, it was refreshing to read some of Kuwait’s daily English papers this last weekend.

That is to say--despite some self-censorship and occasional official censorship in this Gulf state, all three daily English newspapers do a better job of reporting a wider spectrum of local and international news and view than over 75 to 85 percent of the various U.S. papers I have ever read.

One article that stands out in the midst of Kuwait’s national parliamentary election season was a well-written and critical diatribe from a Kuwait Times editorialist who took on the national government for recently creating an apartheid-like law in the past month, whereby a non-Kuwaiti can be kicked out of the country for driving through a red light.


KICKED OUT OF KUWAIT FOR A RED LIGHT?

The politically timely editorial by Abdallah Al-Otaibi was entitled “Red Light: A Nightmare that Haunts Expats”. It appeared in the April 20, 2008 Kuwait Times. The article was targeted at both Kuwaiti citizenry and to the government in support of the 67% of the population who don’t hold Kuwait citizenship. The article was in response to an event last week, whereby a Syrian citizen was deported from Kuwait for running a red light.

As far as anyone in Kuwait can tell this new law was passed and implemented by the Kuwaiti government after the Emir of Kuwait closed down the National Assembly in mid-March and called for new national parliamentary elections, now set for the 17th of May.

Worse still, according to some disapproving security personnel, overzealous Kuwait Ministry of the Interior (MOI) personnel implemented that law and exported the first violator of the new law 72 hours “before the new rule should have taken effect”.

Two days ago, a report in the Friday Times shared, “A senior Kuwait security official defended yesterday the deportation of foreigners who may run red traffic lights as a legal right of the interior ministry.”

Maj. Gen. Thabet Al-Mahanna, assistant undersecretary of the Interior Ministry for Traffic, based his claim on “Article 17 of the law 17 for 1959 as to foreigners’ residency, the interior minister can deport any foreigners as long as this serves public interest or security”.

The rationale for the change in practices is also based on a request from Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Khalid Al-Sabah to oversee that “necessary measures” are “to be taken in order to oblige citizens and foreigners to observe traffic rules by means of imposing strict penalties.”

One major obviously unanswered question by the MOI statements is how deporting only foreigners for traffic violations will stop the majority of Kuwaiti national drivers from breaking the law with impunity. In short, it simply reeks of xenophobia or racism.

This is where the Kuwait Times editorialist, Abdallah Al-Otaibi, entered the fray with a bold article this Sunday aimed at the government, which had closed down the National Assembly--only to begin to implement such draconian laws or procedures in the interim.

Al-Otaibi intoned, “If the Interior Ministry seeks to deter violators, it must target Kuwaitis first. They flout most of the laws, be it traffic or otherwise. It is time to stop singling out peaceful expatriates, who are already intimidated by the law. [Moreover] Looks like traffic accidents will increase at intersections because expatriates will be extremely cautious while slowing down, especially at traffic lights.”

Without noting one obvious fact, namely that already in the past three years the Kuwaiti ministries have more than twice created increasingly stronger (anti-lower class and anti-foreigner) apartheid-like rules in Kuwait concerning access to driving license for foreigners by first stating in 2005 that one needed to earn 850 dollars-a-month to obtain a license and raising it again this year to over 1300 dollars a month, Al-Otaibi tells readers tongue and cheek:

“As solution to the [road safety] problem, we propose that the Interior Ministry suspend all expatriate driver’s licenses. It should provide mass public transport system to commute them to their work places. One condition, though, the drivers should be Kuwaitis.”

Note: The irony in Al-Otaibi’s punch-line “condition” is that some Kuwaiti kids--as young as 5 or 6 years of age—are regularly given charge of foreign born drivers to traverse the city in at their convenience. Meanwhile, many other Kuwaiti families’s find the roadways now so dangerous, i.e. with so many other Kuwaitis driving about at 200km with impunity, that they themselves have had to hire foreign drivers.

The only Kuwaiti drivers I know who drive for others are the aging retirees of past generations who drive some of the large metal-plated taxi cabs at the airport—which charge 25% more than other taxis. In short, the idea of Kuwaitis driving professionally for others is not in the cards for the future generation of Kuwaitis currently.


Al-Otaibi also takes opportunity to compare the current new practices in Kuwait for deporting foreigner to laws in Apartheid South Africa and Idi Amin’s Uganda.

He also adds, “It is similar to the situation in Israel now. It does not allow Palestinians to use roads earmarked for Israeli settlers.”

Al-Otaibi points out what a sudden shock it must be to the poor and suddenly expelled expats and their family.

Noting that it is likely a major breadwinner in the family who can afford to drive a car in any case, Al-Otaibi adds, “The new rule is akin to passing a death sentence for the entire family. It ruins every human being’s ambition regardless of creed or gender. It is the violation of the equality principle that exists between the citizen and the expatriate and above all, contradicts Islam.”

Turning to the national and international issues, Al-Otaibi charges, “The above mentioned law not only violates human rights, it contradicts with Kuwait’s Constitution which guarantees litigation for all citizens and expats. It also robs the right to a fair trial in accordance with international principles.”

The bottom-line, Al-Otaibi asks,: “Doesn’t Kuwait enjoy enough notoriety with regard to human rights violations?”

Finally, Al-Otaibi lets it be known that this particular law and its bungled and unfair implementation is not the fault of the people of Kuwait--but the fault of the government of Kuwait during this interim period, i.e. between dismissal in March 2008 of the parliament and the new elections set for mid-May. Al-Otaibi points out that in the international arena the people and legislature are demeaned by the ruling leadership for being immature, but in fact it is the government that is at fault here.


WHY DOESN’T THE U.S. MEDIA TAKE THIS APPROACH?


After reading this hard charging editorial in the midst of national elections I have to seriously ask:

Why couldn’t the USA media have shouted the following in loud voice in at least one-third of the nation’s newspapers during the week after the Patriot was passed in October 2001? “The above mentioned law not only violates human rights, it contradicts with the USA Constitution which guarantees litigation for all citizens and expats. It also robs the right to a fair trial in accordance with international principles.”

Instead 1200 foreigners were arrested within weeks in late 2001 and others were expelled without trial or sent overseas for torture .

As well, why can’t the USA media have become so upset with our executive and legislative branches over the past 8 years that 1/3 of the country’s media sources responsibly join the national call and movement to impeach President George W. Bush and Cheney for crimes of all sorts? i.e.“Doesn’t America enjoy enough notoriety with regard to human rights violations?”

Let’s stop putting up with mediocre and incompetent press in America today.

Surely, Americans can expect better than Kuwaiti’s can. After all, Kuwait still has official government censorship within its ministries and state..

Meanwhile, let’s stop self-censorship of the American media and press in 2008!

Blog everyone until all the Walls fall down!!!!!!!!






NOTES

Al-Otaibi, Abdallah, “Red Light: A Nightmare that Haunts Expats” (April 20, 2008) Kuwait Times, p. 4.

“History of the Patriot Act”, http://graypantherssf.igc.org/patriotacthistory.html

“Kuwaiti official defends foreigner deportation”, (April 18, 2008) Friday Times, p.70.

“Syrian deported for running red light”, (April 18, 2008) Friday Times, p.3.

Thomma, Steven, “Hillary leads in Pennsylvania, including among bowlers, gun owners”, http://www.kansascity.com/775/story/583741.html

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