Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, Sheikh Ali Salman, held a news conference at the group’s premises on 10 October 2011 during which he addressed numerous issues relating to political developments in Bahrain.
At the outset, Sheikh Ali offered congratulations to Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for winning 2011 Noble Peace Prize (Tawakkul shared the prize together with two other females from Africa, namely Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf). Sheikh Ali hailed the prize to Tawakkul in the context of Arab Spring, in turn spanning from Tunisia to Bahrain, not mentioning Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and all places where females fight for their legitimate rights and pursuit of democracy and human rights.
Turning to local issues, Sheikh Ali stressed firm nationals constants of opposition forces, first of which being comprehensive unity amongst opposition groups of loyalty solely to Bahrain.
Rejecting foreign intervention
The second point concerns a unified position of opposition societies for collectively rejecting any kind of foreign intervention in the kingdom’s affairs. The groups firmly believe in the availability of a local resolution in the pursuit of democracy.
The third such constant relates to demand of changes within rather than of the system within the existing and not certainly regime change. This view is held by the mainstream opposition as well as many nationalist figures. Sheikh Ali reiterated that articles in 1973 and 2002 constitutions stressing that people are sources of powers.
As far as opposition groups are concerned, this notion of sovereignty of people can be attained via electing the government based on parliamentary outcome with legislators elected in fair elections. This translates into having fair electoral districts plus a national commission for election. Currently, the authorities control the election process via domination of involved departments notably justice, information authority and statistical agency.
Sheikh Ali further stressed that demands of opposition groups focus on ensuring that the parliament engages in legislative and monitoring activities of the government, yet powers not shared by the appointed consultative council. The other demands relate to having an independent judiciary, not influenced by state tendencies and security for all. The security apparatus should serve as a source of tranquility rather than a means of undermining political activities and assaulting peaceful demonstrators.
It is contended that the majority of politically active people of Bahrain support such demands. And this can be put to test through popular referendum with results accepted by all sides.
Assertion of official media
Lashing out at state-controlled media, Sheikh Ali pointed out that Bahrain TV continues to depict outcome of the (national consensus dialogue) as representative of all sides in the country. Yet, this media source conveniently overlooks the fact a number of opposition and individuals willingly shunned the dialogue from the onset. Still, Al-Wefaq withdrew from the dialogue after a thorough review and release of a statement detailing the reasons. Also, other opposition groups that remained in the dialogue repudiated themselves from its outcome.
In reality, outcome of the (national consensus dialogue) represents views of some 300 people selected by the authorities, in turn known for embracing governmental positions on outstanding issues. As such, the purported dialogue can best be described as the government’s dialogue with itself.
Final outcome includes continuing the wrong practices of individuals retaining their governmental posts for good. Yet, Sheikh Ali challenged that the majority of politically active people in the country want an elected rather than an appointed government. Also, the so-called dialogue maintained powers of the appointed consultative council together with distribution of the election districts. This is a far cry of demands of the majority.
More importantly, the international community looks down at the (national consensus dialogue), as exemplified by repeated demands for a fresh dialogue. For instance, US President Obama called for a meaningful dialogue in Bahrain.
Turning to by-polls, Sheikh Ali made mockery of Bahrain TV for asserting high turnout of election to the contrary of facts. Yet, final results point out to several cases of uncontested seats. In one case, the winner merely secured 148 votes out of 7800-strong district, representing less than 2 per cent of the total.
Above all, Reuters summed up participation level of by-polls held on 24 September 2011, putting participation rate at merely 17.4 per cent. Clearly, this suggests a categorical popular rejection of the election.
Offering more detailed statistics, Sheikh Ali pointed out that total the current 40 legislators collectively have around 60,000 out of 320,000 electoral bloc. Yet, Al-Wefaq’s 18 MPs secured some 83,000 votes in 2010 election.
Trial of physicians
With regards to trial of physicians, Sheikh Ali stressed that their unjust trial at the National Safety Court is exemplary of other trials. He reminded the audience of reaction of human rights community to the trial such as that of Amnesty International, which described sentencing of physicians as a travesty of justice.
Towards the end of the news conference, Sheikh Ali turned his attention to day-to-day management of Al-Wefaq stressing constant scrutiny of policies. Last but not least, he disclosed that the society plans to hold its next general conference in either January or February 2012.