Having gone to court, and enjoyed it very much, I was asked to go to a Federal National Council session with another colleague of mine, Ola Salem.
The FNC is a partly elected advisory body for the government that provides recommendations on policy. Its meetings are held at its headquarters on Corniche Street and are open to the public – though on my visit I noticed not many people attended, and nobody stayed till the end.
All the members, however, were there, as were some ministers.
The council’s discussions usually centre on new laws or issues that other members are interested in finding solutions to.
On this occasion, the first topic was how certain ministers failed to show up to sessions, even though their presence is vital. One member even said that the ministers should make these sessions a priority, as without them some issues can never be discussed.
We got to the headquarters shortly before 9am, and had to walk a long way before we got to the hall where the session would be held. While walking, Ola told me what we would be doing and how we would be writing the articles.
We then arrived at the hall and sat in a balcony reserved for journalists. The hall was huge, with the members sitting in the middle, and those ministers who did attend sat on the right.
There were cameras in front of them, and a giant screen on one of the walls so we could see who was speaking. There were also a lot of photographers at first, though slowly they left. We reporters, on the other hand, had to stay until 4pm, to make sure we heard all of their discussions. We wrote everything down and Ola also recorded the entire session.
At first, I couldn’t understand the discussions. It took me some time to recognise the people speaking, and to understand what they were saying or what they were discussing. Ola then started explaining to me what was happening – thank God!
The FNC sessions are very different from the court hearings, and I personally prefer the courts. In court, we get to see different people with different stories – some are funny, others serious.
But in the FNC, we have to sit for long hours, listening to the same people repeating the same words, just putting them in different contexts.
The worst part about the whole experience was not having anything to eat for all that time!
The members were served rounds of Arabic coffee, but we stayed thirsty. And once more Ola showed her experience – by bringing some almond cake!