x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Army should answer to Egyptian people

Arabic editorials also comment on Emiratisation in academic institutions and the pride of the Arab individual after this year's uprisings.

Constitution drives Egyptians to Tahrir

"This is a healthy trend", the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi wrote in an editorial at the weekend, describing the resolve of Egyptian protesters to go back to Tahrir Square every time they feel something is amiss in the political spheres.

This Friday, Egyptians gathered in the iconic spot in the heart of Cairo to call for the repudiation of what came to be known as the "Al Salmi document", a proposal of basic constitutional provisions put forward by the country's deputy premier, Ali Al Salmi.

The protest organisers, mostly of Islamist affiliation, are opposed to the proposal because they say drafting constitutional provisions is the purview of the new Egyptian parliament, which is yet to be elected by the people in late November.

"The Al Salmi document was also rejected because it included provisions granting the army special privileges, specifying its political role and its budget," the newspaper said. "For the protesters, the army's power should be subordinate to elected political power, not parallel to it."

Egypt's liberals, who are equally opposed to the Al Salmi document, did not take part in the protests to avoid being associated with Islamists, who are predicted to win the forthcoming elections.

"But these fears are not justified," the newspaper said, "because Islamists themselves know that they won't be able to impose their system on all Egyptians."


Arab constitutions need more idealism

While the jury is still out on whether this is the year of the "Arab Spring" or the "Arab Earthquake", the general consensus is that it is indeed the year of new constitutions, commented Tariq Homayed, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper, Asharq Al Awsat, in a column last week.

"In the middle of this sea of change, our region finds itself in the grips of a futile polemic on how a constitution should be drafted and who are the people authorised to draft it," the editor said.

"Should it be written by those who won the elections, whether they be Islamists, conservatives or liberals? And in that case, will the new constitutions guarantee women's rights, pluralism and liberties?"

Unfortunately, none of the essential issues are being raised in the process. For a constitution to be successful, it must guarantee the right of coexistence and the devolution of power.

It must provide for the right to pursue knowledge, creativity and excellence, the editor went on, and it must protect civil rights, not merely "the right to scream" in public.

In conclusion, the editor recommended that constitution writers read the former US president Bill Clinton's new book, Back to Work, in which he says people who write a new constitution must be idealists rather than ideologists, for these are often more open to debate.

Proposal to make Emiratisation efficient

"I was shocked, as were others like me who follow local affairs, when excerpts from a study conducted by the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources (FAHR) were published [recently]," wrote Khalifa Ali Al Suweidi, an Emirati contributor to the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad, in a column yesterday under the title "No Emiratisation without Substitution".

The study found that Emiratisation in the 32 federal institutions that were surveyed stood at 30 per cent, the writer noted. And universities and colleges were among these institutions - "academic institutions that pride themselves on their Emirati graduates, yet refuse to hire them," the writer said.

According to the FAHR study, Emiratisation in some academic institutions did not exceed seven per cent of the total number of employees.

"It doesn't stand to reason that, as we celebrate our 40th National Day anniversary, Emiratisation figures should be what they are. What's the solution, then?" the writer went on.

"In a nutshell, the solution is substitution: the employment contract of any non-Emirati must not be renewed if there is an Emirati who can fill their position … And to achieve that, we must start by countering those Emiratis who seem to be convinced that there is no place for their compatriots within the institutions they run … while their real unstated motto is 'I don't want competition here'."

Not a 'cretin', an Arab makes history now

Arabs today hold their heads raised in pride, in stark contrast to how they carried themselves before the Arab Spring, wrote Mansour Al Jamri, editor of the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, in his regular column yesterday.

"Before, the Arab person was perceived as the general 'cretin' who is interested in nothing but getting stuffed with food and who is always panting after trivialities," the editor said. "Some Arabs were seen as the lucky owners of God-sent riches (black gold) which they are squandering on misplaced arms purchases, commissions, dodgy deals, gambling tables, bars and casinos.

"Then, the world started seeing the Arab person as a 'wild animal' who is obsessively intent on blowing himself up to kill others and destroy civilisation."

But now, things have changed. "Arabs are being creative in their contribution to the movement for freedom … Arabs joined the right side of history after they rose up against repression and said 'No' to being made into a worthless exception."

The Arab person today is not "the oddity" any more, rather a "genuine component" of human civilisation and an actor in the global drive for dignity.

The real oddities now are all those ruling elites that have scorned the masses for as long as they could remember.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi