x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Hundreds demand embezzlement probe for sacked ministers in Oman

Sit-in outside prosecutor general's office in Muscat calls for investigation into claims of corruption.

MUSCAT // About 300 people protested yesterday outside the Oman prosecutor general's office, demanding an investigation into allegations of embezzlement by government officials.

Protesters at the sit-in, which lasted several hours, said they feared that government officials, including the dozen ministers who were sacked last week by Sultan Qaboos, would never be punished for the misuse of their power.

"We will protest regularly until we get assurance from the prosecutor general that steps are being taken that will lead to investigations of the former ministers, and the ones who are still in power, for the embezzlements of millions of rials," said protester Hamed Al Raisi.

Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled since 1970, fired the cabinet ministers last week after pressure from protesters to end government corruption.

On top of the list were the ministers of finance, commerce and industry, and the palace office.

But some protesters said their demands might not be met.

"No minister has ever been publicly convicted of corruption in the history of our country. Our protests may not come to anything because of this appalling record. But we are determined to make our protests heard this time," said Mohammed Al Siyabi, another protester.

Sultan Qaboos has also sacked the chief of police, General Malik bin Suleiman al Maamary, whom protesters wanted removed since he was accused of covering up alleged corruption.

"We are hoping the new police chief will be a law-abiding man and start immediate investigation of the former ministers," said Mr Al Raisi.

Oman has been dealing with sporadic protests, mostly by young job seekers and others calling for political reform, for the past month.

In response, Sultan Qaboos has granted lawmaking powers to officials outside the royal family, changed the cabinet and promised thousands of civil service jobs.