Date: Thursday, December 10, 2009.
To: The Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
We Demand Public Participations in the Political Decision-Making Process to Affirm the Principle of People’s Guardianship over the Political System as an Application of the Grand Allegiance Condition: Decision Taking by the People’s Elected Representatives is the Only Effective Panacea for Political Corruption, and the Guarantee of Transparency, Monitoring, Accountability and Integrity.
At the outset, Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA) owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude for your attempts in protecting public funds against looting and corruption. Especially, we appreciate the war you wage against those who embezzle public resources, and consequently waste the nation’s resources and immerse our country in a deep backwardness. In spite of huge annual public budgets, there are negligible benefits for ordinary citizens; who still suffer from poverty, unemployment, and deprivation of basic services. These essential services are freely and abundantly available in most poor and least-developed countries. What then happened to earmarked money to undertake these public projects? Unfortunately these financial resources ended up in foreign secret bank accounts.
The Jeddah flood disaster, however, has shown that political corruption has resulted in the tragic genocide of innocent residents. Corrupt behaviors have become the general norms of royal family members; they occupy top government positions, compete to rob public funds and accumulate illegitimate wealth. In this intense atmosphere, everything becomes for sale; that includes innocent lives, our country’s potential capabilities, people’s livelihood, honors, and integrities (Read the article “King’s Ransom” by Seymour M. Hersh, in the New Yorker weekly magazine, October 22nd, 2001, p. 35).
The Jeddah disaster is a wakeup call for us to pay more attentions to the dangers that face residents in almost all Saudi towns and villages, which lack basic infrastructures. What our deteriorating cities’ infrastructures are waiting for is just a rainy season to crumble, and innocent lives to be destroyed. Hence, it is our responsibility to take all necessary precautions against potential dangers. Otherwise, human lives become so cheap that Jeddah’s public officials dump them in the sewage system; which makes us wonder: where are the multi-billion-dollar budgets that were designated to the storm and sewage systems in these regions?
We found it incumbent on us, as a national duty, to address you frankly and directly, away from sweet talks and hinting styles. In particular, the situation becomes too dire to neglect, i.e., what at stake here are human lives which become for sale by prices of darkness and their gangs. In most regional governments, the general practice is that the-king-appointed local governors take higher political decisions that are related to the region’s affairs. At the same time, however, they are deeply involved in business by virtue of their default ownership of the lands and de-jure control over government contracts in their serfdoms. All these practices happen in complete clandestine, away from nay possible monitoring, let alone accountability which is considered next to impossible. The absence of free press contributes significantly to the wide spread corruptions. Free media outlets, usually help monitor government agencies and discover thefts and financial irregularities. Unfortunately, most Saudi journalists have turned into cheer leading team; they excessively praise provincial governors and blame ordinary Saudis. The most glaring example is what happened in the aftermath that followed Jeddah disaster, an editor-in-chief of a government-controlled newspaper put the blame squarely on the victims. Similarly, a group of official clerics issued a statement blaming the tragedy on the victims’ sins, and we know that most of the victims are poor, as if the rich people and prices of darkness do not sin!
One of the general rules is that: “responsibility must be commensurate to authority.” And the other rule states that:”power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Hence, a provincial governor has unlimited responsibilities since he has wide authorities delegated by the king in running all the affairs of his province. Although authority can be delegated but not responsibility, which remains the governor’s and neither that of the mayor nor the sewage system’s director.
From all these values, we would like to welcome you concern, and your interest in investigating those who are directly responsible for Jeddah disaster and bring them to justice. There has been another attempt to form a “commission to protect integrity and fight corruption”, but it was thwarted for reasons that we don’t know. However, we can sense the influence of robber princes who use their leverage to protect their private interests at the expense of national interests.
Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques, we can tell you from the outset that this investigative committee you have formed will net result in any decisive decisions, and well not present those responsible for Jeddah disaster to justice. Moreover, this committee will not stop those with unlimited authority from abusing the law, and will not prevent these opportunists from taking advantage of ordinary citizens. What is the solution then? How?
1. To prevent the accused from being the judge, we announced our reservation on the investigative committee of Jeddah’s Tsunami: It is impossible for a committee formed from various government agencies, and headed by the governor of province where the flooding disaster took place. The common denominator between most of corruption practices is the existence of princes, who provide bandits with logistic supports and necessary protections. In return, members of royal family take the lion’s share of ill-gotten bounties.
2. The causes of the prevalence of political corruption: the terrible germ that wasted nation’s capabilities, destroyed country’s resources, diverted government agencies from their sole jobs, and deprived people of their fundamental rights. Hence, we call for a new social contract (i.e., a written constitution) between the people and the their rulers, which determines a fair allocation of income between the two groups, and defines and limits the incomes of members of the royal family. Furthermore, we call for a strict limitation on government posts held by members of the royal family. However, the decision to spend public budgets ought to be left to the citizens in order to channel public funds to people’s services and development projects. We have to keep in mind that these resources are earmarked to designated projects, and not to be embezzled by princes of darkness, and not to be spent on their personal pleasures.
3. The collapse of the welfare of ordinary Saudis compared to their neighbors: extortionist princes who impoverish, starve, and deprive people of their fundamental rights. Many international reports indicated that average real per-capita income for Saudis has collapsed by nearly 50% over the past 20 years; due primarily to lack of income increase, sky-rocketing unemployment, and sharp inflation. However, the root cause of all these dysfunctions is the failure of the political system.
4. Provincial governorships have turned into complete serfdoms: Where governors have unlimited authorities, i.e., “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We demand that all provincial governors to be elected by their respective constituencies, and their terms are limited to two non-renewable consecutive four-year terms.
5. The absence of free press (the fourth authority): Saudi media outlets have distorted significantly public awareness. Most newspapers, radio, and television stations are either owned directly by the royals, their relatives, or close associates. Saudi journalists don’t dear to publish fair reports, let alone articles critical of the royals or the political regime. For instance, an editor-in-chief of one of the Saudi newspapers published an article imputing people with Jeddah flood disaster, without questioning how these poor residents built their homes in a flood-infested area. This blame game is known as “victim-culprit” syndrome in the Saudi media.
6. King Abdullah’s reform initiatives are impeded and his decisions are rarely implemented: We have to search for those who benefit from hampering public interests. The glaring examples for this hindering are the failure of the Saudization program, combating-poverty fund, commission to protect integrity and fight corruption, stock-market making fund, and women’s employment initiative.
7. Enfranchising the people in the political process through an elected parliament is the only effective immunization against the virus of political corruption.
We hope that we can cease this opportunity that is available in this unfortunate crisis to uproot political corruption, the germ that has become an endemic in Saudi Arabia. This national initiative will not be attainable, unless we ensure the people’s collective cooperation for all citizens. This cooperation happens only by giving people the right to elect their representatives in a national assembly, which can watch, monitor, and evaluate the services of all government agencies. We also must speed up enacting laws that regulate non-government organizations (NGOs).
Custodian of the Two Holly Mosques, this is a historic opportunity to eradicate the very-well-entrenched culture of corruptions. We hope this opportunity doesn’t pass by our country.
Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association