Abdul Jabar Sa’ad:”It’s obvious that seriously tackling corruption is atop Saleh’s priority list.” [Archives:2006/986/Reportage]
Mohamed Bin Sallam
The new term for President Ali Abdullah Saleh raises several questions about what might (or might not) change. Among other development issues, Saleh's electoral platform included poverty reduction, tackling corruption and unemployment.
The Yemen Times interviewed controversial Yemeni writer and political analyst and Deputy Minister of Finance, Abdul Jabar Sa'ad, who spoke about the political economy of the upcoming Saleh term of office and his theory about what the future might have in store for Yemen.
Post-election, what are your expectations for Yemen's future, specifically, the challenges and risks President Saleh will face in his new term?
(Laughing) Although the election competition was sincere and serious in accordance with opposition testimony, I think Yemenis realize that the most capable person to lead this nation is President Ali Abdullah Saleh, despite the widespread corruption linked to his governance.
He himself has admitted that corruption has increased under his governance; therefore, it's obvious that his first task during the new term is to seriously tackle and eliminate corruption, followed by improving citizens' living standards.
You can see that the nation's financial resources are being channeled through and to corrupt individuals, who spend it shamelessly and manically, despite the fact that most Yemenis live in poverty.
The risk comes from insincere opposition, which has one simple aim – to bring the current regime to an end in line with the greater Middle East project being administered by the United States and Israel. This project's Yemeni chapter is via the current insincere opposition, which is spreading anti-Saleh propaganda by spreading half-truths and false accusations against him, saying he's still Yemen's dictator.
The current democracy remains in great danger and human rights violations are escalating. Such allegations don't include a sincere will to develop Yemen; rather, they're part of a bigger plot to demolish whatever progress the nation is realizing.
This is most evident, as the opposition knows where corruption lies and those involved in it; however, we've never seen opposition take any stand toward combating it. In fact, they promote several corrupt individuals working to serve them; therefore, they never take a stand against corruption by presenting anti-corruption programs or using their well-established pressure groups in Parliament or the Shoura Council.
They threaten to withdraw from Parliament, the Shoura Council and local councils if their anti-corruption programs are ignored. In fact, doing so would validate their claim that the regime sponsors corruption, but this isn't their aim, which is to overthrow the president, not end corruption.
Even in Parliament, one can see that all comments against and investigations into corruption always are initiated by ruling party members and detected by government agencies like the Central Organization for Control and Audit (COCA). In fact, unlike the opposition, some have resigned their posts because they feel the government isn't serious enough when it comes to tackling corruption.
Having said that, what are the sources threatening Yemen's development and stability?
The real source of danger is Yemen's own version of 'Mohammed Faal.'
I'm referring to Mohammed Faal of Yemen. Haven't you seen how Mohammed Faal of Mauritania overthrew the regime there? In Yemen, we have our own Mohammed Faal, who's being put together and endorsed by U.S. intelligence agents operating in Yemen. In fact, according to sources, these agents suggested that Mohammed Faal be nominated for president and this suggestion was prior to President Saleh's decision to run for another term.
Therefore, Yemen's Mohammed Faal is the candidate to compete against President Saleh, Mohammed Faal is the one working on a plan to overthrow the regime and it's Mohammed Faal who forbids anyone to talk about corrupt individuals and tempts people to talk about the president.
Journalist Jamal Aamer was punished for talking about corrupt figures but he wasn't punished for similar talk about the president, thus drawing my own conclusion that those corrupt figures are untouchable, whereas the president isn't.
You see, Mohammed Faal is the one assigning ministers and all government officials and he's the one supervising and directing them. Mohammed Faal also is chairman of the authority to combat corruption, as well as chairman of the authority to combat terrorism, adding that foreign experts review all reports prior to deciding which ones reach President Saleh and which don't. Therefore, in close collaboration with foreign parties, Mohammed Faal is the actual one in charge of running Yemen.
President Saleh knows about all of this?
He knows very well.
Then why doesn't he do anything about it?
On most occasions, President Saleh knows when to fire his shot. He undoubtedly has intelligence about what's going on around him and he does his calculations while taking advantage of the links 'his friend' has with the U.S. You don't know what they have in mind for 'the friend,' even though you now know what they have in store for the president and he knows it as well.
If President Saleh knows about this corruption and those participating in it and also about this conspiracy against him, what's stopping him from seriously reforming and improving his public image, as well as protecting himself from the threats you mentioned?
I've already answered your question, indicating that the opposition isn't helping in this process and that it isn't pressuring via sincere anti-corruption programs, which could be very helpful in illustrating what must be done. Unfortunately, the opposition aims at backstabbing and eventually destabilizing the nation.
In reaching those ends, they take advantage of corrupt individuals within the regime like Mohammed Faal, presenting him misleading facts to be used to formulate decisions for purposely bad consequences; therefore, resulting in manipulating President Saleh in coordination with corrupt individuals within the regime and the opposition, as well as in coordination with foreign entities.
What do you project for Yemen's future following the elections?
I can say that the masses who supported the opposition don't belong to the opposition itself; rather, they are masses of the regime through Mohammed Faal.
Is this really believable?
Why shouldn't one believe this, as he's the U.S. candidate to be an alternative to President Saleh? The process must begin from now. People first see public masses confronting the president and then will compare these masses with the voting result Saleh received. They'll say there was vote fraud and Mohammed Faal will do this by providing a pretext and evidence for those claiming it.
He'll instigate protests, overthrow the regime and neutralize the army with a U.S. threat. And Mohammed Faal will come. This is the U.S. scenario for Yemen and we don't know where this will take us. It's the public that encourages, makes Mohammed Faal prominent and helps him move here and there.
Many say Yemen is bound to suffer seven hard years and that during this period, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and corruption rates will run high. Do you agree?
No o, I don't agree with this expectation, but it may happen if the above U.S. scenario succeeds. I hope this won't happen because it'll be the beginning of numerous collapses, which no one knows their end.
But if such a scenario doesn't happen, I think our situation will maintain the minimum limit of evil unless such situations improve in the short term. In the medium and long terms, prospective regional and world changes will help liberate the Western-controlled will, as well as help us get rid of enemies.
Do you fear any consequences from suggesting these viewpoints, which nobody dares suggest?
If I fear no one other than Allah, this means I must kneel before him and worship him. In such a world, nothing is fearful except death. I think death is the ultimate end every strong believer seeks, particularly when enemies and their allies come.
Betting on the U.S. project's failure, do you think you bet on something you can't achieve?
Perhaps, but if you deduce it from facts of the world situation, you'll agree with me and therefore, I want you to consider the following:
– The U.S. is failing in Afghanistan while the Taliban has resumed offensives, which the superpower hasn't seen since it occupied Afghanistan. Therefore, unhealthy situations in Pakistan don't go in favor of the U.S.
– The U.S. is failing to fight terrorism, despite the fact that it's turned the whole world into colonies, jails and barracks for its armies.
– The U.S. lied to the world about Iraq and ousted a regime that has never been accused of corruption, nor did it violate any international legitimacy.
– The U.S. hasn't provided Iraq democracy, nor has it respected democracy in Palestine or international conventions. The superpower is using the United Nations to attain its goals.
– The U.S. failed to cause Israel to defeat Hezbollah; however, it expended strong efforts to support Israel during its most recent confrontation with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
– The U.S. has failed to market its project in Egypt, Syria and Sudan. It also has failed to deal with Iran.
– For the first time in its history, the superpower has lost control of South America, particularly as the continent's states one by one have begun to rebel against it.
– The U.S. is suffering a racial and economic crisis, as revealed by the New Orleans catastrophe following Hurricane Katrina. More than 40 million Americans have no access to health care. Additionally, the U.S. budget mostly is spent on futile things at the expense of U.S. citizens' living standards.
All of these points take us to one judgment – that the U.S. won't survive as an emperor to rule the world and control the fate of Muslims in the Middle East. When the U.S. collapses, Israel won't survive.
Despite the fact that you studied in the U.S., why do hate it?
I have no animosity toward the U.S. as a nation or a civilization. I have to respect it since I studied there and benefited from my presence there. I wouldn't know well the reality of being a Muslim except for being in the U.S. But for the time being, the U.S. has turned to become the real enemy of Islam and Muslims. The U.S. is the aggressive George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.
Some accuse you of backing President Saleh and standing against change and peaceful transfer of power, despite the fact that you seem convinced that no reform will be implemented under Saleh's umbrella. How do you react to this?
First of all, please don't create a connection between me and the president. I didn't meet the president except after I stood trial last year and was suspended from work. Even, when I met Saleh, he directed concerned parties to return my property to me, but such didn't happen. I never expect justice from a tenure of corruption, which has destroyed the entire nation.
Secondly, until the president appointed me Deputy Minister of Finance for the revenue sector last year – a post I deserved 25 years ago in compliance with the law – I couldn't restore any rights accrued to me while I was general manager at the Hodeidah Customs Authority.
I don't oppose change or peaceful transfer of power. I respect peaceful transfer of power, which Saleh has provided with my faith that he's the eligible one to lead the nation in the meantime. But I think this election, which featured strong competition and unification of all opponents, shows us that only the people have the ultimate word in choosing for Saleh to remain in power.
Those who say that nothing has been achieved during the past 28 years are denying the facts. I was a Customs Authority officer and customs used to contribute more than 70 percent to state revenues. Before unification, I believe corruption never exceeded 20 percent, while these days, reform doesn't reach 20 percent. The post-unification period, which witnessed conspiracies and coalitions, directly caused the poor situation the president himself most dislikes.
Saleh's reign is a period of achievements. As you know, until the end of [President Ibrahim] Al-Hamdi's reign – which marked real development and reform – there were no good hotels or hospitals in Sana'a and the road network only connected the three main cities.
Finally, can you brief us on any changes the Ministry of Finance has witnessed in the past few months and was there any reform?
I hope you forward this question to another because I left the Ministry of Finance, but I'll talk about the part that concerns me, which is revenues. Nothing was achieved and nobody benefited from what my report mentioned; therefore, the president won't get this report.
Having learned that Mohammed Faal made the most recent changes, you must bear in mind that such changes were meant to increase corruption prior to the presidential election. What is happening is merely a desire to increase corruption and frustrate citizens according to the U.S. scenario.