Ali Saleh Obad: “Allegations blaming outsiders for the bombs are easy cover for inefficiency.” [Archives:1998/49/Interview]

December 7 1998

Q: How do you assess the outcome of the YSP’s 4th general congress?
A: The congress was successful. This is confirmed by Arab and foreign observers. Moreover, the enthusiastic interaction of our members is another indicator.
We received a large number of messages of support, both from Yemenis – both here and abroad.
Q: It is reported that YSP members disagreed amongst themselves on several issues in the meetings, and some of them were absent from the event altogether. How true is that?
A: Out of 1,359 YSP representatives from around Yemen, only 108 were absent. Most of the absentees had valid reasons, nothing to do with differences of opinion. The only exception was the Hadhramaut branch of the party – 62 of them did not come. But they sent a message of support, which definitely means that they are not against any of our resolutions. They fully endorsed the party’s internal statutes, without expressing the slightest objection.
So I would say that well over 90% of YSP representatives attended the conference. All reports to the contrary all figments of gossipy people’s imaginations.
Q: Some YSP leaders said that the ruling party aims to divide the party by supporting splinter groups. It is also alleged that the authorities tried to impede your efforts to reorganize the party structures. What do you say to that?
A: To a certain extent, that is all true. Shortly before the congress, people representing the ruling authority started contacting our potential participants, using the old carrot-and-stick method. Some governors even threatened YSP members with suspension from public employment if they went ahead and attended the meeting. Some even went further by threatening our people with expulsion from the governorates where they live. All these attempts were orchestrated to weaken congress’s prospects.
The government also tried to dissuade some Arab and foreign delegations from attending by inviting them to other activities on the congress’s first day. Most of these delegations, however, were aware of the intentions of the rulers, and they declined.
Another method of dissuading participants was made by calling the government and parliament to meet on November 28 – our first day of meeting.
A few non-existent projects were “inaugurated” by the Vice President, the Chairman of the Consultative Council, and other dignitaries on that same day. They insisted that visiting diplomats, who came to attend the congress should accompany them on their inaugural trips.
The list of hindrances is long.
Q: You also alleged that the state offered money in return for the YSP taking some specific decisions. Could you elaborate?
A: We rejected all money offers for the sake of preserving our independence and integrity. We rejected all such advances.
But, let me just demand that they give us back the YSP’s confiscated property. We don’t want handouts from government money to shackle our party.
The authorities had asked us to expel 140 leading YSP members whom they specifically named. And that was supposed to be only the first round of expulsion.
Our party rejected all these dubious offers. We relied exclusively on our resources to finance the meeting. We came out stronger with more solidarity.
Q: What has been the position of YSP members in exile regarding this congress?
A: Messages of support and congratulations were sent by former or active YSP members abroad. These were read out at the conference, and were received with great approval by the participants. There was no opposition, whatever, to holding the congress from YSP member, whether in Yemen or abroad.
This rallying around the party is a resounding victory for us.
Q: What future plans does the YSP have?
A: We have many dangers ahead of us. The dangers I perceive do not only threaten the YSP, but also the whole democratic process in Yemen. Solidarity among all political powers is crucial to safely overcome these dangers.
Yemen’s political life is threatened by the excesses of the ruling party, which is trying to contain all other political movements.
Q: You claimed in a recent press conference that the YSP did not expel any of its members who were involved in the 1994 secession attempt. It is widely known that these people were thrown out after an exceptional meeting soon after the war. How can you reconcile these two facts?
A: We actually reviewed all decisions against all party members. I am happy to tell you that the 4th congress nullified all penalties since 1967 against any of its members. All those who were expelled from the party at any time during that period are now free to rejoin.
Q: A long time has passed since the YSP’s third congress in 1985. What is your assessment?
A: During this congress, we fully reviewed all our shortcomings and mistakes. We are wholeheartedly trying to learn from the errors of the past, whether made during the party’s rule (of the former PDRY), during unification and the time of the ruling coalition, or since the 1994 war. We made many mistakes.
Q: What changes are brought about by this congress?
A: We have re-focussed our goals and methods. All participants have emphasized the new goals for which the YSP struggles; namely, democracy, national unity, political pluralism, and other basic democratic principles.
Q: When will second round of the the 4th congress be held?
A: According to the recommendations, the 2nd round should be held early next year. It will start at grassroots level.
Q: Your congress demanded the annulment of court verdicts against the so-called list of 16. Could you explain that?
A: We demand all sentences against the 16 former YSP members be nullified. And we also demand that all exiled Yemenis should be allowed to come back without any fear of persecution.
The YSP also calls for rescinding all exceptional measures taken against any group of people.
Q: You said previously that Yemen needs real political pluralism. What do you mean?
A: We call upon the ruling authority to refrain from interfering in the affairs of other political parties and civil society institutions. All such organizations must be allowed to operate independently and freely. This is not the fact of life today.
Q: Who is responsible for the bomb explosions in Yemen?
A: The government is still unable to prove its allegations that these acts are instigated by non-Yemeni circles. Such allegations are easy excuses to cover-up their inefficiency.