Arwa Al-Hamdany: “Governer AlKohlani: please give some respect to the court’s decision” [Archives:2008/1129/Business & Economy]

February 14 2008

In spite of investment reforms, the irony of discriminating against smaller investors is hurting the overall investment climate in the country; as large investors are granted free land to implement their project, smaller ones run the risk of bandits occupying their bought/ owned lands.

It is evident that the investment environment has seen quiet a transformation through the last few years, thanks to reforms including improving the investment legal framework, effectiveness of the General Investment Authority (GIA), enforcement of the investment law, and the granting of very lucrative tax holidays, free real estate, and other measures aims at attracting the big – and very big – investors, smaller and medium-sized investors have witnessed an intensification of measures that limit their business freedom, and their ability to go about their planned investment due to the partial implementation of all investment-related laws, to be limited only to the largest of investments. In this Interview, we speak to a Arwa Al-Hamdany, UK-based investor of Yemeni origin, who has been suffering from the system's corruption and refusal of the implementation of laws that protect the rights of investors. Interviewed by AbdulQawi Sha'alan.

Ms. Awra, we understand that you've been suffering as a result of your decision to invest in Yemen, can you please inform the reader of the issue's background?

My story started a few years ago and will not seem to end any time soon, I own two pieces of land in Aden governorate one of them was inherited to me from my father, where we had constructed a charitable school on one of the lands, however, several businessmen including a member of the parliament occupied that land and used the school building as a for-profit wood and carpentry workshop, and claimed ownership of the property.

After much disputed I obtained a court order reinforcing my rights to the land and forcing the occupiers to pay me rents for the period they used the land as a workshop. The occupiers refused to pay the rents and hired outlaw bandits in order to continue harassing me and – for the second time – occupying my property.

In spite of complaining to the police in Al-Shaikh Othman police station, the only thing the police did is stop my son from entering the premises, protect the bandits, and even filed suite against me and issued an order of arrest. This matter of injustice escalated and reached the governor of Aden Al-Kohlani, who came by, inspected my legal documentations and property deeds, following that the governor cleared me from the police accusations but he did not do anything to support my case and instead harbored the bandits.

News said that the bandits owned property inside the land, how do you explain that?

While they were occupying the land they had built an extension and an entrance to a neighboring house inside the land, they also claimed that had containers filled with wood worth US$ 125,000 inside the land, but the truth is that they used my land to store their property without my permission inside my land and refused to get it out, they then claimed it was stolen and accuse me of stealing it, and demand the ownership of the land as compensation, its an utterly fraud which shows you how far bandits and criminals sponsored by the system can go.

The governor, deputy governor, district attorney, and the police continued to reject the court order, refuse to implement the president's decision who specifically instructed that the court order be implemented, especially since none of the other parties has any legal documentation that the land is their property.

What are the measures the government has taken in order to implement the court order?

Talk! There were four letters sent to the governor of Aden demanding immediate implementation, one from the presidential office, one from the prime minister himself, one from the minister of local administration, and one from the President of the Authority for government estate. However the governor did not do anything whatsoever, and the deputy governor – who happens to be the chief of police – said that he will implement the orders, but until date he did not do anything. There were also appeals and interventions from ten international bodies but the governor of Aden does not seem to care.

Why not?

Because the courts and the whole legal system – in spite of evident integrity – are valueless and meaningless, because whatever outcome from the legal system proceedings, it is going to be ignored. Or even worse, promote those corrupt persons such as the previous deputy attorney general of Aden who files many unfounded accusations against me in order to put me in jail, all these accusations were unfounded and following the court clearing me I demanded that the ethics committee investigates the deputy attorney, that didn't happen and he automatically got promoted.

What do you plan on doing next?

Only one thing to do, I will appeal again to president Saleh and continue the struggle until my rightful right is realized and I reclaim my property even if it took me a hundred years, and my children after me will continue with the same demands even if this took forever.

Any last comments?

I just want to ask the governor of Aden to give some respect to his own decisions and commitments, and not to ignore implementing the court orders. God will uphold the justice regime even if it wasn't a Muslim regime, and will stand up against the injustice regime even if that was a Muslim regime.