Interview [Archives:2000/08/Interview]

January 21 2000
Al-Jifry:  Violence, in our opinion, is more of an animal rather than a human attribute
Q: Local and world public opinion have followed up the progress of you and 15 of your southern leaders being tried in absentia and the sentences passed against you, meanwhile contacts are still going on between yourself and the president. You are exercising political and information activity, could you please give an explanation for all this? 
A: We have already stated our position on these illegal, illogical and selective trials. We said the issue at stake was political rather than criminal, and we demanded all sides to go beyond the aftermath and consequences of these trials so that these would not backfire on the prospects of the Yemeni question. 
It seems you mention the contacts between myself and the president as if they were a matter of fact, which is not the case at all. If they have ever occurred, I would not have covered them, because they are legitimate, even desirable. I lead a solemn opposition and offer thoughtful views and chart a peaceful course of action, consequently I harbor no personal enmity against any figure. Even belligerent foes hold talks. The fact that I exercise sophisticated and effective political and information activity does not require any further explanation, because it is in the nature of things, because we are a movement with visions and platforms, a party which pursues peaceful political action. 
Q: Reports confirm you have recently met with prominent leaders from the  Peoples General Congress(PGC)? The signals made for the first time by the PGC and reiterated by its leading committee, were interpreted by political observers as overtures towards reconciliation and closing the dossiers of the past. Are these signals the outcome of your meetings? 
A: Never have our contacts been interrupted at any moment with the leading figures from the PGC, the Islah, the  opposition, or with the independent patriotic figures. We have been meeting and still meet most social, political, cultural and intellectual leaders whenever they are abroad on a visit, for business or medication. But these gatherings are held in public, without secrets or screens. No official meeting for dialogue, however, has taken place, although dialogue is the very thing we have been calling for as a civilized means to resolve differences, handle crisis or aftermath of conflicts. This has been our method since the beginning of our party some half a century ago. Given this method and policy, it is unthinkable, on our part, to conceal any dialogue should it occur. If the brothers in the leading committee of the PGC had endorsed a policy of universal reform( the political, economic, social and constitutional reforms) on the way to reconciliation and closing the dossiers, this would have been a positive step, but it is short of the required mechanism, and these mechanisms are attainable only through genuine, objective dialogue, rather than raising some slogans which are bereft of any content or any concrete steps on the ground. Slogan mongering is a barren style; it destroys credibility, solves no crisis, build up no state, heals no wounds, satisfies no empty stomach, removes no anxiety or 
fear, protects no citizen, preserves no homeland, halts no political, social or economic chaos or conflicts. 
For this reason, we believe that it is a waste of time to reduce the cardinal national issues into mere slogans, and this waste of time should come to an end; we should resort to dialogue in earnest; neither time nor the world would wait for us. 
Our return from abroad is conditional on the realization of a favorable atmosphere which may allow us to play an active role in nation-building. 
Thus the return should have a political rather than humanitarian character. 
Because we have left the country for political reasons, there must be a dialogue to achieve universal reconciliation, bring crisis and conflict to an end and lay down the grounds for reform, so that we may end deterioration on political, economic, social and other levels. 
Q: While several opposition parties accuse the government of pursuing a policy of cloning parties and newspapers, of marginalizing or curbing 
certain oppositional political parties and forces at home, we see your party, by contrast, intensifies its activities, and prepares for local conferences, notably in the eastern governorates? Would not this confirm the current suspicions that the government is preparing the stage for RA to displace certain political forces which uphold, among other things, the question of the South? Would RAY take this window of opportunity? Or would it ultimately endure what the Islah is suffering today? 
A: As a matter of fact, never has any other party endured what RAY has suffered so far from the attempts to marginalize, remove, or clone it, not to mention pressures and persecution. This has been going on since it was established in early fifties. Unlike other groups, RAY is also the only political organization which does not receive aid from the authorities – or others. We are also the only party censored by the official media, and the most prosecuted by the present government. During the last three years, more than 120 of our members and cadres were arrested in Sanaa, Taiz, Lahaj, Adan, Abian, Shabwah and Hadhramout. A sinister media campaign was unleashed against our party, and the government declined to initiate any dialogue with it although it held talks with all. Yet, by dint of being genuine, seasoned and experienced, our party could emerge from the ordeal stronger, tougher and more popular. 
As for the local conferences, they testify to our democratic commitment in 
word and deed. We do not wave theory without practice. For RAY democracy is a genuine part of our policy, rather than a temporary or conjectural 
response to new ideas or circumstances. Since 1951, our party endorsed and urged for pluralistic democracy at a time when no other party in most of the Arab and third world countries ever adopted such a democratic approach. We also applied democratic norms within the frameworks of our party. In Lahaj, for example, our influential pioneers initiated a legislative assembly and independent judiciary. Local primaries shall not be confined to certain districts, but will systematically cover all branches of the party.On the other hand, no authority is inclined to prepare the stage for another, rival party. It is the parties themselves that assume this burden of their self-promotion, activity or existence by means of their discourse, visions or political action. RAY has not been confined to criticize the government or uncover its blunders, but offered also the objective alternative. And it succeeded. It offered a clear vision for the present and the future, but declined to shed tears on the tombstones of the past, and shunned away from sinking into quagmires of old bloody conflicts. Consequently, RAY is not a captive of the past, but a free agent engaged in the present and the future. The idea or conception that there is an attempt on part of our party or other circles to let RAY displace other groups is totally irrelevant for the following reasons: 
A- RAY is a genuine, established political party in the patriotic movement, with a well-known historical record. It is not a new comer seeking a vacancy for itself at the expense of others. 
B- Many elements emerged from beneath RAYs cloak, some of whom tried, in vain, to displace it. That is because RAYs vision of democracy, sound unity, moderation, tolerant Islamic discourse, non-violence, market-based social-oriented economics, anticipated our time. With this unique vision, RAY was too solid to replace, displace or marginilize. When the right time for this vision came, RAY emerged to be itself not to replace any other entity. We decline to take the place of others, simply because such a 
position is inconsistent with our visions, methods, policy, or with the expectations of our people or the realities of our time. 
We also believe that a unified Yemen as sound system of government would be large enough to accommodate all parties, groups or individuals, willing to take part in nation-building. True democracy does not allow for displacement or disfranchising, because such notions are the attributes of totalitarianism from which our nation suffered and at which, thanks God, we have never attempted. We strive for a unified Yemen, for a sound, sustainable union, which may provide a solution of the so-called The South Question. We believe in diversity within unity, and realize that the consequences of the crisis have already crushed everybody, in the south, in the north, in the east, in the west or in the middle. They have crushed, in varying degrees, the employed, the unemployed, the countryside, the urban centers, the nomads, the urban, the educated, the illiterate, civil servants and self-employed, the civilians and the military, and so on and so forth. Hence, it is verging on the impossible to seek a partial solution for one part of the nation. We seek a universal, balanced resolution which takes regional 
disparities into consideration. 
Undoubtedly, RAY would positively respond to any rational course, any dialogue conducive to build the foundations for a sound union, in terms of government, nation or institutions, within the framework of a true democratic alternative. True democracy is inconceivable without laying down the groundwork of full reform, mentioned earlier, and without universal national reconciliation, in the realistic sense we have announced, the sense that reconciliation shall not be an instrument to enhance power, or to distribute government posts and positions as rewards, profits, remunerations or appeasement prizes. 
Q: How do you conceive the democratic atmosphere in the country? 
A: In addition to what has been said earlier, democracy in our view is a comprehensive system, meeting all demands across the nation. If democracy is tailored, as it is being now, to suite the needs of a certain party or group, then it gives birth to a metamorphosed freak, and the democratic course loses credibility. What has been going on in our country falls short of the true democratic path. In fact, it takes the form but removes the essence of democracy, and there is no room to take our experience as a good example of democratic practice. Undoubtedly, this reality has been grasped by those in the government and those outside it, not to mention Arab and foreign observers. Our aim is to reconstruct these attempts at appearances into a genuine course to preserve the true essence and remove tailoring, marginalization, exclusion, ejection, or monopolistic hegemony over power and mechanisms. Without full political, economic, social, legal and constitutional reform, such reconstruction is next too impossible. 
Q: As we have entered the third millennium, how do you conceive the future of Yemen given its present reality? 
A: In the new millennium, we look forward to create conditions that would go beyond what IS to what OUGHT TO BE. The present condition is ripping the nation apart. And it is a reality for everyone now that our nation is heading for catastrophe. Inability is seen on both the government and the opposition. A thorough change in our vision of the future is needed, in particular of what the country should look like, of what institutions and mechanism should be put in place to avoid disintegration and decline, and of what life we should build and hand over to the coming generations. If we pool our reform efforts together, a great future will await our country. It would enable us to leave crisis and inter-fight behind and embark on a great endeavor to build up the Yemeni man, achieve his aspiration for security, stability, development, prosperity and exchange of benefits with the others. If we failed, history will never show mercy on us, and our nation shall not endure beyond their overstretched limits of forbearance. Before it is too late, the situation demands that we act promptly to bring conflict, disintegration and crisis to an end. 
Q: The League party plays a growing role at the media level, do you think you are more able in using the impact of globalization on Yemen and do you think that the present League party information ability can mobilize the Yemeni public opinion according to a theory saying: Information will have an upper hand in the formation of local and world public opinion? 
A: Yes, the League party, RAY, plays a growing and effective role, not only at the media level but also in politics, movement, action and expansion, both vertically (qualitatively) and horizontally( quantitatively), a fact which any observer may verify. I agree with you that the League party, RAY, which has 
a long experience as one of the earliest and most veteran political organization in Yemen, commands the ability to deploy advanced instruments and cope with the realities of the new global order. We should, however, not confuse globalization with informatics and communications. 
Globalization is a set of trends, visions or new philosophy to mould the world system and arrange its political, economic, social and cultural processes. Informatics and communication , by contrast, are the revolution which gave birth to the highly advanced communication systems and information processing, and reduced the globe into a small chamber, or a global village. At present, you may switch on your internet-linked computer in your sitting room and have access to the whole world, in terms of business dealings, media, information, advertisement, politics, religion or society. This revolution in information and communication systems and instruments led to various results, among which are the trends of the new globalized order. 
And since the League party, RAY, has been innovative in its political thinking, it is also innovative in following up the advanced technology and data of our times and using them for the good of our people and country. 
Whatever the theory of information might be, we would not have the ability to mobilize and rally the public opinion in the right direction by using 
advanced information media, if we had not carried a true content, true issues, clear visions which meet the demands of the people and coincide with the interests of society and the aspirations for a better future for the nation. Let me cite one example. An individual may have a modern television set, and may switch it on to watch, but this individual will not spend time watching, no matter how clear the sight and sound may be, unless the program on the screen meets the desired demands, and coincides with taste and inclinations of the viewer. The same thing applies to the instruments of political and information instruments and devices; they alone can not rally or mobilize public opinion unless they carry an accepted message. Without the good contents of our partys vision and orientation, you would not have observed its growing activity. 
Final Part of the interview 
next week