Only if Al-Razigi Stops the Sheikh [Archives:2001/34/Viewpoint]

August 20 2001

I would like to share with our readers in this column one of the recent experiences I have had in our capital Sanaa. I believe that at the end of this column, many would feel that they also went through such an experience.
I was having lunch in one of the restaurants in Hadda street when suddenly around 5 armed tribesmen came into the restaurant. They were in filthy tribal customs holding their automatic rifles looking right and left for an appropriate table to keep an eye on their vehicle which was without a plate and was parked so close to the restaurant almost closing its entrance. Those were the guards of a prominent sheikh who seemed to be visiting someone in the neighborhood.
The first impression I had was that there may be some sort of military confrontation in the area. But later I realized that they were just doing their day-to-day duties and there was nothing to worry about.
I went to the restaurant owner asking, “What the hell is going on? Why are those men here?” He instantly replied that they were only there to have lunch. “This is a scene that disturbs many of our clients, especially tourists. But I just cannot prevent them from coming in. They are too powerful.” he said.
I went outside the restaurant to notify the traffic policeman about the car without a plate that was parking next to the restaurant. I had many times seen traffic policemen chase plateless cars and take them to the traffic authorities. I thought the traffic policeman didn’t see the car, but later I realized I was wrong. He did see the car.
“Excuse me, does capturing plateless cars fall as one of the duties of the traffic police?” I asked.
The traffic policeman replied, “Yes of course.” Then with comfort I pointed at the car and said, “OK, then please check that car out. It is without a plate.” He looked at me with embarrassment and said, “I am sorry to tell you that I cannot do so. This car belongs to a powerful individual and I cannot come against him. He may be an outlaw, but I simply cannot risk my life.” He went on by saying that, “Many of our colleagues were killed because they attempted to stop those violators from breaking the law. We do not have a strong state support to have law implemented.”
I felt a mixture of frustration, shock, and agony when listening to his words. I then asked him of his name and he replied, “Al-Razigi. Please don’t ask me about my complete name as I can sense that I would get into trouble.” I comforted him and said that I understand why he cannot seize the car and concluded by asking, “Don’t you feel that you are doing injustice to the regular average citizens driving a car without a plate when you humiliate them and take their car to the authorities, while at the same time you let those tribesman wander in the city without any restrictions?” All he did is look down to the floor and walk away.
In brief, the experience that I had that day reminded me with the words of the founder of Yemen Times, Prof. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf who once said, “Yemen cannot progress unless law and order prevails. Law and order cannot prevail unless there is political commitment.”
Successive governments come and go yet we seem to be missing the point. We are ignoring the fact that without strict law enforcement on all -and I do mean all- citizens of the country, Yemen cannot develop.
Why are we trying to fool ourselves by diverting our attention to other less significant issues? We should focus on what is important and that is law enforcement on the ground. We need to secure a country in which the weak and the powerful would be treated equally. We need to realize that progress cannot come as long as the weak and poor are oppressed and the strong and rich are cheered. This cannot happen unless there is political will from the leadership of the country. It would be a wonderful thing to have the president himself go to this Al-Razigi and make sure he seizes the sheikh’s car with the power of law. The sheikh wouldn’t retaliate when he sees that the president is against his actions.
Mr. President,
You need to stand by Al-Razigi to have him enforce the law. Don’t let the outlaws defeat him. Don’t let outlaws think they are above the law.
Mr. President,
Please realize that Yemen cannot and will not progress until Al-Razigi and others like him can one day stop the sheikh from violating the law. He must stop all who think are stronger than the government and powerful enough to break any stated law.
I know it is in your hands to do so, and if you intend to, we promise that we will all stand by you in every step you take..