Reflections:The “Red-eyed” ones Yemen’s corrupt busy-bodies [Archives:2004/714/Opinion]

February 23 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
The other day I met a former manager in one of the governmental establishments. I reminded him about those days when he was a manager ordering people about and that thanks to God he has secured himself materially.
But I was rather astonished to notice his reaction as he turned pale all of a sudden. I asked him whether something went wrong but he retorted that he was O.K and that there was no problem.
Due to my insistence and the fact that he is one of my acquaintances he explained to me why he felt uneasy, that in fact having seen me after such a long time brought memories of the old days when he had a high standing in society, and people kept charging him unjustifiably as an embezzler, that he resisted pilfering money back in the 1980s, because he was afraid of getting fired back then and that nowadays people at the age of his children have become filthy rich because of pilferage with impunity.
He alluded to some individuals who, out of nowhere, are now in possession of bank accounts in hard currencies, in different European capitals and that the houses and investments they have in Yemen are but a drop in the ocean.
This accidental meeting made me look at this problem which has been talked about by the local press and some of the foreign media. I remembered also having read during the early 1980s that such corrupt officials were termed by the man of the street in Egypt during Sadat's rule as “Fat Cats”.
Unfortunately our fat cats rarely become fat because they Chew Catha Edulis, which causes the lack of appetite for food, but not for pilfering public moneys. I discovered also that a corrupt official has to have certain traits in our country and they are as follows:
They are either chosen due to nepotism or are very intelligent in their wily deportment. They tend to be very active and hence harvest praise for their activity and gain the reputation of being indispensable. While in fact they just exert their utmost efforts looking for ways to justify pilfering more, for after all they are mostly basically unqualified.
They recurrently repeat hollow slogans about reform, honesty, transparency and the need to fight corruption but are in fact extremely afraid if it comes true because they know their own reality.
With time they become masters in the art of speech and lead people to believe what they want as they want. The clever ones do pay allowances for employees in key official departments so as to provide them with information as well as facilitate the achievement of their ends not to mention the allowances they give to the poor underpaid journalists so as to polish their dirty image and make publicity for their non-existent accomplishments.
They never cease looking for ways and means to justify their pilferage. Some declare that they are rich because they are inheritors of family fortunes and this is merely a way to cover up their daily actions, for I know many of them who used to be destitute and led a dismal life prior to their sudden boom.
They declare allegiance vehemently and in all forms possible to the rulers even if they in fact harbor different feelings of grudge and animosity and I know they really do. They keep repeating the official monotonous slogans whenever they see it befitting their ends.
If faced in their narrow circles they say that they work hard, that they are patriotic and do deserve to be rewarded whereas others audaciously boast being of the red-eyed kind i.e. a Yemeni term used for a dexterous bureaucratic pilferer (in Arabic “Homranalayoun”) as if what they do is totally fine, and hence they show off their wealth and always drive accompanied by a bunch of illiterate bodyguards as a sign of wealth and intimidation.
Such actions have created a large section of society who look up to one goal and that is the attainment of the chance to pilfer instead of competition to be the best in any of the different domains, which serve society and develop the country.
Naturally, one would ask why such pilferers are not arraigned, the moneys retrieved and they be punished for what they do. Well because most of the kind are in control, so no threat is pending nor the leadership has the will to approach this catastrophe seriously.
Finally, such pilferers try to obtain foreign nationalities namely Canadian or American whether for them or through their sons who are either born in those countries or made as permanent residents in a way or another, so that they can have a way out if needs be. The silly thing about it, is that when they are asked by the immigration authorities of those countries how come you have such a lot of money, they easily provide doctored evidence as per requirement which is an easy cake to them.