Respecting the views of others [Archives:2005/834/Opinion]

April 18 2005

One of the fundamental principles that a democracy rests on is that, all the members of the society respect (although not necessarily agree) with how other people perceive similar matters. If Yemen is to be truly regarded as proceeding forward on the path to democracy and modern nationhood, all Yemenis, whether in Government or in the widely dispersed communities they live in, who may not be in Government, but nevertheless do have the right to have their views become known and given their due weight. The people in Government do not have a monopoly on sound perception of the situation in the country and may in fact, try to project a situation that is not akin to that which is seen and felt on the ground. That is normal and expected as people in Government will never tell you they are wrong.

Thus if the Constitution says all citizens have a right to express their views (even if they are not compatible with the Government's perception of things), then those views have the right at least to as much respect as the Government expects people to have for its perceptions of things. Otherwise, there is no credibility to Yemen's claim for embarking on the path to democratic rule.

However, it is not encouraging to read how some official or semi-official media channels (especially printed form) has lashed out with unusually harsh opinions of those who may have different views on many of the events occurring in the land, as well as the economic and social retractions that are beginning to plague our development process. If there are grounds for finding such views unrealistic, it is the right of Government to come forward and explain the facts that would make any opposing views untrue or baseless. But to resort to name calling and labeling of such opposing viewpoints as tantamount to treason or selfishness is an evasion of the issue and an attempt to put down fellow citizens, who certainly have as much love and fealty to the land and people of Yemen as any conscientious government official (and there are many of those around, who have the admiration and respect of the public as well).

It is no secret that Yemen is beset by many problems lately and many of these problems might have come to easier and sometimes more peaceful solutions if reason and common sense would have prevailed and if Government recognized that it does not have a monopoly on what people should think or how they perceive things. Much is made of the need for dialogue between people of different perceptions, but it is not enough to call for dialogue when the opinions of others on the matters to be discussed are attacked or stigmatized for no real substantive reason, other than being a deserved practice of a civil and human right guaranteed by all the legislations that have supposedly legitimized our democratic process.

The President has often stated that there is no backtracking from the democratic course the political leadership has embarked on and we wholeheartedly thank him for his reassurances. But apparently those organs and political opportunists that thrive on insinuations and rejection of opposing opinion do not have an inkling of what it means to embark on a course of democratization and what the President is really implying by his reassurances to the citizens of this country.