SILVER LININGThe pensioners’ plight and the same old game [Archives:2007/1072/Opinion]

July 30 2007

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
One can not really imagine the consequences of the constant protests of the retired civilian and military people from the south. As I said last week in my editorial, the government keeps giving “tranquilizers” for any serious problem and never tries to address the heart of the matter. This policy of appeasing or containing some at the expense of many others is no more of help.

It seems the political regime has no vision of how to deal with this issue which is becoming a pain in the neck. The government started moving and paying attention to the question of the retired after they planned to stage a protest in Aden July 7th. Before that, the minister of defense called them separatists. However, the decision of President Saleh to return hundreds of pensioners to service and promote others came very late and did target only very few out of tens of thousands who have faced all sorts of oppressions. The government is trying to pacify or, so to speak, contain some of those retired to say that everything is fine and they are thankful for the steps the President has done to sort out their problems. It is the same old stupid game while the real problem remains unsolved completely. We have experienced this in Sa'ada where the fight has kept erupting every now and then. This approach does not any longer work.

The parliament set up a committee with a broad functional political representation to find out the problems of the retired, but it was aborted and then another committee was established. Last Wednesday, the MP Hussein al-Ahmer called for a 50-member fact-finding mission. But, some other members called for expanding the agenda of the committee to address all sorts of harassments the people of the south have been facing including trespassing of their pieces of lands by influential figures from the north.

Given the government's indifference, the issue is going beyond their control to the extent of calling for referendum over the unification. Saeed Shahtoor who is having a stronghold in the mountains of Abyan has openly said the people of the north should leave the south and that they are planning some disturbances to kick “the northern occupiers” out. This is really dangerous.

Setting up a committee after the other will not help to quickly address the problem. The Ministry of Defense has a payroll and knows well those who have been forced to retirement or those who have been forced to stay home without any job, including skilled people from the north. So why wrangling and why trying to introduce external factors into play?

Frankly speaking, we do not need to look for foreign agencies or factors to put their nose in our problems. We have accused Iran and Libya of supporting the rebels in Sa'ada and failed to bring evidence to prove that. Now, we have the problems of the retired Southerners and again they are trying to look for another foreign country to blame on instigating the angry protestors in the southern governorates. Even if there is an external element behind any of these problems, they will not succeed unless there is a good ground inside. Such claims are, in fact, also a pretext meant to escape the actual causes.

Hey guys! Please wake up and try to approach the genuine plights of the people across the country. Poverty is crushing people down to the ground while the government never stops singing the so-called “great achievements” that the people can not see but in terms of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and the growing of the corrupt crooks who are eating up everything. Such hardships are not targeting the Southern people only and we are all falling victims for the corrupt system. However, the plight of the southern people is greater as after the 1994 civil war, they were completely marginalized and their pieces of lands were looted and many others of such stuff. This makes a sufficient reason for instigating people with broken hearts. The solution is not to wrangle with them over who is patriotic and who is not; who is with the unification and who is not. Do not tell them “unification is a red line” while you are usurping their rights. Give them their due rights first and then hold them accountable for any mistakes they might make. Does this sound reasonable?!

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.