Sit-ins continue, protestors demand reforms or resignations [Archives:2007/1112/Front Page]

December 17 2007

Mohammed Bin Salam
HADRAMOUT, Dec. 16 ) Thousands of locals and people from surrounding areas gathered last Friday in Tareem, Hadhramout, to hear opposition speeches about the current crisis in Yemeni and how to overcome it.

They unanimously agreed that Yemen's unification is jeopardized by corruption, injustice and public dissension and inequality.

The speakers reviewed the suffering and marginalization to which Hadhramout's locals are exposed to, demanding that Hadhramout be given its quota of positions in government and the Higher Institute for the Judiciary.

Former presidential candidate Faisal Bin Shamlan also delivered a speech to the crowd, saying, “The current political situation in Yemen has reached an impasse.

Unity is necessary; without it, Yemen has no future, nor does it have a presence. Unity will not be achieved unless rule is decentralized. In demanding this, we are preserving national compliance and struggle.”

Shamlan further asked, “Why are the southern governorates considered feudal, especially to influential figures of the Arab Republic of Yemen and the existing regime?

“Fears of secession haunt the ruling party leaders' minds. Unity is the choice of the entire people of Yemen. We will not resign to become second class citizens, whether in the northern governorates or in the southern ones,” he added.

Shamlan also said, “You will be surprised to learn that most northern citizens want change. Therefore, it is hard to turn a blind eye to the tragedies and deterioration happening to Yemen on a level it has never before reached. The regime has lost its grasp and balance due to rampant corruption. The struggle should be continued, as the existing regime is not good for the country. A fair and democratic state should be established, but will not emerge without struggle and solidarity in both the northern and southern parts of Yemen. The struggle should be peaceful, led by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) stressing the importance of changing the political system in the country. Such a change will not take place unless the entire election system is reformed.”

“Why was the picture of Ali Salem Al-Biedh removed when the unification flag was raised? This is a historical fact, regardless of our opinions towards Ali Abdullah Saleh or Ali Salem Al-Biedh. We are the unity makers and its partners. Those who don't want to acknowledge this should go to the sea,” he added.

Parliamentarian Muhsein Ali Ba-Surah shared Shamlan view by saying, “After independence, there was a real republic in the hands of the National Front and Liberty Front revolutionists. Today, a counterfeit republic is widespread. Today, there is a fragile democracy, missing freedom and justice.”

Ba-Surah concluded his speech by declaring, “We are in need of new independence, against a legacy of power and regression. A tribal mentality and corruption must be removed. What we struggle for is not only just but also political. Our struggle will persist until the government, economy and equality are given back. We demand the ruling party to make reforms or resign from office.” He also expressed the desire for the JMP to suspend its membership in Parliament in unified protest.

Meanwhile, in Arahab district, 25 km away from Sana'a, thousands of tribesmen participated in a massive rally organized by the JMP last Wednesday. Protestors repeated slogans denouncing starvation and corrupt policies undertaken by the successive governments of the GPC.

In the rally, parliamentarian Manssour Al-Haneq delivered a speech in which he said, “Under the rule of the GPC's successive governments, Yemen incurred despotism, corruption and price hikes, which encumbered, overburdened and doubled Yemen's suffering,” adding, “We expected that prices would go down according to the electoral pledges of the ruling party, but, unfortunately, they went up disproportionately.”

He also accused the authority and ruling party of corrupting democracy and politics by counterfeiting electoral processes and people's determination, calling for the quick response of the demands of Arahab tribesmen, which he stated are part and parcel of the demands of all citizens.

Other speakers invited Arahab locals to stand against injustice, despotism, and corruption in order to reclaim their rights, guaranteed in Yemeni law and the constitution, and expressed their hope that the government will respond to their demands quickly.

In the statement released by the sit-in, Arahab locals demanded the cessation of unreasonable and continuous price hikes which lead to deteriorating living standards. They claimed that extortionate prices also increased poverty and lead to a lack of job opportunities. They also demanded that the government support farmers by providing them with agricultural equipment and decreasing oil-related products, namely diesel fuel. University graduates having different specializations should be employed, they further claimed.

The sit-in urged the government to find urgent and quick solutions to the sanitation problem in the district, leading to drinking water contamination. It also demanded the development and rehabilitation of Aumara' and Haifa hospitals, namely, providing them with qualified medical staff along with prerequisite requirements such as free medicine for incurable diseases and helping those unable to afford medicines.

The protesters also demanded that the government quickly complete the electricity grid in the district, provide pure drinking water, and finish the road in Arahab, Hazm and Al-Jawf, in addition to telephone lines connecting them to all areas.

Protests began when military and civil retirees organized sit-ins in the southern and eastern governorates in Al-Dhale' governorate in March, expanding gradually into many other governorates such as Taiz, Abyan, Hadhramout, Sana'a, Dhamar, Ibb, among others.

The demands were increased by the protesters from sit-in to sit-in, reflecting the daily suffering of citizens, who speak out against price hikes, deteriorated infrastructure, unemployment, land looting, corruption, freedom of expression, and equal citizenship, among others. Such demands have become the foundation of the sit-ins and protests.