Soul of Wisdom: Precious Words by the deceased [Archives:1999/23/Front Page]

June 7 1999

When I decided to compile some of the late Saqqaf’s best words  from his articles published in the Yemen Times, I found it very difficult. I went through the Yemen Times archives since its start in 1991 to pick up some wise words of Dr. Saqqaf that were worthy of being immortalized. I found all his articles, mainly ‘Our Viewpoint’ column rich with highly precious phrases that reflect and picture the mentality and meaningful approach of Dr. Saqqaf towards life. He wrote about various topics and crucial issues in Yemen and the world. But, I could observe that the focal point and primary concern of Saqqaf was human rights, democracy, press freedom and many other values. He struggled very hard for them and was instrumental in introducing them into our political, social and economic life. However, they remain just small pieces in the profound dictionary of his life. Here are some of these highly beautiful words written by Dr. Saqqaf.
‘Producing the Yemen Times is a very difficult, demanding, and trying task. But we like the challenge.’
“President Saleh has to prepare the country for the 21st century. This can only be done by introducing meaningful change into the system. The two foremost requirements for any modern system are accountability and transparency. He can not continue to give lip service to these issues, He has to show that he intends real implementation.”
“Within the Arab region, human rights was a virtual taboo. I remember in the late 1970s, a group of Arab intellectuals started making noise about the need for respect of citizens by the state. The idea developed momentum until in December 1982, 18 of us- Arab intellectuals and human rights activists- met to establish the Arab Organization for Human Rights. We could not find a place to meet in the whole Arab world. So, we met in Cyprus and launched the effort from there.
I also remember as I come back to  Yemen from the meeting, the dean at my college at Sanaa university called me in  and grilled me about the crime I had just committed. I was immediately dismissed as chairman of the economics department, and was subjected to many other complications. Since then, I have been able to remain in the blacklist of our Political Security Organization.”
“The basic requirement for the success of any reform is good governance, which we presently don?t have in Yemen. Hence, hundreds of millions of dollars, poured in by multilateral and bilateral donors, is a misuse of funds. In addition, it leaves us saddled with a new debt, however good the terms.”
“Democracy is not just a bunch of rituals behind which power-hungry politicians can hide. Democracy is a system, is a way of thinking, it is a style of living, it is an environment which follows various individuals and groups to be and do their best.”
“One of the key characteristics of working in the media is the concept of deadlines. Everything has a deadline. Everybody is under some kind of time pressure. While this pressure may not be good for one?s health, it is a wonderful contributor to efficiency.”
‘The basic source of wealth should be one’s work.’
“Unless there is a true commitment to the democratization process based on acceptance of the people as the final arbiter of power in a meaningful relationship between the general public and politicians, the whole transformation process will be a sad joke.”
“One fact of life is about basic economics. Unless a society can make progress at the economic front, whatever progress is made at any other fronts is brought to naught. This is the basic lesson which our politicians should comprehend.The basic source of wealth should be one’s work. Mind you, I am not a communist, but I have a lot of respect for hardwork, not necessarily physical exertion.”
“For those who are aware and for those who are not aware, it is absolutely crucial that we all prepare ourselves for the next century. The main source of power and wealth in the next century is going to be knowledge and the ability to organize and use it optimally.There are two dimensions to knowledge-education as an overall base and informatics as a tool for its use is a specialized sense. Therefore, for those who want to prepare themselves , they better address those two issues.”
“It is important that the regime gives the majority of Yemenis a stake in its fortunes. If the people have nothing to fear in the system, they will not be inclined to defend it against any onslaught. It is important that all Yemenis should feel that they have a stake in the system; otherwise they won?t identify with it”
“In all cultures worldwide, responsibility grows with social and political stature. That is probably because more power entails more responsibility by definition. Also because people with a higher public profile traditionally become role models and , therefore, shoulder a higher burden. In addition, leaders are often seen as a source of inspiration and spiritual and moral guidance. For those and many other reasons, people at the top power structure carry a bigger responsibility than the average individuals.”
“It is my belief that grass-roots level organizations such as unions and syndicates are vital contributors to the system  because of their broad-based interaction. They give tangible meaning to popular participation within a democratic context. Therefore, any effort to broaden the participation base of decision-making in the country should, in part, involve the unions and syndicates. This means letting these organizations do their job.”
“Development is not merely an accumulation of capital. It has a moral component which elevates society to behave within certain norms and values. A corrupt system can not lead to prosperity for all members of society….. The Republic of Yemen already is poor in resources. If such a disadvantage is further coupled with the wrong values, then our society will be saddled with poverty and backwardness for a long time.”
‘Yemen needs politicians who are true to the ideals they propagate and accountable to the public?
“A true democracy is based on tolerance , especially of different points of view. Yemeni officials can prove to be democratic by showing their tolerance and respect of the freedom of the person. The Ministry of Information should not claim to be the guardian of thought. A democratic society does not need one.”
“We in Yemen need to nurture within us the automatic inclination to respect the law. As citizens, we should respect the law, as businessmen, we should respect the law, as government bureaucrats, we should respect the law, and as leaders, we should respect the law. Living by the law is the other side of the coin called democracy. Let us help stop these citizens who break the law, let us help stop those bureaucrats who break the law, and let us be ready to stop our leaders when they break the law. This is the way to safeguard our freedom and to preserve our democracy.”
“In the final analysis, the better humans are those that are more able to live with one another and help one another. That actually is the base of the Yemeni mentality and character throughout  ages. That is why we were successful as merchants , as messengers, and as mediators and middle-men throughout history. Snobs and self-righteous people could never have succeeded in those trades. The question is 😕 Are we losing touch with our nature as Yemenis??.”
“One of the virtues of democracy is to bring  a certain degree of accountability to the system. This is a good place start. Could our leaders lay down the rulers for giving away government money?”
” I have always known that the system of Yemen is not hospitable to the well-educated. It is a fact that the people who feel most at home in Yemen are the sheikhs and their tribesmen. The lawyers , engineers, physicians, PhDs, journalists, accountants and other professionals are in a constant search for a home elsewhere in the world. With this happening, no one can convincingly tell me we have a good government in Yemen.”
Compiled by/ Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi,
Yemen Times