Time to Reflect… and To Change a Few Things [Archives:1998/28/Viewpoint]

July 13 1998

The recent violence that followed the price hikes is basically over. Yet, the issues and the problems are not. Let me list a few of them, and make suggestions.
1. Lack of Trust:
The people of Yemen do not trust the politicians who run our affairs. There is a deep feeling that most politicians are not interested in the welfare of the general public, and that the majority are busy amassing wealth and transferring their “savings” abroad.
Therefore, the first suggestion to President Ali Abdullah Saleh is to introduce confidence building measures. For example, why hasn’t the law which requires senior state officials specifying their private wealth been enacted?
2. Replace Corrupt Officials:
The President of the Republic should understand that change is necessary to retain the dynamism of the nation. There have been clear signals from the public that some individuals and policies need to be changed. Even if the president likes these policies and individuals, he should bow to the people’s demand and change them.
Moreover, the public demand is justified on many grounds, notably because of corruption and inefficiency.
3. Yemenis Should Judge:
The regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh uses quotes from foreign diplomats or visitors to assert that it is doing well. But that is not the right yardstick. It is the people of Yemen who are to decide whether his regime is doing well or not. The comments of foreign observers can only serve as additional signals, not as the key yardstick.
So far, the majority of the Yemeni people would conclude that the regime is not doing well. It has failed on many counts – social justice, economic development, political harmony, general safety and security, and even in regional and international relations.
4. Paying Mercenaries:
The regime regularly pays people to buy their loyalty. For example, the President regularly pays local and foreign journalists to write nicely about his ‘achievements’. This is a bad policy. If loyalty has a price, he should see that there are others who can pay better than him.
The point is, if the system in Sanaa functions properly, it would not need to do this. And if it is not doing well, no matter how glowing the reporting, it won’t help.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the presidency of Mr. Ali Abdullah Saleh. In my mind, it is a good occasion to reflect on the affairs of the nation. It is in the hands of President Ali Abdullah Saleh to initiate steps that will help reduce the tension between the regime and people. This is actually for his own good.
In the final analysis, President Saleh has to bring into the system qualified Yemenis who have dignity and self respect in the way they handle themselves. These people may not obey him blindly, but they will do wonders for the country. Strong nations are built by strong men and women!
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher