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Will we or won’t we?

Will we or won’t we?

Eman Al Nafjan, Saudi blogger, asks whether we will see an uprising in the kingdom. Her view? ‘We are still on the train heading to revolution town.’

March 1, 2011 4:34 by

A letter from Saudi intellectuals to the political leadership

Declaration of a national reform

It is no secret that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have raised tensions and political movements in many neighboring Arab nations – and our own country is in the heart of this turbulence. This has created conditions imposed on all of us to review our situation, and to make every effort towards reforms before the matter escalates and we find ourselves in front of unpredictable developments that cannot be stopped.

In January 2003, a group of Saudi intellectuals presented the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, a list of specific proposals within the document “A Vision for the present and future.” This document was welcomed by the King and he promised to look into them. It was also announced by a number of senior officials at a later time that the government is determined to adopt widespread reform policies across all sectors of the government, and reform its relationship with the Saudi society.

Now, a decade after those promises, the promised reforms had not occurred except an insignificant few, and we believe that the problems referred to in the Vision document and the subsequent letters of demands, have worsened because of the delayed political reforms. The current situation is full of caveats and reasons for concern. And we and Saudi people in general are witnessing the receding of the powerful role our country plays in the region, the growing failures of our governmental body, the deterioration of efficient management, the prevalence of corruption and nepotism, the exacerbation of factionalism, and the widening gap between state and society, particularly the new generations of youth. This leads us to fear catastrophic consequences for the country and people. This undoubtedly is what we want to avoid for our country and our children. How the government has been addressing the situation requires serious review. The government must immediately announce the adoption of a large-scale reform program for the state and the community to work together towards. It must focus on addressing the fundamental flaws in our political system, and lead the country towards establishing a constitutional monarchy. The consent of the people is the basis for the legitimacy of authority. Consent is the only guarantee for the unity, stability and effectiveness of public administration, and safeguarding of the country from foreign intervention. This requires a reformulation of the relationship between society and state, so that people can be a source of authority, and a full partner in policy-making through their elected representatives in the Shura Council. The purpose of the State is to serve the community and maintain the interests of its people by enhancing the standard of living, ensuring the dignity of citizens and the future of their children. That is why we anticipate a royal announcement that clearly demonstrates the commitment of the State to becoming a “constitutional monarchy”, and a schedule that determines the commencement date of the desired reforms and the date of completion. The announcement must also confirm that the objectives of the major reform namely are: the rule of law, absolute equality between people, the legal guarantee of individual freedoms and civil rights, people participation in decision making, balanced development, poverty eradication, and the optimal use of public resources. In this connection, we call for the reform program to include the following elements:

First: the development of the current basic governmental system into a fully integrated constitution that will function as a contract between the people and the state, with the recognition that the people are the source of authority. The separation of the three powers: executive, judicial and legislative, each governing only its specific area. Linking authority to responsibility and accountability. Ensuring equality of all citizens, and the legal protection of individual freedoms and civil rights and ensuring justice and equal opportunities. The emphasis on the responsibility of the state in ensuring human rights, and ensuring the right of peaceful expression of opinion, and the strengthening of public freedoms, including the right to form political and professional associations.

Secondly: the emphasis on the principle of the rule of law, unity, and that everyone – state officials and the general public are not above the law, equally and without discrimination. The prohibition of expending state resources for illegal or personal gain.

Third: The adoption of universal suffrage as a direct method for the formation of municipal councils, district councils and the Shura Council, and the participation of women in the nomination and election processes.

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