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King Abdullah orders criminal investigation in connection with aftermath November flooding
Accused referred to national prosecution body, King issues royal decree to empty hazardous sewage lake in Jeddah.
May 11, 2010 10:28 by Rasha Reslan
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has ordered the cases of all those accused of complicity in the November floods in Jeddah referred to the watchdog for government employees and the national prosecution body.
A royal decree issued by the king also ordered a hazardous sewage lake in Jeddah, locally known as the Musk Lake, emptied within a year.
“All the accused in this case are to be referred to the Control and Investigation Board and the Prosecution and Investigation Commission according to the nature of the crime they have been accused of. This should happen after the urgent completion of procedures during criminal investigations,” King Abdullah said.
The floods killed at least 123 people and destroyed thousands of homes and vehicles.
An investigating committee was set up by the king after the Nov. 25 disaster and more than 50 municipal and government officials, businessmen and contractors were detained for their suspected negligence and corruption relating to drainage and sewage projects, illegal land deals and construction licensing.
The investigating committee examined all projects implemented in Jeddah since 1950 for financial and administrative irregularities and corruption.
Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is chairman of the investigating committee, presented a report of its findings to the king in early March.
King Abdullah appointed another committee under the chairmanship of Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Prince Naif to recommend and implement necessary measures after studying the investigation committee’s report. The king said he issued the order because he wanted to determine the circumstances that contributed to such an enormous calamity in Jeddah and punish those involved.
“We do not fear blame of anyone as our faith, the country and citizens are most precious to us,” he said. The decree also urged that others mentioned in the report, including those not directly involved in the disaster, be investigated quickly.
It also instructed the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs to extend three floodwater drainage canals to wadis (valleys) in the east and extend the eastern canal to Sharm Abhor.
Authorities were order to remove all obstacles in the floodwater canals immediately, while the governorate of Makkah Province and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs were asked to remove earthen embankments surrounding the land in the wadis and watercourses.
The Ministry of Water and Electricity was tasked with pumping water out of the Musk Lake.
The king ordered the cancellation of ownership deeds for land situated in floodwater courses and near wadis and a halt to grants, sales and compensation to the owners.
The Ministry of Justice was ordered to issue integrated regulations concerning the documentation of land, including statutes that govern the duties and responsibilities of notaries and other document makers.
The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Saudi Geological Survey and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment were asked to prepare studies on areas vulnerable to flooding to enable authorities avert such disasters in the future.
The ministerial committee dealing with poor neighborhoods should supervise the preparation and implementation of a new comprehensive and integrated urban regeneration scheme for East Jeddah, the decree said.
The king also ordered the formation of a committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Finance, General Auditing Bureau, Control and Investigation Board and the Governorate of Makkah Province to investigate companies, institutions and consultancy offices found negligent in their role following the Jeddah floods, before referring them to the prosecution board.
The king made it clear that crimes involving financial and administrative corruption would not be included in the list of crimes he may choose to pardon later.
Prince Khaled said efforts would be made to develop East Jeddah in accordance with the king’s expectations. He thanked King Abdullah for issuing the directive to tackle the problems caused by the floods.
He said the royal decree included not only action against the culprits who were responsible for the catastrophe but also instructions to carry out development projects in affected areas.
Justice Minister Muhammad Al-Eissa also commended King Abdullah for issuing the royal decree, adding that it tackles the issue in its entirety.
Jeddah Mayor Adel Fakieh described the royal decree as a historic step, adding that it would contribute to establishing transparency in dealing with all issues. “The decree includes a number of important principles that must be implemented by everybody,” he said. “The municipality has mobilized all its resources to implement the decree,” he added.