Bahraini Crown Prince says national dialogue is key to finding solutions to nation’s crisis

February 28, 2011

Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said that the national dialogue to find solutions for the country’s crisis should start soon, arguing that the conditions were adequate for all parties to become actively involved.

“The actions and steps taken in the last few days to calm down the situation have achieved a relatively tranquility that could take life in the Kingdom back to its normal state,” Prince Salman said in a statement on Monday.

“This peacefulness could pave the way for the start of the national dialogue and the development of visions and perceptions that will enrich it with all the factors for success and achieve the goal set by His Majesty the King,” he said.

According to the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, letters will be sent to all the parties involved to request them to prepare the visions and concepts they will discuss around the table in order to ensure the greatest measures of success.

However, the prince who was vested by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa with the authority to conduct the national dialogue with all parties and groups and to discuss all issues warned that despite the calm, “there are those who do not want reforms and work to stall them by all unacceptable means.”

“This disruption has regretfully now started to harm the interests of the citizens, damage their economic and living conditions and disrupt life in several areas. This has harmed the private sector institutions and the banking, financial and economic sectors,” Prince Salman said in the statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

“I have noted that this attitude stalls the dialogue and so the national duty and the mission His Majesty has vested in me require that I draw the attention of all people to the necessity to start immediately the comprehensive national dialogue and to put an end to the harming of people’s interests,” he said.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama extended his support for a “national dialogue” in Bahrain.

“The US supports the national dialogue initiative led by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, and encourages a process that is meaningful, inclusive, non sectarian, and responsive to the people of Bahrain,” Obama said in a statement.

“The dialogue offers an opportunity for meaningful reform and for all Bahrainis to forge a more just future together … As a long standing partner of Bahrain, the United States continues to believe that Bahrain’s stability will be enhanced by respecting the universal rights of the people of Bahrain and reforms that meet the aspirations of all Bahrainis,” he said.

On Monday morning, a group of protesters staged a sit-in in front of the parliament to stall the weekly session of the upper chamber. The meeting was however held later after the required quota of 21 members was reached and the upper chamber agreed to have an extraordinary session on Wednesday.

The lower chamber usually holds its weekly session on Tuesday. The move appeared as part of a tactic to take protests by young people to sensitive areas in the country and put pressure on the facilities.

The temporary blockade of the parliament’s main gate occurred one day after Al Wefaq, the largest bloc with 18 of the 40 seats, officially tendered a letter of resignation from the lower chamber.

The decision to quit the parliament was taken by the majority of the 18 lawmakers will not affect the proceedings of the lower chamber where decisions need 21 votes to be passed. It will however affect its credibility since it will not be fully representative of the Bahraini society.

Al Wefaq MPs, if their resignation is accepted by the lower chamber and leave the parliament, are likely to face the problem of getting their former jobs backs or securing new jobs, a source from Al Wefaq said.

Several members of Bahrain’s largest religious and political society, have called for a mere freezing of their participation in the parliament, but their calls were drowned by the voting following the incidents at the Pearl Roundabout on Thursday when three people were killed, the source said.

The Rally for National Unity, a freshly formed group that has been calling for national unity, said that it would hold a rally on Wednesday after the Maghreb prayers.

The group has been calling for shunning sectarianism and working together for a unified Bahrain, but has vehemently opposed calls for ousting the government.

Last week, it organised a massive rally around Al Father Mosque in a remarkable show of strength and said that it should be included in all decisions on the future of the nation. The group said that it was not pleased with the latest cabinet reshuffle.

King Hamad last week replaced four ministers, including Shaikh Ahmad Bin Atiyatallah Al Khalifa, the state minister for cabinet affairs, Faisal Al Hamer, the health minister, Shaikh Ibrahim Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the housing minister and Fahmy Al Jowder, the electricity and water minister.

Al Baharna, the former state minister for foreign affairs, started his new job by touring the hospital and checking on the facilities.

On Monday, his undersecretary, Abdulhay Al Awadhi, denied allegations that the health ministry had prevented ambulances from reaching the Pearl Roundabout to assist protesters injured in the attack by security men to dislodge them from the area.

“We received the first call for help at 3:11 am and the ambulance was dispatched at 3:12 am. It reached the area at 3:15 am,” he said. “The hospital was ready to provide medical care and attention. People should be careful about allegations attempting to distort facts,” he said.

His statement is likely to trigger a new controversy within the hospital where several doctors have blamed the former minister for not providing the required assistance on time. Several bloggers wondered why the undersecretary waited for more than ten days before making his statement.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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