Hopes Crown Prince Salman will fulfill vision

March 16, 2013

CP Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa – Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who in December said that he was not a prince of Sunni Bahrain or a prince of Shiite Bahrain, but a prince of Bahrain, was this week appointed first deputy prime minister.

The news sparked wild speculation about the significance of the appointment that gave him a new role and geared the nation towards a new stage in its modern history. Good wishes poured in from all sides, starting with the Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa and others including ministers, officials, the opposition, business community and the media.

All seemed to agree on the significance of Prince Salman being entrusted with the development of the executive agencies as the country seeks to heal its sectarian wounds that have not healed in two years. The question that dominated Bahrain was whether Prince Salman could have the magic effect people of all backgrounds believed he had.

The prince himself has pledged to “remain committed to working towards the growth of this nation and the maintenance of its security and stability”.

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In a cable to his father King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa, Prince Salman said: “A decade ago, Your Majesty laid down the foundation for enhancing tolerance, building consensus and promoting inclusiveness. During the last two years our kingdom has witnessed events that no person wished to see. I vow to continue the work, alongside all the loyal people of Bahrain, to ensure that this nation endorses diversity, democracy, respect for human rights and principles of citizenship, rights and responsibilities with no discrimination.”

For the overwhelming majority of people in Bahrain and abroad, Prince Salman means hope for a vibrant future thanks to his passion for success. Born on October 21, 1969 in Riffa, he is the eldest son of King Hamad and his wife, Princess Sabika Bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa. After graduating from Bahrain School, he pursued further studies abroad. He earned a BA degree in Political Science from the American University in Washington D.C. in 1992, followed by an MPhil degree in History and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge, England in 1994.

Prince Salman was vice-chairman of the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research (BCSR) from 1992 to 1995 and the chairman of its board of trustees between 1995 and 1999.

He was sworn in as Crown Prince of Bahrain on March 9, 1999 after his father became the country’s ruler upon the death of the Emir Shaikh Eisa Bin Salman Al Khalifa. He held the post of commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) from March 1999 until January 2008 when he was appointed Deputy Supreme Commander of the force.

His fondness for investing in Bahrain’s youth and future prompted him to launch the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Programme that awarded the most able high school students from Bahrain scholarships to continue their higher education abroad to benefit from foreign expertise and be prepared to confront the challenges of the demanding modern job market. He used his particular enthusiasm for sports to make Bahrain the home of motor sports in the Middle East by hosting the first Formula One race in the region in 2004.

In 2001, at the age of 32, he held his first major public press conference, prompting enthusiasm in the media and television audience with his views on reforms, people’s participation in governance and a viable democracy. His open optimism motivated several people to endorse the National Action Charter and the reforms it promised. It was a genuine ‘Arab Spring’ with a domestic adaptation inspired by universal ideas and global truths.

For years, Prince Salman pushed for genuine reform of the labour market and making the state more productive and more efficient in facing the challenges associated with living in a particularly tough region plagued by wars and ideological conflicts.

Managing crisis

When in 2011, regional events rocked Bahrain, the man who has been known for championing unity and peaceful co-existence for all, stepped in to manage the crisis.

Hours after several Bahraini demonstrators were killed in clashes with the police, Prince Salman launched an initiative to get all sides to sit together regardless of their ideological and political affiliations and help the country find its way through political, social and economic challenges.

He promised that the National Dialogue would address all issues without pre-conditions or prejudice. The invitation was remarkable by any standard in the traditional and conservative Gulf region and signified a new chapter in Bahrain’s history. Unfortunately, it was not seriously taken up and, as the international panel of experts that probed the events later said, a golden opportunity was missed. Bahrain slid into a profound abyss of divisions that have plagued the return to normalcy until the present time.

In December last year, Prince Salman insisted that the frustration of the silent majority should be ended and that innocent people should not be made to suffer.“There is a silent majority here in the kingdom of Bahrain who feel that their voices are unheard,” he said. “They are the ones who sleep at night with no security at their gates. They are the ones who live in mixed communities, representing different sects, ethnicity and political beliefs.

“They are the ones who have to live, day to day, with the spectre of a sectarian conflict that may damage them, their interests, their future or their children at any time. That cannot be allowed to happen.

“Responsible leadership is called for. That is because the majority of the people of Bahrain want a solution that puts the events of last year firmly in the past, and I believe that dialogue is the only way forward.

“Bahrain’s people and government and the international community have to assume their responsibilities in overcoming the crisis by taking meaningful steps forward.

“Wishing for peace never works, but peace making does,” he said.

With such a vision and with openly pledged support from all sides, Prince Salman should be able to help people embrace greater commitments to unity and shape the events in the country for the better.

He is right to state that the path to progress is not always linear and that there will be setbacks and challenges. But, again as he said, “if we hold human dignity, human security and justice above everything else, we will prevail”.




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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