بقلم.Dr. Abdul Salam Al-Mualla / د. عبد السلام المعلا
The Corrupt Kingdom of King Abdullah II: Misery and Anarchy
These days, things are going down the drain in Jordan, and King Abdullah II, the thuggish monarch, is not coming forward with a speech or even a press conference to clear up the black clouds of public mistrust towards the corrupt state leadership. Many people in Jordan firmly believe that the king is ineffective and extremely unpopular. He feels more comfortable speaking in English than Arabic, travels abroad every other week to take care of personal business and enhance his international image, lacks charisma of a proactive leader and seeks confrontation rather than resorting to diplomatic, positive and constructive public dialogue to resolve national problems and conflicts.
In March 2007, King Abdullah II ratified the Law of Penalties that allows for the prosecution and imprisonment of journalists and citizens who commit action or publish an opinion that represents an insult to people’s religious sentiments or beliefs, instigates sectarianism or racism, slanders or libels against the state, individuals or their personal freedoms and spreads false information or rumors about them. This law forbids sending emails that carry criticism of the king and royal family, stressing such emails must be considered as a form of terrorism: The punishment is three years in prison plus hard labor. This law represents the Hashemite dictatorship at its best! Further, King Abdullah II has refused to amend or change the current Parliamentarian elections law, a very unfair and controversial piece of legislation, criticized by many domestic and international observers and experts on national elections. King Abdullah II reported in Al-Arab Al-Yawm Newspaper, on Tuesday, May 15, 2007, that “the government decided not to change the current Parliamentarian elections law,” which is a fabricated response designed to mislead the public and international community since the government in Jordan is appointed directly and fully controlled by the king. Parliamentary and municipality elections take place in Jordan based on the tribal system: One person, one vote, introduced and ratified by a Royal Decree in August 1993. Read this news report re: this absurd and controversial law, published by the Jordan Times Newspaper, on December 8-9, 2006: http://www.jordannationalmovement.org/Flaws in Jordans Elections Law Dec 8 2006.doc.
King Abdullah’s skullduggery in the municipality elections held across Jordan on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 has ensued widespread public outrage and international condemnation. Tuesday’s tribal and clan voting for mayorships and municipality councils across Jordan has been recorded in Jordan’s history as a day of shame and mourning: Thousands of Jordanian soldiers were ordered out of their military barracks to vote multiple times for pro-king and absolute monarchy candidates; fierce protests and riots were reported all over the country against severe election irregularities; journalists of independent daily and weekly newspapers were barred from covering this important event, and many balloting boxes were destroyed. Islamists and independents withdrew their candidates. Many names of registered voters in several districts disappeared on the day of elections, and Jordanians of Palestinian origin (comprising at least 60% of the country’s population) boycotted these elections (running and/or voting) due to the fact that elections results had already been compromised and predetermined. One elections official summarized it this way: “I am saying, and very sorry to state this, that I was one of the elections officials…I saw government’s intervention in my own naked eyes: Every single soldier was casting his ballot at least 10 times…when I left the poll station and came back, I observed soldiers, wearing civilian clothes, casting their votes at least 10 times for particular and specific candidates…I was told by other elections staff that we have received orders from the Prime Minister’s Office and District Supervisor that we must fill out hundreds of official ballots and get them ready for these soldiers…Honest to God, and I am saying and directing this to our Master Abu Hussein [King Abdullah II]: Our life time is going on in your presence, but shameful and unfulfilled…." Yes, all of this mess has happened before the eyes of and based on direct directions and orders from the Arabic as a Second Language (ASL) King Abdullah II.
The Jordan Bar Association (JBA) issued a powerful statement on Saturday, August 4, 2007, condemning the uncivil and illegal forgery of these municipality elections. In this statement, the JBA stated, “…after assessing all the governmental plans, actions and significant missteps, which have been closely observed by citizens, journalists and media outlets [local and international], the JBA fully agree that these [shameful] events took place in these municipality elections: Multiple voting [performed by thousands of soldiers, security and military personnel], scrapping and transferring the names of registered voters in several districts across the country [without the consent and knowledge of these voters] and breaking ballot boxes (e.g., this occurred in the town of Balama).” The JBA also made it clear in this statement: “We emphasize that this governmental intervention is very unjustified and unprecedented, particularly in light of continued statements and media propaganda by the [unelected] government that has been focusing [over the past few months and years] on the necessity of political reforms and assuring the public and international community that elections will be fully impartial, just and transparent…what happened in these elections stresses the fact that the [appointed] government is careless and undemocratic…” Also, mounting tension and exchange of harsh words and accusations between the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the powerful political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the unelected Prime Minister, Marouf Bakhit, have flared the political scene these days and further deteriorated the political fleecing process of the absolute monarchical system in Amman.
Who is responsible for all of this misery and anarchy? No doubt: The unaccountable King Abdullah II. No single change in the political, economic, legislative and/or social arenas takes place and shapes in the country without the blessing and direct involvement of King Abdullah II and his intelligence community. He chooses and terminates the Prime Minister, ministers, senior judges and advisors, ambassadors, and governors, and gives full authorization to his Gestapo-like security forces to terrorize citizens, human rights activists and journalists.
On Friday, July 27, 2007, between 4:00AM and 5:00AM, the personal car of Osama Al-Ramini, Editor-in-Chief of the Weekly News publication, was set on fire and completely destroyed by undercover officers from the General Intelligence Department (GID) and supporters of King Abdullah II’s corrupt regime. In his weekly articles, Mr. Al-Ramini has been very critical of the lawlessness, abject poverty and human rights abuses that have been growing exponentially in Jordan since King Abdullah II assumed his absolute power in February 1999. Also, he has been outspoken against the severe corruption cases hitting high gear in the Hashemite Kingdom of Corruption (HKC) lead by the dictator King Abdullah II. This proves to the civilized world how King Abdullah II, his corrupt regime and omnipresent secret police behave: Terrorizing society, intimidating journalists and opposition, and muzzling voices of freedom to keep holding their iron grip on absolute power and absurd tyranny in our homeland, Jordan!
Scientific polls reported from Amman about the state of Jordan in the political and economic arenas are staggering. These results were the outcome of a scientific questionnaire conducted by the Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS) at the University of Jordan in Amman in July of 2003: 73.5% of those people surveyed had witnessed “vote buying” during the last parliamentarian elections. On a scale of 1 to 10, interviewees rated democracy in Jordan at 5.45. Furthermore, 83.2% of the surveyed people believed that they would put in jail if they criticized the government; 88.8% of people polled stressed that they want to live in freedom, governed by a democratic system that guarantees justice, equality, civil liberties, and economic prosperity among all Jordanians. More than 42% of respondents indicated that the current Parliament is nothing but a rubber stamp, and, therefore, irrelevant. Additional data emerged from another very recent scientific survey conducted by the CSS between July 12, 2006 and December 14, 2006. The results of this questionnaire were made public on Tuesday, January 2, 2007: “The Jordanian public…holds a favorable view of political reform (defined here as the transition to more democratic models of governance) with more than 80% of respondents holding the view that political reform will improve their family’s living standards.” Further, a significant proportion of interviewees (40%) made it very clear that “the best system of governance for Jordan is one in which the governing authority is elected, guarantees political freedoms, and empowers parliament to oversee governing powers and hold them to account.” As far as the current bribed Parliament is concerned, this questionnaire revealed, “More than 50% of respondents held the view that the [current] Chamber of Deputies [Parliament] did not fulfill its role in holding the government to account, communicating with citizens and representing their concerns, monitoring governmental activities and performing its legislative role. All this suggests that there is a public crisis of confidence regarding the Chamber of Deputies’ performance.”
Due to the above practices of absolute monarchy, rising corruption across Jordan intensifies the gap between rich and poor. The latest round of anti-corruption cases has been undermined by the contention that they are simply part of a fleeing political campaign designed to bolster the popularity of King Abdullah II. The current economic boom has had little positive effect on common citizens. Shopping “mega malls” and palaces in the western part of Amman are sprouting. In Amman’s spacious hotel lobbies, the movers and the shakers cut deals on cell phones. And in trendy night clubs in posh districts, such as Abbdoun and Shmaisani, yuppies gather at midnight to enjoy expensive whiskey and watch a flamboyant transvestite floor show featuring Madonna and Grace Jones look-alikes. Outside Amman, the view looks far different: Hundreds of thousands of people can barely afford to pay their rent or buy a sack of rice or even pound of pita bread per week! Inflationary pressure is moving the country towards a food crisis! Is this economic reform? “King Abdullah II is good for the rich, not the poor,” said a Jordanian citizen working for the government.
The disparity between the well-off and the barely surviving always has been evident in Jordan, but it has been more glaring since King Abdullah II assumed power in February 1999. The king, his wife, Queen Rania, and their corrupt cohorts and henchmen are dining and wining in first-class restaurants and shopping in western fashion capitals; whereas, thousands of people in Amman itself and other major cities, towns and villages still live atop a garbage dump and make their meager livings shifting through piles of debris for scrap to resell. Jordanians are disenchanted with the unaccountable and unpopular king simply because he has not paid attention to genuine political reforms and the need to redistribute wealth. The economic growth and dividends that the king and his hand-picked government are advertising to national and international audience are directed toward high-class areas in Amman. Other Jordanian provinces, cities and countryside areas are being left way behind.
On Monday, July 16, 2007, more than 1100 Jordanian citizens were rushed to hospitals and medical centers in the poor town of Mansheyet Bani Hassan, Al-Mafraq Province, northeast of Amman, after drinking from contaminated water, caused by a broken water pipe that had been left unchecked or maintained by water authorities for four years. The appointed government displayed clear incompetence in facing and managing this crisis. Several governmental reports and statements that were issued have been reversed and withdrawn. The appointed government told Jordanian citizens that, at this stage, it cannot determine the primary cause of water pollution and contamination in these two areas, and must send polluted water samples overseas to be checked by international experts! The appointed government and General Intelligence Directorate (GID) have exerted and put significant pressure on independent newspapers and media outlets not to investigate and publish any negative stories related to this scandal. Mr. Taher Al-Edwan, Editor-in-Chief of the daily independent Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper stated on Tuesday, July 24, 2007, “I have been seriously insulted when a senior official in the current government justified what happened in Mansheyet Bani Hassan like this: This is a limited problem and is far away from Amman and as long as the water in Amman and other specific areas in the Kingdom is okay, then we must not amplify the problem (water pollution) in a little tiny town (Mansheyet Bani Hassan)!?” What a despicable, prejudiced and racist statement from a corrupt senior official in King Abdullah II’s unelected government! The world must witness how absurd this corrupt regime is!
Furthermore, economic development alone won't resolve Jordan's political problems. Jordan is already experiencing double-digit unemployment rates. Lack of political reform is a constant threat to business development, foreign direct investment and economic growth. Government sales of huge companies, which employ thousands of Jordanians, have been tainted with favoritism and outright corruption. While the sales have helped lay the foundations for faster growth, most of the beneficiaries so far have been a small group of elites, who are getting wealthy while the endemic poverty in the more populous cities continues unabated. Tax-cheating has been elevated to an art designed and supported by the royal family: The king and members of the royal family do not pay tax; whereas, the people in the street are forced to do so! Also, violent crime and lax management are spiraling out of control, and deaths on the roads have been skyrocketing.
To conclude, the despicable tendencies that have been displayed by King Abdullah II toward daily corruption, abuse of power and human rights must not be condoned under any circumstances. All worldwide defenders of human rights must do everything within their power to focus upon, censure and condemn the exponential and rising corruption and human rights violations by King Abdullah II and his intelligence community. The international community must exert mounting pressure on King Abdullah II to take solid steps to expand Jordanian democracy from its current embarrassing level by demonstrating more respect for the judicial community, human rights issues and freedom of expression, and not just by paying lip service to these ideals in private meetings behind closed doors.