The Municipal Council in al-Ahsa has failed to achieve the hopes of its members and the citizens who elected them, member of the council Hejji al-Nejaidi admitted. In a brief interview with Okaz daily al-Nejaidi accused the municipality of transferring SR17m that were allocated to develop Prince Meteb bin Abdulziz Road to some unknown project. He also accused the municipality of ignoring the council and not taking it seriously. “Eighty percent of the council’s suggestions and requests to the municipality have not been addressed.” Oddly enough (or maybe not) the head of the municipality also heads the municipal council, of which half members are elected and the other half are appointed. I have voted for al-Nejaidi back in 2005.
Khalaf al-Harbi likens the different government ministries to the football teams playing in the Wold Cup: “he Ministry of Culture and Information is like the USA team: it can relax in the knowledge that its mere presence at the World Cup is achievement enough, and more so given that its would-be audience is otherwise engaged watching baseball and basketball. The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is like Italy: a solid defense and prepared to rough things up, with a preoccupation for not conceding in order to snatch the trophy on penalties…”
Today’s picture comes from a meeting between the deputy minister of education Norah al-Faiz and senior officials at the education department in al-Zulfi. Where is the deputy minister? Was she cut out of the picture like last time? No. This time she is not actually in the picture. No, she was not videoconferencing from her lofty office in Riyadh. She was in another room nearby, probably in the same building. The meeting was conducted using what al-Riyadh daily called an “audio circuit.” Al-Faiz has emphasized the importance of prayer rooms in girls schools, and instructed teachers to watch their students to make sure that they are praying on time.
File this under the FYI category. The Ministry of Interior said they launched a human rights department. The department will receive remarks and complaints from the public about the performance of security personnel. They have toll free telephone numbers, 989 from inside the Kingdom and 0096612928888 from outside the Kingdom, for members of the public to express their opinions or report those security officials who have broken the law. The department also aims to ensure that the public is made aware that security officials are not above the law and that justice will take its course against those who abuse their powers. The service allows the public to send their remarks in Arabic and English. The ministry said it has sent some staffers on scholarships to the US and Canada where they attended crash courses in English and computer terminology.
The Ministry of Education has started investigating a school incident where a public high school teacher made his students play a theatrical scene representing detailed postmortem procedures like how to wash a dead person, cover him, and then laid him to rest. In other news, the ministry issued on Wednesday a circular to all schools in the Kingdom ordering that no music or dancing be allowed during upcoming graduation celebration, which must take place in the morning within the last three weeks of the academic year, and that no cameras should be allowed in schools. Last week I attended my brother graduation ceremony from intermediate school (that’s junior high for you American folks). The celebration took place at night, there was no dancing, and the music was “Islamic” aka nasheed. There were hundreds of cameras, including a video crew brought in by the school itself. Below is a video I took during the graduation:
Out of the 198 members of FIFA, only 32 countries can play in the World Cup in football (that’s soccer for you American folks) every four years. Saudi Arabia did not make it to the tournament that will take place in South Africa and starts on Friday. This, of course, will not stop business owners of trying to make money on the occasion anyway they can, including selling World Cup themed abayas. Non-black abayas was one of the topics which appeared in that now infamous MTV video. Speaking of such nonconformist abayas, Khalaf al-Harbi wrote a hilarious article earlier this week on Okaz about the Blue Abaya Controversy.
Broadcast rights of major sports events such as the World Cup used to be a hot topic for debate in the Arab World. Not anymore as most people here have grown accustomed to the realities of premium TV in the region. But something in this article from the New York Times caught my attention: “In many smaller European countries, public broadcasters still have a firm grip on the World Cup, under a collective agreement between FIFA, the governing body for the tournament, and the European Broadcasting Union, a group representing public broadcasters. A similar deal was signed between FIFA and the African Union of Broadcasters, providing viewers with free access to all the World Cup matches across much of sub-Saharan Africa.” Why this is not the case here? In the Middle East there is such a union. It’s called ASBU. Unfortunately for the people in this region, ASBU is too weak and has been subdued by private TV networks owned by individuals with close ties to Arab government. Go figure.
Speaking for the World Cup, Saudi Arabia did not make it to this year’s tournament for the first time since 1994. This failure to qualify and other local sports issues have been recently discussed in the Shoura Council. The General Presidency of Youth Welfare (GPYW) has come under strong criticism from Shoura members who questioned the performance of GPWY and how they spend their budget. I highly doubt this will change anything in that aging body, but I’m glad to see them getting kicked, even if it was merely symbolic.