Dialogue for Peace and Prosperity

And, what is being addressed by the National Consensus Dialogue (NCD) that began in Bahrain  yesterday, I believe, is just this. It is directed towards the ‘exploration of a particular subject’and ‘a resolution of a problem.’

Whatever the specific written objectives for NCD may be, for any average citizen or any resident of this wonderful country, the subject to be explored is ‘the peace and prosperity of Bahrain,’ and the problem to be resolved is “destructive and disruptive acts of violence and vandalism, which include attacks on police personnel, killings of innocent expats, burnings of cars and tyres, not to mention the defamatory-and-inflammatory graffiti on city’s walls, among several others.”

Eschewing violence and embracing dialogue is the most civilized way of finding solutions. And, yesterday afternoon, as I began writing this column, it was heartening for me to learn that, even if it took over a year, the opposition societies have finally come forward accepting the government’s call for a dialogue again.

In the first round of the National Dialogue in 2011, according to the government’s official spokesperson and the Minister of State for Information Affairs Ms Sameera Rajab, there was a consensus on 290 points of reform; 217 of which have already been  acted upon by the government. One of them is the establishment of a committee to reconsider district-wise elections in the next polls.

Also, the fact that among the main achievements of the 2011 Dialogue are the constitutional amendments and the parliament being given more powers to scrutinise the government, the power of approval over ministerial appointments, and the power to dismiss the entire government, shows that good progress has been made, and that better progress can be made in future, through dialogue.

With a broader spectrum of views that will be heard, thanks to the involvement of the heads of the federations of Trade Unions this time, I am confident that the issues will be discussed from a much wider perspective.

With a closer watch by international media channels and news agencies like BBC, Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP), France 24 English, along with regional channels of Middle East and North Africa region, I am sure that the discussion and its outcomes would be for the greater good of Bahrain, and not for the good of only a few manipulative demagogues.

Yesterday, when I asked a diplomat from a friendly country, who has travelled to 72 countries, about what makes Bahrain special, he replied that Bahrain offers a quality of life that is unmatched by many other countries, that it has an open, liberal and moderate society, and that it has some of the best well-educated people in the world.

No wonder, therefore, that despite political setbacks, Bahrain, thanks to its wise leadership, has recently been ranked as a nation with the most economic freedom in the MENA region, and also as the seventh freest economy in the world, by the ‘Economic Freedom of the World: 2012 Annual Report’ published by the leading international think tank, Fraser Institute.

So, let us be honest. I believe, like many others, that Bahrain has the capacity to  rival Singapore and Hong Kong. But it is being seriously hindered by acts of violence and vandalism, often perpetrated by misled and misinformed youths.

Instead of building upon the strengths of Bahrain, through unity, there is a holding back of collective effort, often due to misconceptions perpetrated by divisive forces.

It is legitimate to have differences of opinion. The opposition wants a specific agenda based on the Manama Document. The National Unity Assembly wants the violence to stop first. It is the duty of the government to bring these people together and to try to accommodate both. And that is just what the government is doing.

The situation may not be  perfect. But, we have to accept it. All leaders are not perfect. No country is perfect. The world is not perfect.

But not trying to serve for the unity of the country, with the larger goal of collective growth, is tantamount to shunning one’s responsibility as a citizen. Condoning violence and vandalism instead of encouraging dialogue is equal to dereliction of duty of citizenship.

So, as Winston Churchill once said ‘jaw-jaw is better than war-war’. Talking is better than violence. Let us wish that the outcome of the dialogue will help us all go together towards tomorrow.