By Tawfiq al-Saif
Each citizen has his own way to celebrate the National Day. We may get busy recalling history, or repeating the already much-repeated questions about the permissibility of celebrating the occasion or not. Or we could take the easiest way that our television channels have chosen by dusting off the old archives, etc.
The choice that I find most beneficial to myself and my people is:
- Recall the laws that have been approved but never implemented.
- Recall the laws that the country needs but, for some reason, never receive any enthusiasm by the officials.
Few days ago I heard that the Council of Ministers (or maybe the Royal Court) asked the Shoura Council to assign deadlines for passing the law proposals sent to it to avoid unnecessary delays.
This directive touches on a serious need that most people fail to realize, but those who believe in the importance of laws and the country’s need for a comprehensive legal system realize that the lack of laws or delaying them is a reason for administrative failure and the deterioration of government performance.
From the same perspective and on the same level, the Council of Ministers should also assign deadlines to approve the laws that have been passed by its committees or by the Shoura Council.
Any law is put forth as a framework to address a national need that has been exposed at a certain time. A need related to the everyday lives of people, to manage the economy, to preserve social security or other affairs of the nation. It makes no sense to define a need and identify a solution then put this solution in the drawer for months or years.
One of the most pressing examples is the law of civil society organizations that have been passed in its final form by the Shoura Council two years ago, after spending four years between the Council, the Cabinet and their different committees.
One of the examples of the second type mentioned above, i.e. the laws that we need but get lukewarm reception by officials, is the necessary laws to protect the rights of individuals and their freedoms.
The Kingdom has joined all the Arab, Islamic and International human rights accords, and established in recent years the Human Rights Commission which should serve as a watchdog to ensure that government departments are adhering to human rights. However, the articles of these accords have not become part of the national law, and no executive bylaws have been issued to make them obligatory, or to allow concerned parties to invoke them.
There are laws that should protect the rights of citizens, such as the publication law that represents the legal framework for freedom of expression, but this law is generally dedicated to list the restrictions on free speech and not to assert it or explain the legal means to protect it. The broad and shortened texts can be used for contradictory purposes. Myself and other writers and content creators do not see in this law a tool to protect their freedoms as much as they see restrictions on their rights.
We are in need to speed up writing bylaws for laws that have been approved, and to set final deadlines to put them into effect. We are in need to write a national charter for human rights to serve as a reference that people can invoke when they feel that their rights have been violated or assaulted by any party, official or unofficial.
We want the celebration of our National Day to become the beginning of developing our country, and to preserve the security of its citizens and guarantee their rights, so that their pride of their nation is built upon determination of a future dream that can one day become true.
Tawfiq al-Saif is a Saudi intellectual and writer. This article was translated from Arabic. The original text was first published in al-Eqtisadiah newspaper on Sepetmber 25, 2012.