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HRH CROWN PRINCE: “70 TO 80 PER CENT” CONSENSUS ACHIEVED AHEAD OF NATIONAL DIALOGUE
01 : 55 AM - 07/03/2011
Manama - Mar 06 (BNA) --His Royal Highness Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa tonight expressed confidence in the chances of Bahrain reaching a political settlement as the Kingdom moved closer to the formal commencement its national dialogue.

In his first interview on national TV since he interrupted a TV show on Friday 18th February and called for calm, the Crown Prince struck a solemn, but optimistic tone. The interview came after two weeks of discussions with political societies, community leaders and leaders and representatives of GCC nations and key allies.
In response to a question regarding a list of demands put forward by some political societies, HRH Prince Salman made it clear that no one party or grouping should dictate the terms of the national dialogue, he said:

“No party should define the scope or purpose of the dialogue before we even start. It is important, very important, that we talk about these issues. We have no problem with talking about these issues and discussing them in depth. The popular will today is, as everybody can see, stronger than everything else.

“My goal is that through the dialogue, we can create this culture, this respect for principle as the basis for change and continuous development within HM the King’s reform programme.”

Going further, the Crown Prince made it clear that the dialogue would bring real change to Bahrain, he said:

“I can assure you that Bahrain will not go back to its former state because the one thing that is certain in life is change.”

While avoiding specifics before the dialogue has begun, the Crown Prince went on to estimate that, through the submissions he has received, that 70 to 80 per cent consensus had already been achieved. He said:

“Around 70 to 80 per cent of the demands are shared by all the people. Everybody wants better services. Everybody wants dignity. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants accountability.”

Addressing the issue of the timescale for the dialogue, the Crown Prince said:

“It may take us a long time. Some people talk about three weeks or two weeks or one month or two months. In whatever case, let our outcome be a situation that is better than our current one.

“Let us tell ourselves first that our country is more significant than the narrow viewpoints claiming we are ready to take our country into turmoil, vacuum, unrest or any other negative situation.

“We can take the country to a better situation for all. Instead of having winners and losers, let’s have victory for all, security and stability for all, and respect for all.”

Asked about details of the Gulf Co-operation Council’s proposed development programme, the Crown Prince said:

“At this point, there is a general blueprint, but we hope that the details will be available in the near future.”

On how the money might be spent the Crown Prince made it clear that there would be full transparency in the spending, but that the focus would be on development. He said:

“There are several ways to spend the money. But let us say it should be in the service of the citizens, not for consumption.”

On recent announcements including the cabinet reshuffle and the announcement of 20,000 more employees in the Ministry of Interior, the Crown Prince said:

“That such initiatives should not be linked to the dialogue. This dialogue will put in place a framework and goals that are much bigger than any immediate policy. Today we are drawing the future of a country. A policy that may be followed today may not be needed tomorrow. Let us not link the two.”

Regarding the issue of the continuing protests, the Crown Prince expressed his continuing support for the right to freedom of assembly and the right for people to live their lives free of obstruction as well as warning against those who wished to sow sectarian violence. He said:

“Everyday I seek to further the rights of Bahrainis to public assembly or peaceful rallies. This is enshrined in the Constitution and we must support it. However, these rallies must not infringe upon the freedoms of other people. This is a basic principle. I urge all parties not to escalate matters or to slide into sensationalism. Some people do want this to happen, so we have to be fully committed and to speak out bravely against it.”

Outlining the challenges ahead, the Crown Prince made it clear that while dialogue was difficult that it was the only viable solution:

“It requires agreement, time, understanding and consensus. In such pressured circumstances, losing control is easy, but would be devastating; leading to stagnation, a lack of clear vision and the removal of our future.

“I hope that everyone will be brave, patient and optimistic and motivated to engage actively in the dialogue.”

ENDS

Full transcript:

Interviewer: We have a special interview this evening with HRH the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. Your Royal Highness, welcome.


HRH the Crown Prince: Thank you, Sawsan


Interviewer: Your Royal Highness, the last interview with you was two weeks ago since which many things have happened. People need to know from Your Highness about the latest developments.

HRH the Crown Prince: Thank you Sawsan for this opportunity to explain to the public that the events we are living through are unprecedented, at least for someone my age. The solutions needed to overcome such a crisis are taking time and require patience and an understanding of all political positions. In the last two weeks, we have come to form the view that dialogue is the solution.

We have brought together the essential components of this dialogue which will be based on consensus as all political parties in the country must be respected. The most important principle is that communication is better than divergence, tension and fanaticism. Everybody, I believe, seeks to achieve this goal, within the confines in which they can move. Our duty during the last two weeks was to expand the abilities of everyone so they can respond positively to the dialogue.

Interviewer: The six societies presented 12 conditions, or six preconditions and six principles, before sitting down for the dialogue. How does Your Highness assess this attitude?

HRH the Crown Prince: We are trying to put together a list of issues. However, there is no doubt that no party should define the scope or purpose of the dialogue before we even start. It is important, very important, that we talk about these issues. We have no problem with talking about these issues and discussing them in depth. The popular will today is, as everybody can see, stronger than everything else. My goal is that through the dialogue, we can create this culture, this respect for principle as the basis for change and continuous development within HM the King’s reform programme.

Interviewer: Your Highness, there is no division, but pluralism in our society. We are not the only society to have this pluralism. There are many other societies that have pluralism, such as France and the USA. Today, there is no country that is exclusive for one race, one ethnic group or one sect. How will Your Highness deal with this pluralism? We have seen one group at Al Fateh Mosque and another group at the Pearl Roundabout. We do not wish to divide them as Sunnis and Shiites, even though such a division should not frighten us. How will you deal with this pluralism?

HRH the Crown Prince: This pluralism is, of course, a fact. And I can add to your words that even among the people at the Roundabout, there are divisions. The same is true of Al Fateh as well. We have to find the issues and principles that are shared by all parties so that we can move forward with the reform programme.

I do know that the young people at the Roundabout have their views and I wish to address them as soon as I can because I know that one of the reasons for this crisis is a feeling among some people that their voices are not being heard. I know that many of those who went to Al Fateh have views that were not included in the statement issued by the National Unity Rally or in the various other media outlets. There is a need to look into this. We have to give ourselves a chance to engage in a civil dialogue. There is no solution for this crisis except through dialogue. That is the ultimate goal.

Today, we are defining the issues of this dialogue, the ambition of this dialogue. I can assure you that Bahrain will not go back to its former state because the one thing that is certain in life is change. Today, we urgently need to take initiatives towards this change and be a step ahead of the negative emotions, or out-of-control problems that we could have if the parties do not sit together to talk with one another.

Interviewer: This takes me to the next question, Your Highness. The Roundabout has been taken as a symbol. But now there are extensions that can affect the interests of the safety and freedoms of other people. What should be done about that?

HRH the Crown Prince: Everyday I seek to further the rights of Bahrainis to public assembly or peaceful rallies. This is enshrined in the Constitution and we must support it. However, these rallies must not infringe upon the freedoms of other people. This is a basic principle. I urge all parties not to escalate matters or to slide into sensationalism. Some people do want this to happen, so we have to be fully committed and to speak out bravely against it. If we are ready, through this dialogue, to clearly enshrine the right of the Bahraini citizen to express himself or herself freely, to stage a sit-in or to take part in rallies to defend his or her rights, we have also to defend the rights of others to go on with their lives. Oppression from one side will lead to a reaction from the other side. Exercising undue authority over others is unacceptable, whatever the source. Escalation at this critical time can result only in intensifying and compounding problems, as we saw the other evening in Hamad Town, people started to feel insecure. We have to work diligently to ensure safety for all.

Interviewer: There are those who see the non-intervention by the security forces as a form of weakness from the state. They feel that the state is no longer respected and therefore they are afraid. What do you tell them?

HRH the Crown Prince: That is incorrect. The state does have strength. I still defend the right of the Bahraini citizen to sit-ins even if we differ in our views.

However, what happened in Hamad Town warranted the intervention of the security forces and they had to intervene to protect citizens. They are able to protect the people. What I see is that today most of the people in Bahrain want peaceful demonstrations and rallies. There is a small group that attempts to fuel tension. I do not wish to blame any party. I think there are elements in each side that could cause problems. However, I do call upon the security forces, and this is their responsibility anyway, to ensure the security of the parts of Bahrain where people continue to lead routine lives.

Interviewer: Do you think that the rallies where people receive messages that trouble them … Do you think such messages serve the purpose of the dialogue? Do they represent any form of pressure on you?
These rallies excite the street. What about the rallies that move further away from the Roundabout?

HRH the Crown Prince: I do not think they serve the purpose. Put let’s make thing clear here. We have thousands of people who assemble at the Roundabout to express their views with total ease and freedom. We have seen that even in this place, views differ. The tone of the speeches today differs from that of the earlier ones. Words clarify the picture for all. Dialogue is the best means. The dialogue is now taking place through satellite channels and the media in general. This is what we can see at the moment. We want a direct and open dialogue and for everybody to trust that their interests are not affected.


Interviewer: Are there contacts? We have read recently that the contacts have never stopped throughout the last two weeks. With whom have you had contacts?

HRH the Crown Prince: With everybody. We have not excluded anyone. We have requested the areas for dialogue from everyone and we are now receiving replies. There are laudable efforts from intermediaries and people who are assuming a commendable role and we thank them. They are conveying messages that we hope will narrow the gaps between views.

Interviewer: Your Highness, have you received complaints from the trade sector, from the commercial area near the Pearl Roundabout? They have been talking about how much they have been affected. What do we tell them?

HRH the Crown Prince: Of course. If we really want to engage in a national dialogue, the owners of these commerce facilities need to convey their demands through the establishment that represents them, namely the Bahrain Chamber for Commerce and Industry. We hope we will see a robust move by the Bahrain Chamber for Commerce and Industry to defend their interests.

Interviewer: Are you pleased with the moves of the Bahrain Chamber for Commerce and Industry? Do you think they are making the right moves?

HRH the Crown Prince: I have not yet received their views. I expect they will make a move because they are among the greatest losers during this period.

Interviewer: You said in a previous interview that there is no ceiling to the dialogue. Are you still committed to this statement?

HRH the Crown Prince: Yes. But I said that the scope is to be decided by the other party through a national consensus. This is a special message I wish to convey to the public: Fear, tension and growing sectarianism - We are all Bahrainis, Sunni, Shia or others. This sectarianism makes dialogue difficult, even though it ultimately has to take place. I would like to assure all Bahraini citizens that results have already been achieved, even though they have not been obvious before now. What will take us out of this crisis, and this includes the young people at the Roundabout, nobody should feel there is any party is being ignored or marginalized. We would like to listen all views around the table.

Interviewer: Your Highness, are you under pressure?

HRH the Crown Prince: There is pressure from all sides, of course. However, I believe that it is my national duty to continue with these efforts as we are building a new way in the Middle East of dealing with such crises.

Bahrain is a unique example in light of these developments in the Arab countries.


Up until this moment, we have presented a different way of working and we pray that God will help us succeed. I cannot succeed unless everybody joins in. I will not succeed without the willpower of the people, and let their voices be loud because the solution is through dialogue. I can tell you that from the ideas I have heard, around 70 to 80 per cent of the demands are shared by all the people. Everybody wants better services. Everybody wants dignity. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants accountability. So, let’s sit together in dialogue. It may take us a long time. Some people talk about three weeks or two weeks or one month or two months. In whatever case, let our outcome be a situation that is better than our current one.

Let us tell ourselves first that our country is more significant than the narrow viewpoints claiming we are ready to take our country into turmoil, vacuum, unrest or any other negative situation. We can take the country to a better situation for all. Instead of having winners and losers, let’s have victory for all, security and stability for all, and respect for all. I don’t personally think this is an easy option and everybody should know that there have been numerous promises, maybe more than what can possibly be achieved. But if we can say now that we do not want promises, we want words and deeds, let us adopt this principle. Let us adopt the principle of frankness. Let us say that this is possible and this is not possible. Let us say we want this or do not want this.

Bahrain with its open majlises, modern institutions, political development and traditions must address this crisis in a civil way as the other options will not bring us to the results we all want.

I would like to assure my brothers who have not heard from me in the last few days that I have respected all parties in this dialogue and have not mentioned what has happened or with whom I have or haven’t spoken. Bahraini citizens should not think there is a vacuum. There are efforts and results and, with the will of God, we will achieve a solution.

Interviewer: Are the recent initiatives, such as the cabinet reshuffle or the announcement that 20,000 people will be employed, part of a deal or as a result of an initiative you launched?

HRH the Crown Prince: These are de facto developments. They happened and will continue to happen as part of the government’s programmes providing services to the community. However, I urge that such initiatives should not be linked to the dialogue. This dialogue will put in place a framework and goals that are much bigger than any immediate policy. Today we are drawing the future of a country. A policy that may be followed today may not be needed tomorrow. Let us not link the two.

Interviewer: You are not linking the two. But is it a policy to absorb anger or an initiative to show good intentions?

HRH the Crown Prince: There are certain things that pave the way and demonstrate the credibility of the dialogue process. Many of them have been achieved, but some issues still remain. There has to be an agreement and the dialogue must benefit everyone. I do not want to anticipate events before they happen.


Interviewer: But, Your Highness, there are other parties in the country who feel that the new measures are being introduced at their expense. What do you tell them?

HRH the Crown Prince: It is possible that the full picture is not yet completely clear for all. But, whatever has happened recently is in the interest everyone’s security. I can assure you of this and that no people were favoured over others.

Interviewer: Is there a balanced approach to all parties? Or do those who have high voices or stage sit-ins at a roundabout get more than those who comply with the law?

HRH the Crown Prince: Not at all. We will work through this project as part of our daily work and as per our values and traditions of respect for everyone. Every view must be taken into consideration. I always urge all parties to listen to one another. The accusation that something is moving in favour of some people at the expense of others shows that the parties are not talking with one another, are not listening to one another. This is what we are trying to change. Through this national dialogue that needs to start as soon as possible so that people feel at ease. We will reach a common view. One hand cannot clap.

Interviewer: Is there a concept for this dialogue? What is its format? What is the structure? Who will sit around the table?


HRH the Crown Prince: There are of course the political societies, dignitaries, representatives of young people.


Interviewer: Have the parties been defined?


HRH the Crown Prince: No, we are still communicating and ascertaining the different views. However, the main principle that I can stress is that the recommendations of the dialogue have to be agreed upon.

Interviewer: Agreement or majority?


HRH the Crown Prince: Let’s say agreement.


Interviewer: Let’s move to international reactions. There have been international reactions to your initiative of two weeks ago. Several US officials have made statements.

HRH the Crown Prince: The whole world is behind this initiative and they want to support it. They want an exit. They want a way out for Bahrain out of the crisis, in a civil way.

Interviewer: We heard a US official sat with political forces in the country. Was it in coordination with you or was he abusing his powers?

HRH the Crown Prince: Today, everybody is sitting with everybody. In order to have a sound reading of the situation, people need to speak with one another. Of course the world wants to know what is happening, who wields influence, how we can help …

Interviewer: How are the reactions? Are they encouraging the dialogue or are these interventions influencing orientations, promoting one side over the other?

HRH the Crown Prince: Ultimately, Sawsan, it will be a Bahraini solution by Bahrainis. There will be no international intervention from any party. However, there is the international opinion. We thank the international community and we would like to stress that Bahrainis can solve their problems if we are calm, engage in dialogue, and adopt tolerance. This is what will happen.

Interviewer: Your Royal Highness has just made a tour of the GCC countries. What kind of support have you gained? We have heard the official public statements. Can we hear from you what happened behind closed doors?

HRH the Crown Prince: I went to see all the brothers in the Gulf and received from them moral and political support. Everybody wants the dialogue to succeed. And in order for us to succeed, there has to be cooperation and financial support. The financial support has to be in amounts that can effectively impact the situation.

We in the GCC are one entity. The European countries spent in one year 700 billions to protect their currency after a problem hit Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

What is really needed from the brothers in the Gulf these days is the financial support that will allow people to feel they are part of this entity and that there is a depth of feeling that wishes them increased well-being, for Bahrain to enjoy a high status, and for there to quickly be hope for a better life in the Kingdom.


Interviewer: Is there an understanding of the dangerous security situation or possible instability that could affect the other countries in the GCC?

HRH the Crown Prince: Of course,. Yes, sure.


Interviewer: Are there details for the Gulf Marshall-style aid plan?


HRH the Crown Prince: At this point, there is a general blueprint, but we hope that the details will be available in the near future.

Interviewer: Is there a vision as to whether to channel the money towards housing, employment, or wage support?


HRH the Crown Prince: There are several ways to spend the money. But let us say it should be in the service of the citizens, not for consumption.

Interviewer: Is there a degree of transparency about the money, its acquisition and distribution?


HRH the Crown Prince: It is necessary, very necessary that people should trust 100 per cent in the way it is spent or distributed.

Interviewer: Are you optimistic? I always ask this question because you have a different view point.

HRH the Crown Prince: Yes, I am optimistic. I see that the points of convergence are clear in front of us. But they need courage, willpower and fortitude to overcome.

Interviewer: This is great. What is needed now is the courage to make decisions.


HRH the Crown Prince: We have made the most difficult decision. Dialogue is the most difficult way to reach a solution because it requires agreement, time, understanding and consensus.

In such pressured circumstances, losing control is easy, but would be devastating; leading to stagnation, a lack of clear vision and the removal of our future.

I hope that everyone will be brave, patient and optimistic and motivated to engage actively in the dialogue.

Interviewer: Thank you
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