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"Bahrain is recovering", Interior Minister says
10 : 20 PM - 19/10/2011
Manama-Oct 19(BNA) Bahrain is recovering steadily from the recent unrest, led by the voice of moderation, Interior Ministry Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa said. He deplored the death toll, stressing the detrimental repercussions of recent unrest on Bahrain's national economy "We lost lives, suffered economic and financial losses and lost the spirit of peaceful co-existence but we are recovering", he said.

In an interview with Al-Arabia TV Channel, he said that the law would have the last word.

He reaffirmed Bahrain's strong condemnation of the heinous plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel Al-Jubeir. "This treacherous act contravenes all agreements of cooperation and good neighbourliness", he said. He pointed out that the plot which aimed at embarrassing the Bahraini-Saudi ties had backfired.

Here is the full transcript:

Ladies and gentlemen. We welcome you to one of the episodes of our programme "Exclusive Interview". Today’s guest from Manama, Bahrain, is His Excellency Minister of Interior Lt. General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. In this interview, we will tackle some issues pertaining to security of the Gulf Region and that of Bahrain in particular.

Your Excellency Shaikh Rashid. Thank you indeed for accepting our invitation. To start with, our first question is about a hot topic, which is the assassination attempt against the Saudi Ambassador to Washington and its repercussions on the Gulf-Iranian relations, notably in view of press leaks from Washington indicating a connection between the perpetrators of the plot and some of those who led the protests in Bahrain last February and March. What are your comments?

First of all, thank you for the invitation. As far as this incident is concerned, we thank God the Almighty that the plot was aborted. Thanks also go for the security departments for their efforts in thwarting the plot. I call it an act of treachery that is incompatible with all cooperation agreements and neighborliness norms. You should know something. Those who are behind such plots usually target only good and patriotic people. If it was meant to disrupt the Saudi-USA relations, I believe the results proved to be the opposite of that goal.

What about the US press leaks about a link between the suspect and the leaders of the protests in Bahrain?

This is important press information. I see it in this framework.

The Kingdom of Bahrain has recently witnessed some incidents which the Ministry of Interior referred to as cases with criminal suspicions. Some opposition groups, however, have accused the Ministry of being behind the fall of those casualties. We are talking here about the death casualty in Sitra and another death casualty afterwards. What is your evidence that what happened had had criminal suspicions?

In the first case, we reacted quickly and gathered the necessary formation, but there was a great deal of discrepancies between witnesses' testimonies. One of the eye-witnesses is still outside the Kingdom, and according to our knowledge he is now in Syria having entered that country through Jordan. Concerning the forensic evidence, medical tests affirmed that there was no trace of tear gas in the blood sample of the casualty. Technically speaking, it is difficult to point to and hit a moving person with a tear gas projectile.

What about the second casualty?

We have not seen the witnesses, who were present in the area [where the incident occurred]. Some witnesses are at large, and some other ones are being interrogated with at the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Another thing, we noticed that the bullet which hit the casualty was clearly different from the ammunition used by the Ministry of Interior. It was much bigger in size than what is used by the Ministry.

You’ve been accused of the use of excessive force. Did the security forces show cruelty in dealing with the matter?

Your question is too general. We have instead to see what was on the grounds and narrow down our talk to the origin of the issue and dealing with demonstrators. This issue of demonstrators is not something new. I recall that in a recent year, demonstrators amounted to 400 demonstrations and gatherings. Today, we are policing this openness. It is our job to protect it. We never deal with any demonstration unless it is illegal. Let me here correct some misconception. People talk about two types of demonstrations: peaceful and not peaceful. The correct differentiation, however, should be made between a legal and an illegal demonstration. We deal with the illegal ones in accordance with the law, when we use force, we undoubtedly use it gradually.

You are accused of using live ammunition. Why did you shoot the protesters with live bullets?

First of all, I personally have never received orders from any officer to fire [on demonstrators]. This has never happened even on the days of the crisis, if it can ever be called a crisis, nor in any other event. On the other hand, if the Ministry of Interior ever issued an order during the said period [of dealing with demonstrators] who were present at the GCC roundabout, then such an order was to affirm commitment to the provisions of the Public Security Law on matters pertaining to the use of arms.

You stated that there were some mistakes. Some press leaks quoted the Fact-Finding Commission stating that there were some individual misconduct categorized as mistakes. So, this means mistakes have been committed.

If we are talking about the unrest period in February and March, then it is being investigated by the Commission. The event was a big one, and so were the violations of the law. I believe that not all of those who violated the law have been arrested. There is system for accountability. Such a system is not restricted to the two-month period under investigation by the Commission. On the contrary, the information so far submitted to the Commission states that the Ministry of Interior follows a system for accountability just as it provides another system for thanking and rewarding.

How did you act to those mistakes? Did you follow a certain mechanism to treat and monitor such mistakes?

The mechanism is already in place. If your question is about our attention to complaints, then we already have a Directorate in charge of human rights issue and receiving complaints. We have received several complaints and acted upon them. This point has been taken into consideration when we restructured the Ministry of Interior. This director answers to the Inspector General and has a hotline to receive complaints. Its contact number has been regularly announced for the public.

Before the pause, I would like to ask you a question which kept haunting me: Your Excellency, are you sectarian?

The one who does not take pride in his family or his identity has no good in him. I am undoubtedly proud of my belonging [to the country]. I would be very extremist, if extremism means being patriotic to my country and to the Arab nation at large.

We will talk more about this but after the pause. Ladies and Gentlemen remain tuned as we will be back to this exclusive interview with His Excellency Lt General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Interior Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Welcome you in this special and exclusive interview with His Excellency Lt General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa.

We asked you before the pause whether you are sectarian or not and you answered our question. The question is now: Is the Ministry of Interior sectarian? Let us talk frankly about it. Is the Ministry a monopoly of the Sunni sect?

In general, I refuse to talk about sectarianism. All the sects are represented at the Ministry of Interior, and I answered similar questions on many previous occasions. This makes me recall His Majesty the King's words when I was first assigned the portfolio four years ago. He said to me: "Remember that you are to serve all and make sure that the job of the police cars is not to head for villages to arrest one of their youths."

Those words inspired me to create the Community Police, a pioneering project at the outset of which we mobilized 100 community police members in each governorate. It is one of the most successful projects in reinforcing community partnership.

The Policemen work as a team. The one who shows dedication and commitment is rewarded, and the one who neglects his work or violates laws is punished.

Why do you seek help from the so called "mercenaries"? Do you really have mercenaries at your ministry? Sorry to have to ask such a question, but this is what is often said in the streets.

First of all, let us talk about the term itself. Persona mercenary is a person that is recruited to perform a task, which is always fraught with danger, and is sometimes illegal. From this viewpoint, we have no mercenaries. We have workers who have been serving at the Ministry for many years. Some of them have been naturalized and their children are working at the Ministry, too. In addition, I want to speak frankly about one thing. Suppose that I employ a battalion of Sunnis or Shiites and ask that battalion to deal with a certain matter in one of the villages, don't you think that by doing so I will create a problem? It is difficult for me in a small country like Bahrain to ask local people to carry out such tasks. In some big countries, it is quite a possible option because people do not know each other in the way it is here. My duty is to preserve social cohesion, not ruin it.

During the incident which took place at the largest commercial mall in the Kingdom, you've been accused of using excessive force and arresting women. How do you comment on this?

I reject excessive use of force, in principle. We just deal with illegal demonstrations for the very reason of which we use policewomen so as not to let male police confront women, a matter that would otherwise contradict with our traditions and customs. There was a flagrant violation of the law by a large number of women and the right measure was to deal with the situation. What I would rather tackle here is the magnification of the matter and the distortion of facts. What was right is to deal with the situation in the way we did. If women were to be protected and respected as per our traditions and principles, they wouldn’t have been dragged into a situation where they could be blamed for any breach of the law. This is what I have to stress. These are the invariables that we should commit to.

There are some who accuse the Ministry of having tried to solve a political problem in February and March by fostering the security option, was that a kind of cure or prevention?

Perhaps the title was political but in essence it was a conspiracy and an overt coup attempt to overthrow the political regime and replace it with an Islamic republic. This issue is not political. It was propagated for from the podium of the GCC roundabout on which the demonstrators were calling for toppling the regime. The demonstration leaders are very well known to us and so are their political associations with which they are affiliated. It was not about demands for political reforms. Bahrain is at the peak of political reform under the rule of His Majesty the King.

If one looks at the matter objectively and on the achievements that were made in the last ten years starting from the national Action Charter to the Constitution among other achievements, he will certainly take pride in being part of such achievements.

Before talking about your relationship with the political associations, let us talk about the accusation of abuse of human rights at the detention centers and the use of torture to obtain confessions. How would you react to those allegations?

If there were individual violations, I wish they are not generalized. This is not the Ministry's approach nor is it the approach of the country. You should know that before speaking in terms of human rights, we are relatives and brothers in Bahrain. We don't accept the idea that foreign people or organizations are more concerned about our affairs than we do. It is our duty to protect rights. There are mistakes and there are allegations. We investigate claims and any claimant who has a right will get a remedy or otherwise we protect his opponent.

In your capacity as Minister of Interior, do you stand at the same distance from all the political associations in the Kingdom of Bahrain?

Yes, with the will of God. This is true not only with political associations but with all. Political associations are our partners and though the Minister in charge of them is the Minister of Justice, we interact with them because they are active in society. And, we deal with all of them according to the law.

If so, why did you declined the staging of the "human chain" called for by the Opposition Al Wefaq National Islamic Society?

It is not the first time we ban an activity but concerning this case in particular, the human chain means that it will consist of people covering several kilometers. My duty is to protect the protesters and the public alike. It was planned to take place near a main street in Bahrain. This point cannot be passed unnoticed. Main streets in Bahrain are vital facilities. If a car stops because of a mechanical defect, the flow of traffic is automatically disturbed. If such a human chain were permitted, how could I protect it? How could I protect it from the street and protect the street from it? In fact, it was an abnormal situation in which it was difficult to protect all the parties involved. It would have been better, like anywhere in the world, to hold a gathering, which will end with a message because it is easier to control it and protect the people. These are some of the reasons that made us turn down the request.

As a security officer, don’t you see that the formation of a commission to investigate events related to your ministry is embarrassing or could impair your Ministry’s duties?

This is the leader’s initiative and it met world appraise. What we are looking for is that the commission succeeds in its mission for the good of Bahrain. This commission is made up of experts in this field. The commission moved in all directions to gather information and from our part we cooperated with it in utmost transparency and provided it with every beneficial piece of information. We are waiting for its report which will appear at the end of this month. All Bahrainis are in fact waiting for it to see in what way they could avail of its findings.

Why did your Ministry seek assistance from the army if it were capable of enforcing order in the Kingdom?

If we go back to those days, we find that there were signs of a possible confrontation between the citizens themselves, which we could not permit under any circumstance. On the other hand, we wanted to have adequate security members to address the situation and minimize losses. And, this is what exactly happened. If you remember the evacuation of the circle, it was the cleanest security operation. I talk about the evacuation operation in particular. It was carried out by the security officers, not by the Bahrain Defence Force whose role was limited to the security of other issues mainly the removal of hurdles set on the main roads. As to the National Guards, they took position in the cleared roundabout after its evacuation and they are there until now.

When we talk about losses, I find it a difficult equation. In my capacity as a military man by profession, I have always worked on avoiding human and material losses among the force under my supervision, but what I encountered in the security field was a big challenge in how I could avoid losses among the security men and the citizens together. My duty is to protect both sides, this is the difficult equation in the security work. Our main job is to prevent loss of lives. We are a national force, not invaders!

What made you seek help from the Peninsula Shield Forces? What would your answer be to this logical question that imposes itself?

The Peninsula Shield is a military force. It came to Bahrain on a military mission which was to deter any foreign aggression. They were not deployed in the streets and none of the troops went down to Manama in a military uniform for a security mission.

Not even casual in wear as some sides claim?

Not even in civil or casual wear for a security mission. The matter is clear and the military cooperation among the GCC states under the Gulf Military Cooperation Agreement is clear and consequently Bahrain has the right to seek help whenever the need arises.

What message do you wish to convey to the citizens and residents in Bahrain through Al Arabiya Channel?

Honestly, Bahrain has experienced unfortunate mishaps and disruption of order over the past months that resulted in human, financial and economic losses and made the people lose the criteria of peaceful co-existence. Thank God, we are now recovering thanks to the moderate voice which is itself an attitude. Moderation is a hard choice that does not mean retreat or surrender. Moderation means steadiness and firmness which is a hard task amid the mounting sectarian tension. There are many examples of countries facing such a situation and what is needed is rapprochement and accord based on what people meet at, not at which they differ. This is what is called the national consensus. It is not easy and it needs sacrifice. What is sacrifice? It is giving up sectarian demands to reach a common viewpoint. We should opt for the shared view and renounce what we disagree upon. In such a situation, sacrifice is much needed. Joint efforts are also needed for the good of the whole nation. In the end, the last say should be for law supremacy. Law should prevail.

We thank His Excellency Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa for his patience and our viewers for their interest. This is Mohammed Al Arabi talking to you from Manama, the capital of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Until we meet again, bye bye . AHN

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