Manama, Feb. 14 (BNA): February 14, 2001 is a day that marked the start of an amazing new chapter for Bahrain. At a time of confusion and uncertainty in the region, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had an exceptionally clear and burning sense of Bahrain’s destiny in the modern world as a country where no one was left out or behind and all people could contribute in their capacities to the building of a more modern and advanced nation.
It all started officially on October 3, 2000, when, opening the new session of the Shura Council, he identified in his address to the nation key features to start a new stage in Bahrain's political future.
On November 23, he issued Decree 36 forming a national committee to draft the National Action Charter, a covenant document and a pillar of a new political, social and economic life in the kingdom.
The committee made up of 44 of the finest men and women of Bahrain, representing the various segments and components of the country, drew on the knowledge, expertise and experience of its members and drafted the Charter that set out the main principles, foundations and objectives of the reform process.
The Charter dealt with the basic introductions of Bahraini society, the objectives and foundations of governance, fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of Bahrain; the foundations upon which the family, community and civil society organizations are based, education, culture, science and work as a right and an obligation.
The Charter was put to the people of Bahrain who freely as stated by all national and international institutions, overwhelmingly supported it, with 98.4 per cent of the voters approving it in a resounding victory for introducing great changes. It was instantly and warmly applauded by all peace-loving countries and international institutions.
The Charter was a Bahraini idea, drafted by Bahrainis and supported by Bahrainis. The move for far-reaching reforms was from within and was not imposed on the country. It had all the ingredients of success and Bahrainis are grateful.
Today, 19 years later, Bahrain proudly celebrates the democratic achievements, human rights freedoms and steady integrated development that have emanated from the National Action Charter.
The Charter launched a new era of political and democratic reform within a modern constitutional monarchy, the rule of law based on justice and transparency, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers and their cooperation in accordance with the Constitution.
The Charter and the ensuing Constitution also resulted in the guarantee of public and personal freedoms and equal rights and duties, freedom of political, social, educational, cultural, professional associations and trade unions, the consolidation of economic freedom, the diversification of the sources of income, and the protection of the environment and wildlife.
Quadrennial parliamentary and municipal elections have been held regularly since 2002 in full integrity and transparency under judicial supervision and with a high turnout.
The successful presence of Bahraini women in all democracy entitlements, including members of parliament and municipal councils, in i winning the Speakership of the parliament in the fifth term, is a tribute to women’s political empowerment, led by the Supreme Council for Women under the leadership of its Chairwoman HRH Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of HM King Hamad, and to active participation in the decision-making process.
Under the Charter, Bahrain has achieved a qualitative leap in the respect of human rights and freedoms, equality and equal opportunities for all citizens without any discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, origin or belief.
There is also pride in the Charter ensuring the freedom of the press, media and expression without allowing incitement to religious or sectarian hatred, violence, or terrorism.
The Charter has also allowed Bahrain, under the leadership of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his wise policy both internally and externally, to strengthen its pioneering statureas a model of good governance, comprehensive and sustainable development, supporting the efforts of the international community in maintaining peace, stability and security, combating extremism, fanaticism and terrorism.
The Charter, at its core, has consolidated religious tolerance, mutual acceptance and peaceful-co-existence. Non-Muslims had political representation in addition to other high-profile presences.
Today, Bahrainis, both young and old, look at the Charter plebiscite with profound pride, great patriotism and full allegiance to their leaders. It has given them light and hope.
Their Kingdom has been making great strides ahead, filled with anticipations and ambitions. They look forward to continuing the great reform process and to building on it, well aware that their unity, unique and impressive, and their sense of responsibility, based on full inclusiveness, have made them stronger and more determined. They confidently face challenges and assertively confront intrigues and plots, powered by the judicious leadership of their king and motivated by success that has become the hallmark of the nation.
They remain committed to the objectives and noble principles embodied in the Charter: respect for others and non-interference in their affairs, peace, security, amicable relations and international cooperation among nations and peoples.
The anniversary of the National Action Charter is for them another auspicious to reaffirm their unwavering patriotism and love for their nation and their proud loyalty to their king.