Dialogue first of July!

I attended a gathering today with His Majesty King Hamad.  The gathering was with Bahrain’s media and journalists.  I have to say I left feeling buzzed and very excited.

Of course, it’s always nice to see our monarch, but what really excited me was the fact that reforms and dialogue are still on.  I arrived at Rawdha Palace a around 3:40 pm or so.  There was a massive hall with sofa’s arranged all around.  We had arranged seating and I was seated near the entrance.  I was later joined by Tweep Saqer Al-Khalifa.

His Majesty came in around 20 minutes later.  He read a speech emphasising reform and dialogue, and he announced that dialogue will start on July 1st (Quick side note to the doubters if I may: told you so!) [Sorry, the immature 10-year-old in me could not resist]

Someone tweeted me asking who the dialogue would be with.  I’m afraid he did not say.  Personally, I’m guessing with opposition members, National Unity people and perhaps another cross-section of society.  But this is pure guess-work on my behalf.

The King also emphasised the importance of the media in the on-going reform and dialogue processes.  When His Majesty was done Mr. Nabeel Al-Hamar, the King’s media advisor and a Tweep, gave a speech thanking the King for his support to the media.  He also emphasised the call for “no more royal pardons”.  Not sure I liked that bit, I guess I’m a very tiny minority in the “pro-government” camp who has no problem with more royal pardons.  But that’s not what today’s topic is about…

After the speech the King had a casual monologue with us talking about Bahrain’s peace-loving history.  It seemed from the tone of his voice that he had a cold of some sort, which might have been the reason why the meeting was delayed from Sunday.  He kept on emphasising the importance of dialogue and reform, and his abhorrence of sectarianism.

I saw a lot of familiar faces at the gathering, including some of the media personalities who became celebrities (super stars actually) during the crisis; Sawsan Al-Shaer, Faisal Al-Shaikh, Saeed Al-Hamad and a few others.

Before the King came I was wondering if I should tweet or not, but I decided to go for it.  I tweeted the whole time His Majesty spoke.  But I was sitting far enough not for him to notice, I did not want him to think I was being rude.  I also had an internal debate whether I should take some photos, and in the end I decided it was okay, as there were film crews and photographers in attendance.  I took a few shots with my iPhone, but was later – very politely – asked to delete them, which I did.

At the end it was time for us to say hello, or rather good bye, to the King.  When my turn came up the King looked at me a smiled and said “Suhail, you’re here??”  I don’t think he knows anything about my blog.

Shaikh Fawaz Al-Khalifa, president of the Information Affairs Authority then told his majesty that I was “from the social media.”  I had a very brief chat with the King which went something like this:

HM: “How is your mother?”

Me: “She is well and sends her regards, my lord [tal omrak].”

HM: “It’s good to see you again.  Please pass my regards to your mother and the rest of the family.”

Me: “Will do sir, thank you and God bless you.”

I always feel touched and humbled by His Majesty’s kindness.  He really liked my late father and always makes a point of asking about my mother.

And so I left.  I felt so optimistic.  I’m still on such a high.  Things can only get better.  True, reforms 1.0 may have faltered, but I think we’ll get it right this time.  There is no turning back from the reform and dialogue process.  The King emphasised more than once that he learnt a lot of lessons during the recent crisis.

Personally, I plan to be actively involved in the dialog and reform process (through my blog).  No more watching on the sidelines, everyone has to work to make this country better and stronger than it ever was.  Let the naysayers and haters fester in their hate, I’ll have none of it.

Talk to you soon.

PS  Here’s my twitter timeline for those of you interested:

At Rawdha Palace waiting for HM. I think there will be an announcement. Will tweet if appropriate. If I can’t then blog later. #Bahrain

Lots of familier faces…

Sitting next to tweep @saqeralkhalifa. Waiting for HM. #Bahrain

HM here. Talking about importance of media role in #Bahrain

HM talks about importance of lessons learnt from crisis. #Bahrain

HM: reforms cannot be stopped.

HM: who does not want a more effective government and institutions? #Bahrain

HM: democracy is very important to us and #Bahrain

Dialogue to start 1st of July. No pre-conditions. #Bahrain

HM: we hope everyone will partcipate in upcoming elections for empty seats. #Bahrain

HM: new govt budget largest in history to support #Bahrain economy.

HM: the recent crisis heart us greatly. #Bahrain

HM; the media is an important partner in reform and we will support as much as we can. #Bahrain

@nalhamer Giving speech thanking HM. #Bahrain

@najebalhamer Asking for all culprits to be punished and asks for no pardons.

@najebalhamer Emphasises importance of security.

HM now having casual chat with us…

HM: all are welcome to dialogue but must be done respectfully.

HM: the crisis almost tore Bahrain apart. Restoring security and stability was vital. We are optimistic about the future.

HM drawing parallels with 1970’s Shah who said Bahrain belongs to Bahrain.

HM: Bahrain has always been a peace loving nation. What happened recently was shocking.

HM: the government is – and has been – trying to improve itself.

HM: the parliament can make decisions without interference from ministers.

HM: have we ever stopped a proposed law from the parliament? We want the best for #Bahrain

HM: democracy is an ongoing, evolutionary process. #Bahrain

HM: I challenge any judge to come forward to say that I got involved in any case ever! #Bahrain

HM: we respect the independance of the judiciary. #Bahrain

I like what HM is saying. Bottom line, reforms and dialogue will continue. #Bahrain

HM: the majority of Bahrainis did not condone the recent events [violence and protests] #bahrain.

HM: one group cannot trespass on the rights of others. #Bahrain

HM: what gets better results, dialogue or protests?

HM: it is not right to say this % or that % is sunni or shia. We abhore sectarinsm. #Bahrain

HM: we love all the people of Bahrain…

HM: no religion is preffered over another.

HM: we mourn all Bahrainis that pass away.

HM: many countries have tensions. We are not the first country to have problems.

HM thanking every one attending. Dialogue and reform will continue.

HM again emphasises importance of media again. HM: proud of Bahraini media.

Okay, event over. Took some photos but was politely asked to delete them. Feeling VERY optimistic about the future! #Bahrain

10 Responses to Dialogue first of July!

  1. Linda 31 May 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Dear Suhail, please take all my best wishes for you and your country for the important day tomorrow, the next days, comming weeks, months and years. You and your people did something great by protecting your island. You, Saqer Al-Khalifa and other did something very special due spreading a seriouse image of bahrain into the world during those weeks. It was brave, and loyal to the countries people. Thank you.
    It will be a good day for Bahrain tomorrow, In sha allah.

  2. Armida 31 May 2011 at 10:42 am #

    thank you for sharing with us this info=) I always make it a point to read your blogs… It gives us positive energy, this is what we need and we should read… and not the ones that spreads hate…=)

  3. Nasser 31 May 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Hi Suhail, did you get an inkling whether they will release the opposition leaders, particulary the secular ones, so that there are representatives of the range of views on teh street to dialogue with? And will they pay people their salaries and reinstate jobs of the 1700+ people fired, do you think? What about freedom of people to write and blog again about views that are different to the official sanctioned view? I’m interested in what you think, even if it wasn’t in the Kings Speech.

  4. Alaa 31 May 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Suhail… Thank you for the thorough description of your meeting with HM the King.. Bahrain needs more people like you… I always believed that the dialogue will happen and needs to happen.. Never doubted HM the King’s judgement in this and very glad to see that I wan proven right… Long live the King

  5. Mahmood Al-Yousif 31 May 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    Excellent coverage Suhail. Well done.

    Regarding the “no pardon” thing, I suspect that it’s a bargaining tool more than anything else. No country or entity in the world can run without forgiveness. Else the desire to move forward is just a fallacy.

    • Suhail 1 June 2011 at 3:00 am #

      Thanks Mahmood. I think we must all be optimistic in the upcoming dialogue. I have no doubt in the king’s sincerity. God willing, god willing, this will be a turning point for us all.

  6. Dan 1 June 2011 at 12:52 am #

    I agree about the pardoning likely being a bargaining tool. It seems that the King is being wise by stating that dialog will begin, while taking a lesson from Israel and creating “facts on the ground.” Giving people pardons can then be a result of the negotiations instead of a starting point.

  7. E. 6 June 2011 at 3:29 am #

    Nice…
    Let’s just hope that inasha’a Allah no one ruins the dialogue again with impossible conditions and demands, and let’s hope that everybody agrees on working towards delivering the real picture of our tiny beloved island to the rest of the world, and finally we must all work hand in hand towards fixing the damage that was done during the crisis – property, emotional, social and all…
    Bless you Mr. Suhail for being one of the very few sane people who actually use their brains when it comes to discussing politics these days..

  8. Will Newman 13 June 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    Any comment about the trial of physicians and nurses ongoing at present? One wonders how reconciliation can be achieved with this sort of thing going on. Of course, all wish nothing but the best for Bahrain.

  9. Suhail 13 June 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Will, our foreign minister was recently asked this question in an interview, by Lally Weymouth.

    L.W.: What about the doctors who were fired?

    I believe that the majority of doctors in Bahrain have treated protesters. But there is a group of doctors—33 doctors and nurses—who took control of a hospital, took possession of firearms, and turned the hospital into a no-go area, and two of them are charged with serious crimes. Treating protesters, going to the roundabout [where protesters gathered]—that is not a crime. Nobody is being charged with that.

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