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