Some random news and updates from the past week or so that I haven't had a chance to discuss.
- The government has scrapped its plans to prosecute Al Wefaq for the huge illegal rally held in Sitra at the end of last month. Well done to Social Affairs Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi for having the sense to end this issue amicably, rather than further escalating it.
However, the charges against the BahrainOnline Trio still are still being pursued. So, on April 5, supporters held a protest in the Seef area demanding that the government drop its charges. Photos are here (scroll down a bit.)
On April 2, the Committee for the Unemployed held its second protest in the Seef Area. Photos are here, and the press release from the Committee is here (scroll down to the bottom for the English version). The next protest will take place on Labour Day (May 1). Read my account of the first protest here.
From the Parliament:
- The Council of Representatives has approved the formation of an Islamic vice and virtue committee that will "offer advice in order to safeguard virtue in society and combat harmful behaviour". However, the bill needs to be approved by the government appointed Shura Council before it can be put into effect. Since the government has expressed its opposition to the idea, the bill will hopefully (fingers crossed, knock on wood) never see the light of day. (If I'm not mistaken, this isn't the first that our Parliament has taken up this issue.)
- Al Menbar (Muslim Brotherhood) and Al Asala (Salafi), the very same parties that supported the above-mentioned bill for a vice committee, have blocked a bill that would decrease the power of the Shura Council. This is interesting because it shows that these guys are aware that they are nothing without the support of the government, so they have passed up the opportunity to increase their own legislative powers. I suspect that they are banking on the help of the government during the 2006 elections (in which the hugely popular Shia Islamist group Al Wefaq may eventually choose to participate).
- I haven't had a chance to find out the details yet, but apparently the government has proposed a bill to Parliament for an anti-terror law. Opposition groups have condemned the proposed law as a violation of personal freedoms and freedom of expression.
- While announcing to Parliament the preparation of a new nationality law, the Minister of State for Shura Council and Parliament Affairs denied any evidence of illegal naturalizations. Some MPs objected to this claim and provided their side of the story... which offended the Right Honourable MP Mohammed Khalid so much that he walked out in protest!
The expat files:
- The Philippines is considering a ban on sending its citizens to work as maids in Bahrain and the Gulf, after a rise in complaints of abuse. This follows similar bans by the Indonesian and Bangladeshi government last month. This is unfortunate for those maids who end up with humane employers, but I don't blame the governments for their concern (especially after this case from across the causeway). On a better note though, it is being said that housemaids will be granted some rights under the Labour Law as part of changes being implemented by the Crown Prince's labour reforms project. I hope they're serious. Read more about migrant workers in Bahrain.