Egyptians and others
This week's Egyptian press featured ministers holding dual citizenship. Gamal Nkrumah
sees who's who
Click to view caption|
It used to read, "Palestinian Authority Headquarters". The new sign: "Suffering of the Palestinian People". Amgad Rasmi in the Saudi-funded Asharq Al-Awsat; In Egypt's Al-Akhbar, the new prime minister addresses his touted hi-tech cabinet: "Now that you've been sworn into office, get out your playstations and start working." By Mustafa Hussein
The deteriorating security situation and political turmoil in Palestine dominated the headlines this week. "The situation is critical in Gaza," warned the national daily Al-Akhbar. "Street fighting in Rafah and the burning down of the headquarters of Palestinian military intelligence in Khan Younis", ran the paper's front page headline on Monday. "Arafat presides over a national security council meeting and Qurei insists on resigning."
The events in Gaza were uppermost in the minds of press pundits over the weekend and towards the middle of the week. On Monday, Al-Akhbar 's Editor-in-Chief Galal Dowidar pleaded with the Palestinian leadership in the headline of his front-page column: "Salvage what can be salvaged."
Public sympathy for the Palestinian leadership's current predicament was at an all- time low. Most commentators put the blame for the Palestinians' plight squarely on the Palestinian leadership.
"One of the greatest shortcomings of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is that his most important decisions invariably come too late. This serious character flaw furnished the greatest disservice to the Palestinian cause," wrote Dowidar. He said that this failing of Arafat compounded the Palestinian people's sufferings at a time when they are the "victims of the oppressive new world order led by the United States with its bias in favour of the neo- Nazi state of Israel".
Domestic concerns also featured prominently in the Egyptian press this week. Al- Akhbar 's satirist Ahmed Ragab delivered a word of advice to new Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif in the article, "Old advice to a new minister". Ragab was, as always, frank and concise. "The hypocrites will praise you in front of you and will praise you even more after you make a mistake... We will trust you until you deceive us like your predecessors."
Indeed, the ripple effects of the government reshuffle continued to grip the imagination of pundits this week. In a most intriguing investigative report in Al-Ahrar by Ahmed El-Dessouqi, he discovered that many of the newly appointed ministers, including the prime minister himself, who is rumoured to hold a Canadian passport, hold dual and in some instances triple nationalities. The writer said that the Minister of Tourism Ahmed El-Maghrabi holds a Saudi passport alongside his Egyptian. The same applies to Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali and the Minister of Housing Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman. How many more ministers hold dual nationalities, the writer demanded to know in an article stirringly called, "A government of foreigners". The controversy about whether holders of high public office can have dual nationalities rages on.
"The minister of tourism publicly claimed that no less than half of the newly appointed ministers are foreign passport holders," El-Dessouqi wrote. "These ministers must all declare in public what other nationalities they belong to," he stressed. The writer quoted the Qatari-based Al- Jazira satellite television station as saying that many ministers hold American, Canadian, French and Italian citizenship.
In much the same vein, the independent weekly Sawt Al-Umma questioned Nazif's Canadian credentials. According to the front-page article of Monday's edition, Canadian diplomats dropped in at the paper's Editor-in-Chief Adel Hammouda's office to deliver a 12-page statement on the subject, but failed to verify whether or not Nazif was a Canadian citizen. The Canadian diplomats explained, though, that not all overseas students who study in Canada acquire Canadian nationality.
The topic was picked up by the sensationalist weekly Al-Osbou deriding the "Internet café government" apparently an allusion to the hi-tech capabilities of the government of technocrats. Mustafa Bakri, the paper's editor-in-chief, devoted an entire inside page to the supposed "secrets" behind the choice of the various ministerial positions. The front page, however, was devoted to the visit to Egypt by the Congressional Religious Freedoms Committee. The focus of the visit, the paper angrily noted, was suspiciously the Jewish, Bahai and Shia communities in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the opposition Nasserist Party's paper Al-Arabi launched a scathing critique of the new government. "Most of Gamal Mubarak's ministers," the paper said tongue-in-cheek, "are closely associated with HSBC."
It was left to Al-Ahram to critically assess the political importance of the appointment of the new governors. "Mubarak emphasises the importance of bonding with the masses and popularising the concept of decentralisation in all sectors to the new governors," ran Sunday's front page headline of Al-Ahram. The paper reported that the priorities were supporting low-income groups. Of particular importance was the renewed interest in the affairs of women and youth.
Al-Gomhuriya highlighted the appointment by presidential decree of the 13 new governors -- six in Upper Egypt and seven in the Delta. Cairo and Giza also have new governors, Abdel-Azim Wazir and Fathi Saad respectively.
In a daring and damning report, Nevine Yassin gauged the opinion of political commentators about Egypt's multi-party experiment in Monday's issue of the opposition daily Al-Wafd. In a provocative headline, "In spite of multi-party democracy, we still live in the age of the one-party state. We demand that Mubarak relinquish the position of National Democratic Party (NDP) leader."
The writer went on to critique the ruling party. "The NDP, the party of the fake majority, usurped power for more than a quarter of a century. It did not confer anything on the nation. It does not possess a popular base; rather its authority is derived from the president of the republic." Yassin proceeded to question the legitimacy of the ruling party. "The last elections uncovered the general weakness of the party of the imaginary majority. The party only obtained 37.5 per cent of the vote despite wide scale rigging of the election results." She pointed out that there are only one- and-a half million eligible voters in the party even though the population of Egypt exceeds 70 million. "Where then is the majority that the ruling party's leaders claim?"
The reporter quoted the well-known political commentator Fahmy Howeidy, "Politics in Egypt is dead, and we the Egyptian people, are walking in its funeral."
In an accompanying article on the same page Hanan Othman demanded to know if Nazif was the country's or the ruling party's prime minister. She concluded on an upbeat note. "There remains the hope that the day will come when the people of Egypt will actually choose their own ministers."
Al-Wafd also tackled prickly economic issues. "The most difficult test for Nazif's government yet", ran the paper's front page headline on Saturday. "The International Monetary Fund urged Egypt to stop borrowing, curb inflation and face up to the problems of poverty and unemployment," the paper noted.
Egyptian papers busied themselves this week with the results of the Thanawiya Amma (final secondary school exams) which were out late Saturday and Sunday. Editor-in-Chief of the independent daily Al-Ahrar Salah Qabadaya was severely critical of the new Minister of Education Ahmed Gamaleddin Moussa in Al-Ahrar 's Monday edition. Qabadaya lambasted the education minister because of comments he made about being just and impartial. Apparently the minister refused to find out how his daughter, who sat for the Thanawiya Amma exams this year, fared until he first signed the official list of students who passed the dreaded exam.
Poor minister, he was given a dressing down by Qabadaya. "I'm sure that the minister is a mature man," Qabadaya wrote tauntingly, "even though he actually looks like a secondary school student." To add insult to injury, he added sarcastically, "No doubt the minister will acquire new skills from his position as head of a ministry that spends LE26 billion of precious public funds every year."
The national dailies Al-Ahram and Al- Gomhuriya spotlighted the visit by Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to Cairo. On the front page of its Friday edition, Al-Gomhuriya quoted the Sudanese president as saying, "We are in full control of the situation in Darfur. We are working on resolving the refugee problem." The paper also highlighted President Mubarak's resolve to "support development efforts in northern and southern Sudan".
The paper stressed that Egypt is determined to protect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Sudan. The two presidents, it said, discussed bilateral relations as well as regional concerns such as the ongoing violence in occupied Iraq and Palestine.