Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 March 2012
Issue No. 1088
Press review
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Put up or shut up

Doaa El-Bey writes on the NGOs who were suddenly release

Newspapers followed the battle to choose the 100-member committee which will draft the new constitution together with the repercussions of lifting the travel ban on foreign human rights activists who worked in NGOs accused of taking illegal foreign funding.

Salah Montasser looked at the challenges facing drafting the constitution. He wrote in the official daily Al-Ahram that the battle started by the process of choosing the constitutional committee responsible. But the firstāàé obstacle was Article 60 which stipulated that the members of the People's Assemble and the Shura Council would elect the members of that committee. However, it did not mention whether all or part of the members should be MPs.

Political parties represented in the parliament differed on the percentage of the MPs within the committee, but, Montasser expected that the big factor would be the percentage of each party in the committee.

Meanwhile, there are other calls, Montasser added, for excluding all MPs from the committee on the pretext that the law according to which the People's Assembly was elected is being contested before the constitutional court. Some constitutional experts predict that the constitutional court will accept the contest and dissolve the parliament. In that case, if the founding committee has a number of MPs, it would affect the credibility of the constitution.

The other challenge would be posed by women organisations which launched a protest march this week to emphasise the importance of a sizeable representation for women in the committee given that women are the main partners in building society.

The decision to allow foreigners accused in the NGOs case to leave the country left the entire country in shock. Some described it as a slap in the face of our dignity while others described it as an encroachment on the sovereignty of the state. By all accounts, it raised dozens of questions about the reasons and impact of the decision.

Mahmoud Ghallab wrote that Egypt's dignity flew away with the plane that carried the released Americans back to their country.

"At a time when we started building our independent state, the US gave us a practical lesson that we are still its followers," Ghallab wrote in Al-Wafd, the mouthpiece of the opposition Wafd Party.

Meanwhile, not a single Egyptian official came out to explain the reasons and circumstances behind the lifting of the ban on NGOs wanting to leave the country. Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, Ghallab explained, watched what happened and said that the authorities invested in him did not include the judiciary. Ghallab asked what El-Ganzouri meant by saying "Egypt would not kneel" in his statement before parliament last week. Ghallab was not the only writer who asked.

Ghallab called on Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to explain the situation to the public. He concluded his regular column by stating that the people want to understand but that will not happen until after conducting a quick investigation under judicial supervision.

Sabri Ghoneim emphasised that there was a secret deal behind the lifting of the travel ban. However, he described it as minor in a deal that humiliated the Egyptians and encroached on their dignity in return for a few billion dollars.

While Ghoneim regarded the decision as causing a crack in the Egyptian judiciary, he wondered why present rulers are running the country the same way as the previous regime which used to marginalise national powers and conclude similar secret agreements with countries or Zionist organisations.

"Why didn't officials reveal the US pressure they were subjected to? The people are mature enough and have the right to know the reason behind lifting the ban and the long list of demands that McCain carried with him to Cairo during his visit," Ghoneim wrote in the official daily Al-Akhbar.

The deal, he added, should have been something like releasing the Israeli-US spy [Ilan] Grapel in return for 22 Egyptians detained in Israeli prisons. Likewise, we could have put our conditions and concluded a similar deal before taking the decision to lift the ban on the 19 American citizens.

Ghoneim concluded his argument by pointing to the dichotomy of the US talking about respect for democracy and human rights. Meanwhile, it shows its power in dealing with the matter: their airliners penetrated Egyptian air space, landed on Egyptian soil without permission and forced us to hand over suspects who were being tried before an Egyptian court.

While Ghallab was not the only writer who heaped blame on El-Ganzouri, Ahmed El-Sawi tried to blame the right party.

El-Sawi started his argument in the independent daily Al-Shorouk by blaming the government for holding it responsible for the lifting of the travel ban.

The MPs know, like most people, that the army and the judicial files are excluded from El-Ganzouri's authorities. Thus the MPs, who know that fact quite well, wanted to show the people who elected them that they are doing their job, even if that meant pointing the finger at the wrong person.

"The case of foreign funding was political from the beginning. The military council ran it on a political level. It used the judiciary to tarnish the picture of civil society organisations. In that it was backed by the parliamentary majority," El-Sawi wrote.

Thus, El-Sawi asked why the parliament whose members vowed to respect the law and the constitution ignored the fact that the judiciary was not within the authority of the government and closed their eyes to the real perpetrator of the case.

We have one main party responsible, El-Sawi said -- the military council. Thus he called on MPs to either point to the right party or keep quiet and stop deluding the people.

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