The 33rd GCC Supreme Council summit which concluded in Manama on Tuesday adopted an amended version of the security agreement signed by interior ministers in their 31st meeting on November 13. According to social media networks, the agreement includes six chapters and 45 articles to maintain security and stability in the Gulf countries, and emphasises the importance of close cooperation.
The security agreement was in deep freeze for many years because of Kuwait’s reservation about what it considered violation of its Constitution regarding territorial sovereignty and fundamental freedoms. However, the abolition of the national assembly in Kuwait and the one-vote system adopted for parliament election has created a situation which is conducive for approval of the pact.
The Middle East is currently passing through a difficult phase after two years of Arab Spring revolutions, and many Arab countries are facing not only political instability, but also intellectual dissent. The Gulf states are not immune to these developments. Therefore, it is not surprising that some Kuwaiti intellectuals, through social media, have expressed concern about some clauses of the security pact, which has been leaked to electronic media, and some said signing the agreement would be ‘dangerous’.
It is shameful that citizens in the Gulf are not aware of the security pact or its contents.
They are supposed to know because it concerns them, and it would upset them that the clauses of the pact haven’t been discussed and their opinions not sought.
People were expecting to be consulted through their representative bodies like the Advisory Council or parliaments before the pact was finalised.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Secretary General of the GCC, Abdul Latif Zayani, answered questions raised by the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai about the secret nature of the pact, saying: “we didn’t hide anything from you, and will not hide anything”. He added that “why we did not previously publish the Convention was because we were waiting for this blessed day to be ratified by the leaders. And after it is ratified it will be accessible to you on the Net, God willing.”
We hope the security pact will be made public as soon as possible so that citizens know about it, even though we did not participate in its preparation, as would happen in other countries.
But media people and others are asking why the security pact was struck inside the closed door. What are the amended articles? Will a copy of the pact be posted on the internet in a few months?
The most important point that comes to my mind as a journalist is what impact the pact would have on freedom of speech in the Gulf region.
The Chairman of the Kuwait Parliament Ahmad Al Sadun tweeted last month that “the security pact was rejected by Kuwait earlier due to some objectionable clauses, since it clashes with the constitution of Kuwait.” It is also against freedom of speech, human rights and dignity of people, said Al Sadun in his comments.
The Article Two of the pact posted on a website last month said the GCC states will take necessary actions to stop its citizens and expatriates from interfering in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries.
This article raised a question whether media reports would be interpreted as an act of interference.
The GCC cannot remain isolated from international and regional developments. It is true that some GCC states are facing foreign interference, like from Iran, which is not acceptable. But at the same time, there are positive and negative interventions being made by international human rights bodies and civil organizations.
In some GCC countries, sections of the society have differences of opinion with governments and others have a problem with Islamists.
But they should be solved to pave the way for a democratic, civil society.
The Gulf states are stable and people have always given priority to peace and stability. But the participation of people in decision-making is very necessary to build a powerful and mature society.
Authorities always maintain that laws are made to serve the interests of individuals. For the same reason, citizens have the right and duty to know the laws which are made for them and it is deplorable to see Gulf citizens being marginalized and not consulted on issues related to democracy and fundamental freedom at a time when we are seeing Arab people standing up for freedom.
Most GCC countries have no real elected parliament, and had the draft been not published by Kuwaitis on websites after discussions by the former parliament, the GCC citizens would not have been aware of this security pact.
The security pact may tarnish the image of Gulf states. We have to learn from English philosopher Karl Popper, who said: “We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than that only freedom can make security secure.”