August 19, 2006

the sunny side of independence

For someone who works indoors, this Fourteenth of August was anything but a sunny occasion. You may internalise it as a day of independence, but in outer reality the word lost every shredded ray of meaning.

In the swoop of one full generation, the country progressed from a half- efficient colonial rule to a highly developed feudal one. The transition was achieved through the most successful land privatization scheme anywhere. Citizenry also underwent massive redefinition by the world first ever citizens-on-demand program. Open to sunny citizens everywhere.

But if one had the luxury of air-conditioned woes, the same can’t be said of the 42 local workers (no need to guess their unsunny sectarian affiliation) who braved the 42 plus degrees on Monday to demand parity with non-local workers in receiving the BD 52 food allowance. The very next –independence- day, their American manager sent the 42 their dismissal letter with dutiful cc’s to appropriate authorities, the American Embassy.

It was obviously a grave miscalculation by the striking workers at Dyncorp. The company, which is billed as providing “technical” assistance to US naval base here and with presence in 35 countries, and contracts with US forces, has 2 billions turnover and allegations ranging from sexual exploitation rings in Bosnia to mercenaries in Iraq to arm trafficking in Sudan to its credit. Wholesome independence aside, you could tell the strikers went too far in believing the testimony offered by an Oman-based official of the company to a hearing of a congressional committee:

“DynCorp International has operations throughout the region including Bahrain. As a result of the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, our company has a workers’ union. We view this as a plus, and we work together with the DynCorp Workers Trade Union and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) as they develop and take on the responsibilities of organized labor. We intend to be leaders in the implementation of the U.S.-Oman FTA labor provisions, and will be supportive of the formation of workers’ representative groups in Oman”.

And the fruits of a post-independence economy do not stop here. Just onn Wednesday, yet another textile company followed suit and arbitrarily dismissed 20 local female workers (no need to guess their unsunny sectarian affiliation) just ahead of a visit of a Labour Ministry begging round to employ few more –unsunny- Bahrainis.

If that was not enough for a 14th of August, the courtly newspaper of this -henceforth Sabbath respecting- country jovially announced the end of hostilities against another unsunny nemesis sect in Lebanon by the headline “The Match is Over” إنتهت المباراة on its Monday edition. You could tell that the long flirtation between air-conditioned Wahabism and self-declared Yahweh’s air force is now burgeoning into a match made in oiled heavens.


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