IN VIEW of the recent floods caused by heavy rainfall in Kuwait, we dedicate this story to His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak.
It was narrated that Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, a statesman and governor of Iraq during the Umayyad Dynasty, ordered people to carry lanterns as they walk the streets of Baghdad at night. A nomad came to the city at night and while he was walking, he was arrested by police and in the morning he was charged before the governor’s court for not carrying a lantern.
In his defense, he told the governor that he did not know about the rule which he violated because he was not from the area. Although Al-Hajjaj accepted his reason, he did not exempt him from punishment in order to prevent people from saying that the governor is lenient and for the punishment to serve as a deterrent for others.
It seems this story is recurring in our community, but in a different form. After the downpour which exceeded expectations, calls for the government to step down and the ministers to resign started. Similar disasters occurred in neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, yet we did not hear such demands.
Instead, everyone embarked on the task of containing the damage caused by the rain. The concerned authorities determined the damage and went on to compensate those affected.
Indeed, no one denies the need for punishment or the search for the source of the problem to avoid it in the future. However, it is irrational to take advantage of any incident and disaster just to settle parliamentary scores or to instigate hatred against anyone.
Natural disasters occur everywhere in the world, yet we have not heard anyone telling the prime minister to go home or demand for the resignation of a minister. This is due to the existence of institutional culture and legal principles adhered to by the people; but in our country, we find some are scurrying to chop off the head of the caretaker and leave the grapes to rot.
In legal principles, there should be a clear and comprehensive insurance policy covering natural disasters, wars and even riots, in addition to compensation paid by the State. In Kuwait, there is sufficient fund to cover these disasters and compensate those whose houses, vehicles and properties were damaged; instead of limiting the entire issue on settling political scores.
Undoubtedly, a major portion of the infrastructure was constructed about four decades ago and majority of those who constructed these facilities are no longer with us in this life. Should we demand for their exhumation so we could hold them accountable?
Yes, there is infrastructure in the recently established areas, but the question is: Is there a study on the quantity of rain we are witnessing, or is there an annual amount of rain which Kuwait is used to; thus, the drainage systems were built for such amount of rain?
Perhaps, it is necessary to change our insurance culture as it is done in majority of other countries in the world where there are insurance policies for houses and properties, not only against fire but also against different types of natural disasters like flood and rain.
In Kuwait, the Constitution consists of a provision on compensation. Article 25 of the Constitution stipulates that “the State shall ensure solidarity of society in shouldering burdens resulting from public disasters and calamities, and provide compensation for war damages or injuries sustained by any person as a result of the discharge of his military duties.”
Did those who took advantage of the recent natural disaster read the meaning of this article properly?
Therefore, asking the government to go or demanding for the resignation of a minister means the victims will realize, sooner or later, especially if no compensation is granted, that they only got rid of the caretakers and they were left without eating the grapes.
All this means one thing – there is no realistic solution. All that is needed is collective work to solve the source of disaster in order to avoid falling into the same swamp in the future.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times