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THE clean-up campaign of Saudi Arabia against corrupt individuals, which was launched through direct order from King Salman bin Abdulaziz and under the direct supervision of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman — chief of the Higher Council of the National Anti-corruption Commission, is not the end. Instead, it is just the beginning of calibrating the compass towards the right direction.
In this campaign, the immunity of princes and ministers falls; in addition to influential individuals who believe that their influence or titles are protecting them from the sword of law.
The princes, who are currently subjected to accountability for what they committed such as transgression on public wealth and the rights of people, violated the advice of the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman to his children and kin.
The late king advised them to ensure that “they join responsibility of the rule with doing business, and they should not bother people in their business and livelihoods.”
This is the same advice maintained by all Saudi royals. It is the same advice that the late Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah gave to Kuwait’s royal family, as well as the founding fathers in the United Arab Emirates to the royal houses in the Emirates especially Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed.
This precious advice contributed to building a solid economy in the relevant countries, owing to the fact that the ruler limited his work to managing affairs of the country and its people.
Undoubtedly, things intertwined for people in the period we are dealing with, particularly those in the royal houses.
Some of them attempted to use their influence, position or title in practicing business which is prohibited for them; hence, some people in Saudi Arabia thought that uprooting corruption will never happen, specifically those with resonating titles.
Such thoughts exist despite the emphasis given by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz on fighting corruption and stopping squandering of public funds.
From the first day of his reign and the words of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in May when he said: “Anyone proven to be corrupt will not survive no matter who they are. If the fight against corruption does not start from the top of the authority, there is no point in doing it. If there is enough evidence against anyone, he will be held accountable — whether he is a minister or a prince.”
This stance has been fully implemented. It has proven wrong the one who thought this would not take effect since those who are known to be corrupt are still in their positions and running operations in a normal manner.
When Saudi police arrested Saudi businessman of Kuwaiti origin, Maen Al-Sanae, together with senior officials in the Eastern Province Emirate in Saudi Arabia, every Saudi national was convinced that the matter is real and serious, and there is no escape for a corrupt individual irrespective of his status.
Despite all that, some of them continued to doubt by asking, “Will the anti-corruption campaign reach the ones who are proclaimed to be immune or untouchables?” They forgot that King Salman carried with him to the reign the experience he gained in running Riyadh where he used to directly assess the grievances of people and their needs.
He used to deal with grievances of the public calmly and he avoided taking unfair decisions. He reported to his place of work as early as seven in the morning and he stayed past his working hours to oversee the affairs of his Emirate of Riyadh. He is fully aware of the fact that there is no progress for any country if corruption continues to prick its entity.
For years, the kingdom has been engaged in confrontation on various aspects, such as its fierce fight against terrorism. For the past three years, it has been combating the Persian expansionism scheme in the southern front of the Arabian Peninsula.
Therefore, it is natural for the kingdom to focus on fortifying the internal front. Those who misused their influence were oblivious to this, especially when transgressing public funds and rights; hence, the royal decree to form the Higher Council of National Anti-corruption Commission came to complete the internal fortification mechanism of the kingdom.
It should not be surprising that once the commission started carrying out its task; it arrested princes, ministers and influential individuals involved in corruption. This means the commission already gathered enough evidence against the arrested individuals. Without any doubt, it will complete its task.
To hold princes and ministers accountable is not an internal message for the kingdom only, or even the Gulf region. It is rather a message to the entire world that the rights of investors operating in the kingdom are safe and secure. There is no need to worry as long as accountability does not differentiate one from the other — whether senior or junior.
The royal decree corresponds with a verse in the Holy Quran that states: “… and do not strive to make mischief on Earth, for Allah does not like the mischief-makers.”
The decree also corresponds with the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said, “… Indeed, what destroyed the people before you was just that when a person of high rank among them committed theft, they spared him; but if the same crime was done by a poor person, they inflicted the prescribed punishment on him. I swear by Allah that if Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad should steal, I would have her hand cut off.” This only affirms that there is no one above the law, regardless of their titles or positions.
Undoubtedly, today differs from yesterday. I believe that every royal house in the Gulf will make its vision closer to that of the people, especially in terms of holding accountable the corrupt individuals and punishing them for justice to be the pillar of the rule.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah – Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times