ONE of the political and administrative traditions in the Third World countries is that the systems take the form and build on it, but leave the content aside. This is because the conviction of the official is based on the acquisition and accumulation of the greatest amount of power. From this arises corruption, such that it becomes protected by law, and everyone engages in that game.
This picture reminded me of the story of two thieves who broke into a palace. After searching the palace, they found a safe. The experienced thief opened it without breaking it, and saw it was full of money. He took out the money, sat at a table and said to the apprentice thief, “Pull out the playing cards from your pocket, go and get drinks from the fridge, turn on the TV, and then sit down and play cards”.
The little thief tried to protest, given that the whole issue went against his instinct of being a thief, which told him to flee with the money, especially since it appeared that his mentor intended to get caught. But in the end, he abided by the orders and did what he was told to do.
The owner of the palace woke up to the loud sound of the music from the TV. He armed himself with a firearm, ready to confront intruders in his living room. “Freeze … don’t move or I will shoot you”, he screamed, but the thieves seemed unshaken by him even though he was holding a firearm. In fact, the senior thief told his trainee to continue playing and not pay attention to anything else.
The man called the police and said, “There are two thieves who broke into my house and stole my money, but I have managed to detain them!”
Upon the arrival of the police, the expert thief took the initiative and said, “This man is a liar. He invited us to play cards with him, and when we defeated him and he lost all his money, he took his pistol and ordered us to either return his money, or he will call the police and tell them that we are thieves!”
A quick scan of the room by the police confirmed the thief’s claims. This prompted the police to warn the house owner against wasting their time or else he will get arrested. As the police were leaving the palace, the thieves requested to accompany them with their money in fear that the house owner would kill them. That is how the two thieves came out of the house with the money and under the protection of the police!
This story explains how seniors steal the wealth in Third World countries. It happens under the protection of the law, which is what happened in the case of oil tankers during the invasion, as well as with our investments in Spain, and the many tenders that were overpriced or in which change orders were issued in a manner that made the value of the project much more than its actual cost.
All this is being done under the cover of the law, because accountability is not effective, and because there is no sense of patriotism that makes the citizens a sentinel. The patriotism education is based on form and not content, whereby the citizens call for the rule of law while violating it at all times.
In an unprecedented step that the Gulf states, the Arab countries and the Third World countries have not witnessed so far, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched an anti-corruption campaign in 2017. For two years, this campaign led to the recovery of more than 800 billion Saudi riyals from princes and influential people who were involved in corrupt deals since 1980. According to relevant reports and investigations, about ten percent of the state budget had been going to the corrupt, which means trillions of riyals were wasted.
If this process had been implemented in most Arab countries, we would have discovered how trillions of dollars were looted under the protection of the law, which led to the failure of several countries and the outbreak of uprisings. On the other hand, if these regimes sought to build responsible citizens, and the leaders set an example by complying with the law, they may have spared their people many scourges.
In this regard, the following story may serve as an example of the meaning of the moral obligation towards the law.
A British woman went into labor at about 3:00 am. Since her husband was traveling, she asked her Arab neighbor for help to take her to the hospital. The man agreed to help.
Because she was screaming in pain, he bypassed all the traffic lights, risking the possibility of the withdrawal of his driver’s license. This kind neighbor reached the hospital on time and even waited for the baby to be born.
A few days later, he received a ticket from the Traffic Department, informing him of the traffic violations he committed, in addition to the possibility of settling the case.
Despite accepting all the charges leveled against him and also accepting to pay the fines, he inquired how the traffic department managed to catch up with him on roads when there were no traffic cameras.
The traffic official said, “You were reported by the woman who you took to the hospital”.
In the evening, he went to his neighbor to check on her and congratulate her on her new baby. She and her husband warmly received him and thanked him for his humanitarian gesture.
He then asked her, “Were you the one who reported me to the Traffic Department?”
She said, “Yes.”
He asked, “Why?”
She replied, “We are a country of law. The violator must be punished, regardless of his position. Without the law, we will not build a great nation, and chaos will reign”.
She added: “It is true that you helped me, and I am grateful for your grace and favor, but I am part of the system of law enforcement that begins with me and includes every official. I hope you understand and appreciate this.”
She then handed him a notice which stated that she had deposited the fine amount in his bank account.
The man left feeling confused between the humanity that does not know laws and the laws that do not know humanity.
Undoubtedly, this example is the clearest expression of what societies can be in terms of the rule of law among all their members. On the other hand, in our countries we hear a lot of fanfare from those responsible for fighting corruption, but we do not see any of the corrupt being put behind bars.
Those countries operate under the principle of “law reigns over everything else” while in our countries, it is “all is well as long as you are on my good side”. Therefore, people endure tough times just because the regime favors the corrupt who know to loot the best of the country’s wealth.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times