By Serene Serhan
British Member of Parliament George Galloway and former President of the Engineers Union, Laith Shbeilat, jointly expressed disappointment in Parliamentarians’ lack of interest in “the Iraqi issue” Monday by joining in a sit-in to protest sanctions on Iraq in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Amman.
The site of the protest near the hotel hosting the 103rd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference, filled up with around 100 protestors and an equal amount of security forces. The protesters used the occasion to assail Israel’s participation.
Speaking to Albawaba.com, Galloway protested that “it is very sad that the delegates in the conference are not able to see and hear the demonstration and read the material being distributed. Because really, you would think if you were sitting in that conference as I am, that there is nothing called Iraq.”
He described Parliamentarians’ lack of interest in lifting sanctions slapped on Iraq since 1991 a “crime” and explained that other than Iraq’s Parliament Speaker Sadoun Hamadi who gave a six-minute speech, “not one other speech on Iraq will be permitted in the whole week.”
“Silence,” he charged, “when you know that there is a crime being committed, is to join the crime.”
Moreover, Galloway pointed the accusing finger towards the Arab governments saying that aside from conference organizers and big powers, “Arab countries who have not made any systematic effort to project the Iraqi and Palestinian issues properly” are to blame.
Taking on a more aggressive stand was Shbeilat who charged that the conferences’ steadfast refusal to discuss the Iraqi issue reveals “the official Jordanian position as a protector of Zionism and the protector of American interests.”
“This shows that Jordan has turned to be anti-Arab, anti-Islamic and pro-Israeli as well as pro-Zionist,” said Shbeilat, adding “the Jordanian government is one of the main implementers in the region of the Zionist program.”
“Now our government has chosen not to represent the people but to represent the powers and to represent the multinational companies. In the beginning of this millennium it is apparent that governments are no more representatives of people but the representatives of big interests, power, money and of aggressors.”
Shbeilat had been imprisoned twice on charges of defaming the Late King Hussein. Meanwhile, Chairman of the Jordanian Medical Association Tarek Tahboub announced to the press Monday that he had issued a memorandum to Speaker of the Jordanian Lower House of Parliament Abdul Hadi Majali demanding the lifting of sanctions on Iraq and that Jordan cease its participation in the conference as long as Israel is present.
“We went to meet Mr. Abdul Hadi Majali, President of Parliament and handed him a memorandum and insisted that any parliamentary union should expel the Israeli parliamentary presence on Jordanian soil,” added Tahboub, “we also reminded the parliamentarians of the world of their duty to cancel their embargo on Iraq which is the longest collective punishment ever registered in history.”
According to Tahboub, the memo also included a demand to recognize the Palestinians’ right to return to their country,” defining it as a “sacred return honored by all the nations and honored by the UN Charter.”
The memorandum is not binding.
Attending the protest were Chairman of the Council of the Jordanian National Associations Taher Shakhshir, President of the Barr Association Saleh Armouty, president of the Engineer’s Association Azzam Hneidi, and Abdul Hadi Falahat, the President of the Agricultural Engineers Association.
Other protestors included writers, former Parliamentarians, university professors as well as various union members.
“An Iraqi child dies every 6 minutes. Parliament where is your conscience?” read one banner, while another read “stop the genocide, feed Iraq.”
The customary chanting was also present with “Clinton listen, the Iraqi people will not kneel,” “from Marrakech to Bahrain the Arab people are unified” and “Let the Iraqi people live.”
The public security police force warding the protesters off the entrances of the hotel were equipped with batons ready for a confrontation that never happened. Only once did the mood change to an aggressive one when Tahboub asked protestors to leave saying that “all had been done.” Protestors then demanded that the “Zionist” flag be removed and that “a Parliamentarian come down to speak to us.”
After fifteens minutes of arguing, the banners were picked up and the protestors, at approximately 6.30 left the scene, many of them mumbling their dissatisfaction with the outcome of today’s sit-in.
King Abdullah II inaugurated the IPU conference on Sunday saying “it is about time to make the peace we have aspired. It is about time to overcome our disagreements, conflicts and shift our efforts to investment in the future.” -- Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )