Manama: Bahrain’s parliament on Thursday called on all ministers and senior officials in the country to have Twitter accounts “to boost their interaction with the citizens”.
The motion, debated at the extraordinary session ahead of the Eid holiday, argued that most ministers had not heeded the calls by the prime ministers to adopt an open door policy that would enable people to interact with them.
“People have repeatedly complained about how much they suffered in their attempts to communicate with ministers,” MP Mahmoud Al Mahmoud said. “We as representatives of the people do find difficulties to meet ministers or senior officials, so you can imagine the pain that common people go through. The Twitter account is the minimum that ministers can have to know about the people’s concerns and aspirations,” he said.
Lawmaker Abdullah Al Dossari said that he saw the Twitter account as “a key to doors that have remained stubbornly locked and prevented people from entering.”.
“Many ministers refuse to see citizens, so Twitter can be used by the people to interact with them,” he said.
For Eisa Al Kooheji, the Twitter account is not a luxury, but a necessity to boost much-needed interaction.
“The proposal to make all ministers and senior officials set up accounts for the sake of meaningful interaction is a great step forward,” he said. “Many ministers around the world have adopted this way of communication and our own ministers and senior officials should do the same,” he said.
Some lawmakers argued that ministers could be too busy to interact with the people and suggested an amendment to have the account held by the ministry.
However, MP Salman Al Shaikh opposed the amendment to the motion and insisted that the minister should be personally in charge of the account.
“This is a really simple issue,” he said. “Our foreign minister, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, is always communicating through his Twitter account. Whether he is in Bahrain or abroad, he invariably communicates with the people. Despite his heavy responsibilities, he invariably interacts with a large spectrum of people. Other ministers cannot say they are too busy to respond to queries or to comment,” he said.
Shaikh Khalid, who describes himself as a diplomat, ambassador, foreign minister, world traveller and bon vivant on his account, has 111,089 followers and has often been rewarded by pro-microblog and social network enthusiasts for his open comments and views.
MP Khamees Al Rumaihi also insisted that under Bahrain’s constitution, the minister is in charge.
“The least he or she can do is to start an account and communicate with the people,” he said.
The account and the subsequent communication will allow a better understanding between the people, MP Ibtissam Hijris said.
“Give hope to the people. They want to hear or read good words from their ministers,” she said. “All senior officials should listen to people’s concerns and respond accordingly. People do need hope and officials can give it.”
However, MP Abdul Rahman Bu Majid said that lawmakers should apply the call on themselves first.
“Most MPs do not have Twitter accounts, so they should begin thinking about online communication before they ask ministers to adhere to Twitter,” he said.