Gulf | Bahrain

Parliament session collapses amid shouting scenes

Standoff reflects deep divergences over events in the country

  • By Habib Toumi Bureau chief
  • Published: 16:22 February 19, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: The session of the Bahraini parliament was suspended on Tuesday when a vociferous argument between MPs erupted over the events that hit the country last week.

MP Abdul Hakim Al Shammari, addressing Speaker Khalifa Al Dhahrani, wanted to understand why fellow MP Ali Al Shamotoot displayed a picture of the teenager who was killed on Thursday at the beginning of a day of clashes between protesters and the police that also saw the killing of an on-duty policeman.

“I would like to know whether Al Shamotoot wanted to blame the government or those who implicated the teenager in the clashes. This is provocation,” Al Shammari said.

As Al Dhahrani was trying to explain, another MP, Osama Muhanna, shouted that the teenager was a martyr. “Your Council [of Representatives] was established thanks to the blood of the martyrs in the 1990s,” Osama said, referring to the period of unrest in the country.

Al Shammari charged the MP with “celebrating the plotting against the regime” while another MP, Hassan Al Dossari, requested Osama to calm down.

Al Shammari continued his argument and asked who killed the policeman before more lawmakers joined the standoff and the proceedings descended into chaos, prompting the Speaker to suspend the debates of the lower chamber.

The collapse of the session was the latest indication of the tense situation in Bahrain and divergent views over the events that unfolded in February 2011.

For the opposition, the anti-government demonstrations were part of the movement for greater political and social reforms while those who supported the government charged that the rallies aimed to topple the regime and set up an Iran-style theocracy.

“The problem is mainly between people who felt they did not belong and people who were afraid they would be excluded,” Mohammad Sherif Bassiouni, the head of an international commission that investigated the events told Gulf News earlier.

The distrust lingered for months despite several attempts to reach a compromise, and the launch of a national dialogue on February 10 was seen as a ray of hope in the dark clouds over the country.

However, as the opposition on Thursday marked the second anniversary of the anti-government demonstrations, clashes erupted between the police and demonstrators resulting in the death of a teenager in the morning and a policeman in the evening.

Roads remained closed for hours during the weekend and concern about the collapse of the national dialogue surfaced, especially after the Islamic Menbar society said that the latest developments made sitting at the dialogue table difficult if violence was not condemned.

However, calls to continue the dialogue despite the challenges have been issued.

“All the segments and forces of the Bahraini society have a great opportunity today to sit around the same table and engage in a dialogue,” Sameera Rajab, the state minister for information affairs, said. “Let us sit together and talk and see what we can achieve.”

Two sessions of the dialogue that brought together 27 participants were held last week and the third is scheduled for Wednesday.

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