Usually after Friday prayers, people in different localities get together and share a cup of tea before dispersing to their homes. They discuss various subjects and focus either on the topic of the day or on other matters that concern them. These are mainly local issues. Last Friday, the opening topic was the outrageous statement by Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate for the 2016 US presidential elections. However, the group had scarcely opened up on Trump, when the discussion turned to a more pressing issue, which was the rising number of car accidents and especially those on the King’s Road in Jeddah. It seems that the geniuses who modified this fast track by constructing U-turns every couple of miles were totally oblivious to the lack of driving skills and the culture among Jeddah drivers. There is now an accident almost every day on this stretch of road. But who cares? And did the municipality take the people taken into account and ask for anyone’s opinion when the decision was make to construct all the U-turns? “Does anyone listen?” asked a frustrated gentleman, who is a regular traveller and complained about the sloppy performance of the immigration staff at the airport. I told him I had written about both the airport immigration situation and the traffic problem. “Yes, but does anyone listen?” he asked again. This set my mind thinking. I have written dozens of articles about labor issues, about sponsors falsely claiming that their employees have run away (huroub) and about the mistreatment of expatriate workers. Only once did I get a reply and thankfully the case was resolved. With regard to health and other government services, these official service providers get upset if any public outcry is made. The mantra is: “Write to us. Don’t go to the media.” But this is what the media is all about. It is meant to be a bridge between the government and the public. We are not here to hail and praise and to hide facts. We are not present to engage in sensationalism. We have a responsibility to convey to those in power and authority the deficiencies that we see in the system. We are here to expose the corrupt practices of those who shirk their responsibilities and engage in activities detrimental to the interest of the people. We cannot hail and praise; even though it seems that there are many among us whose major concern is to sing praises for personal gains. However, the public should also utilize the media and push ahead for action to activate a speedy process. We should say “NO” to mistreatment, to inefficiency and to the callous attitude of the bureaucracy. They are called public servants and serve the public they must. And in Saudi Arabia it means serving all those living here – Saudis and expatriates alike!! Is anyone listening? — Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena
Is Anyone Listening?