Bahrain National Dialogue starts today
Manama, February 10, 2013
No issue will be off limits as Bahrain's second round of National Dialogue gets underway today, with leading opposition figures, MPs, Shura Council members and government officials taking part in a series of closed-door meetings that hope to end the political stalemate.
The talks will take place three days a week at the Al Areen Palace and Spa in Sakhir until consensus is reached, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.
Dialogue spokesman and media centre head Isa Abdulrahman said around 30 people would take part in today's first session. "They can discuss everything on the table and there is no restriction," he said. "Consensus by all parties is key. This will also mean that the time frame of the dialogue depends on participants reaching consensus."
The coalition of opposition groups until last night did not officially announce the names of the six representatives who would be taking part in the talks. However, sources said representatives from the coalition are expected to turn up today to attend the session.
Abdulrahman said the first task facing participants would be to establish a final agenda that will shape the talks. He added agreement reached during the dialogue would be implemented by legislation, amendments or by Royal decree, depending on the nature of the outcome.
The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) urged newspapers to exercise responsible freedom when publishing news about the dialogue. "Some newspapers have published inaccurate statements and news which may compromise the National Dialogue," said an IAA statement. It said the doors will remain open for journalists to get official information.
Morocco welcomed His Majesty King Hamad's call to resume the Dialogue. Its foreign ministry backed efforts aimed at achieving national unity and reiterated solidarity with Bahrain.
Meanwhile, a last-ditch plea has gone out for expatriates to be included in the Dialogue.
The Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations welcomed the initiative, which it said showed the seriousness of the government to end the political stalemate.
But its secretary-general Betsy Mathieson believes expatriates should be part of the talks.
"We are 51 per cent of the population and as the majority we feel our voice should be heard," she said.
"We are not asking to make decisions, just to be listened to, as we feel our voice is the voice of reason, the voice of moderation and Bahrain is our home too.”
"Expatriates do not want to interfere in politics but we have been forced to face them due to the actions of certain parties over the last two years as our communities have suffered alongside our Bahraini brothers and sisters.”
"Expatriates were invited to the earlier dialogue and so there is a precedent that allows an invitation to be extended to us again."
Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab earlier told the GDN expatriate groups would not be invited to take part in the talks because they would be "purely political" in nature.
Unionists have also expressed their disappointment at not being invited to participate.
"We were invited to take part in the 2011 National Consensus Dialogue, while this time this is not the case," said General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions board member Karim Radhi.
"This dialogue is important for all Bahrainis and we believe it should also focus on human rights, social justice and economic issues."
Meanwhile, Al Wefaq leader Shaikh Ali Salman called for His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, to be part of the talks.
"We want someone who can speak for the Royal Family," he told the BBC during a visit to London.
Around 30 people will take part in the first session of talks today.
"They can discuss everything on the table and there is no restriction," said Abdulrahman.
He said it was confirmed at least two government ministers would attend today's session.
He said the first task facing participants would be to establish a final agenda that will shape the talks.
Any agreement reached will be implemented by legislation, amendments or by Royal decree, depending on the nature of the outcome.
Leading businessman and Dadabhai Group chairman Mohammed Dadabhai was positive the latest talks will yield results.
"But for all parties it is important not to impose their views, but reach a common consensus," he said.
"It cannot be a one-sided affair but ought to be sharing views from all participants."
He also condemned ongoing street violence, despite the talks.
"Let this dialogue result in common understanding and if any reforms have to be made let it be done under the vision of His Majesty King Hamad," he said.
"Bahrainis and expatriates have always lived in harmony and peace, which has helped the country and its economy."
Dialogue updates will be available in Arabic and English at the dialogue website www.nd.bh, via the Twitter account @bahrainnd and the National Consensus Dialogue Facebook page.
A YouTube channel will also show excerpts and summaries of the talks. – TradeArabia News Service