Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oman Demonstrations

The winds of change are blowing through the Arab world. Dictators are falling and will fall. And the breath of fresh air has finally reached Oman. Those in power are fightened. Already, hastily drawn-up laws are being rushed through into existence. Money is being thrown at the populace. Do they not learn? Do they not see? This isn't about money or food prices or wealth. This is about FREEDOM.

Sometimes the birth of a truly democractic nation is truamatic. Whether you are under the rule of a despot or an all-powerful monarch, you are STILL under the rule of a dictator. You have no say in where your country goes. You have no way of protest. In democracies, a person can demonstrate and disagree - moreover your right to demonstrate is protected. In dictatorships, good or bad, you are not free to do this. You are thought unworthy to do so; made to live out your life without a say in how your life is led.

I fervently hope that Oman, a country I love, does not degenerate into the violence seen in Libya but equally, I fervently hope that the Omani people gain freedom to have a full say in their own country. This can only happen if those in power, including the Sultan, realise that they cannot reign above those they subjugate by right alone and that the masses will no longer be bought off with a quick cash advance or made to cower beneath the sword or the whip.

Gone are the days when the ruling elite should be there because of their birthright. Gone are the days when an accident of birth or who you know should be the only criteria for high office. We all live in the 21st century. All of us, everywhere, should have a say in how we live our lives and, moreso, how the country we live in is managed.

The Sultan is a wise man; an enlightened man. I am sure that he will do the right thing. I am sure that he will allow his people to have a say in the running of their country. He has pulled Oman out of the depths of poverty and myopic introspection and made the country into a jewel in the Gulf. He cannot and, I hope, will not allow all of that to be undone by not moving towards true democracy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gaddafi, the umbrella, the golf cart and Deputy Dawg

So, with the situation in Libya accelerating into civil war, Gaddafi decides to make a "speech" on TV to refute rumours that he's flown off to visit his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Now any self respecting demagogue would appear on TV immaculately dressed in a suit and embark on an impassioned speech explaining how perfectly acceptable it is that the armed forces fire on unarmed civilians and that he's going to stay exactly where he is until order, a.k.a oppression, is firmly re-established.

But no, Gaddafi doesn't seem to want to do this. He appears in a Deputy Dawg costume, sitting in a golf cart under a fetching cream umbrella against a backdrop of pock marked walls in what looks like an underground car park. He rambles on for 20 seconds about how he met with the youth and how people shouldn't believe the dogs out there and then closes the umbrella on himself.

Weird or what!!

Gaddafi is no longer the problem in Libya. He's obviously mad. His sons, other family members, hangers on and those with a vested interest in keeping this deplorable regime in power are the ones to fear.

The Libyan revolution is turning into the Romanian revolution of the 21st century. I would not be surprised to see Gadaffi and many of his circle strung up on lampposts before all of this plays out to a conclusion.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day one and all. I hope you're with your loved one on this day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Piracy and Oman

A recent story from the BBC website on Somali piracy in the Gulf:

So Somali pirates are now operating in the waters off the coast of Oman. A lot of OEB crude oil trade is with East Africa and beyond (requiring the use of the Red Sea / Suez Canal shipping route), as is quite a bit of the excess finished product from Oman's refineries. The seized shipment is around 2 million barrels of crude oil, which would equate to about 0.7% of Oman's yearly production. The article doesn't say if the crude oil was from Oman, but doubtless the threat exists. I wonder how worried the Omani government is about piracy affecting its exports?

I must say, as strongly as I condemn this sort of lawless act I cannot help but somehow admire the enterprise of the pirates. Talk about expanding a lucrative business!! If only they could be allowed to channel their enthusiasm for making money in other, more law abiding ways!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Revolution - Where Next?

Tunisia was quite straightforward really. Egypt is becoming a long, drawn-out affair with Mubarak just not seeing the writing on the wall (long term dictators do become very myopic when it comes to seeing reality).

So who is next? In the Middle East there are many candidates. Iran may be gearing up for a second round of unrest. Already Jordan has had street protests prompting King Abdullah to reshuffle the government and demonstrations in Kuwait reflect heightened political unrest.

What about others? Perhaps the UAE is too wealthy and the population too small to cause unrest. Saudi is a good candidate, with its masses of unemployed youth and it's extremely insular society.

How about Oman? Sultan Qaboos is a benevolent dictator but a dictator all the same. He's been there 40+ years and, although the country has been dragged out of the dark ages into the 21st century there's no democracy, no distribution of wealth even though oil reserves are being exploited at a fast rate and no confirmed successor, despite a constitution giving a rather old-fashioned and potentially dangerous set of conditions for someone to succeed the current occupant. Could the good people of Oman finally feel the fresh breeze of true democracy blowing through their country? Unemployment is high, wages low, poverty growing, crime on the increase and corruption rife. Could revolution already be heard in the whispers of the disaffected masses?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bode Miller? I think not!

Just back from a week's skiing in the Italian Alps. What can I say? Fantastic! It was blue skies all the way. OK, OK, I know you hardened skiers out there would want lots of snow every day so that you can have deep powder off piste skiing, but as I'm not insured for off piste skiing (so would have to drag myself with two broken legs back onto piste to get the insurance) I was happy with the nice groomed pistes, the fabulous weather and the occasional restaurant and cafe. It was even pleasant enough to catch a few rays too. There's nothing better than reclining on chair in full skiing gear taking in some sun.

I managed my goals for the week:

  • I spent a lovely week with the one I love;
  • I did not fall down - not once!
  • I went down all of the black runs, even the one with moguls (OK, it took me the best part of 15 minutes but, hey, who's timing!);
  • I got a nice tan;
  • I had the best pasta and pizza you can get this side of Florence;
  • I forgot about work....entirely;
  • Apart from the odd ache or pain here and there, I came back relatively intact.
The holiday was arranged by a well known skiing travel agent. That's the first "arranged" holiday I've taken in almost 25 years, so I was a bit worried that it would turn out like Benidorm on ice. However, my fears were misplaced. The staff were subtle, hands-off and discreet. There were activities available, but we didn't use them. We did go on a wine and cheese tasting evening in and around the resort, which was more wine drinking than wine tasting (taste and swallow rather than spit). A very good evening was had by all!

Back to work now - and the grey, gloomy skies of Britain. But the glow of this holiday will take some time to subside and should see me safely through the rest of the winter.

I'd recommend the sport, and the experience, to anyone!