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22 December 2016

Nurturing Jordan’s biggest asset

By: Daoud Kuttab
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One of the most important lessons learned from the tragic events in Karak is that the Jordanian public is strongly opposed to violent extremists and fully supports the national security.
 
From the tip to the security about the existence of the cell in the Qatraneh area to the support the people of Karak gave to the security personnel, it is clear that extremists are isolated and are denied an enabling environment.
 
When the security guards at the Karak castle ran out of ammunition, locals rushed to provide them with their own weapons and ammunition, as well as volunteered to help root out the armed group that has violated their peaceful life.
 
The lines of people waiting to give blood were yet another visible indicator of the presence of a strong public embrace of their nation.
 
However, this genuine loyalty and love must not be taken for granted. It must be respected, nurtured and reciprocated by acts of trust and support that can reflect the citizen-government partnership.
 
Good governance requires the government to begin this reciprocation by a transparent attitude that will further deepen this trust. The government’s public response was anything but transparent.
 
While everyone understands that there are aspects of a security operation that need to remain secret, it is hard for an educated public to accept statements of praise for the action of the entire security operation.
 
With eyewitness videos going viral and the basic details of the events, including the obvious security lapses, this partnership is not helped by statements such as those of the minister of interior.
 
Respect for Jordanian citizens requires a totally different approach to the government-citizen partnership.
 
The policy that tries to restrict citizen voices and the free flow of information, needs a 180-degree change.
 
Although it was said to have been done because of the retirement age of the director, the Cabinet did well by not extending the term of the director of Jordan TV.
 
No excuse can be accepted for the fact that the nation’s public news channel, funded by citizens’ licence fees, did not even mention the Karak events in its main 8 o’clock news cast on Sunday.
 
The idea that the national television needs to get direction from the government before tackling an issue that has filled Arab and international satellites and social media is simply unacceptable.
 
In addition to the information and security lapses, the Karak event revealed other problems that have remained unattended for years.
 
The status of the medical services in the city appeared abysmal, with hospitals lacking basic supplies, including not enough sanitised plastic blood bags to respond to the hundreds of volunteers wanting to donate blood. This reflects another unacceptable situation that should not be tolerated.
 
The public in Jordan, which has shown loyalty and support, requires in return an accountable government that rewards good work and punishes those who failed in their mission.
 
Government officials and employees are called civil servants. Their job is to serve the public and to do so at the highest level of professionalism.
 
Failure to deliver this service, whether at government employee or the most senior official level, should not be immune to an honest evaluation and appropriate action, based on such a review, in order to ensure that problems are treated and do not resurface.
 
It is true that the sad events in Karak must be seen through the lens of a community that was caught totally off guard.
 
While some of the mistakes can be tolerated because of the unexpected nature of the events, the lack of preparedness and the repeated mistakes and lapses cannot be simply papered over.
 
The public wants accountability and the loyal performance of Jordanian citizens should be reciprocated by serious decisions that have the nation’s interests as the utmost goal, irrespective of individual needs and desires.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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