After Ritz, what?


Al-Watan newspaper

IT has been reported in the Western press that the Saudi media is incapable of asking hard-hitting questions. Some of them have made even worse comments like the Saudi press does not have professionals who are adept at gleaning strategically important information. As a result, they say, the most important news about the changes in Saudi Arabia were brought to light by global media organizations such as Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. However, this is not true, and I›ll explain later why.

The question that the Western press will often raise at any news conference is about Ritz-Carlton and what is beyond. Here, I will pass them over since the issue of detainees at Ritz-Carlton is coming to closure with the hotel starting to receive reservations by guests. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, has taken a very transparent approach in dealing with media as he allows journalists to ask questions concerning the citizens and the country. After declaring the war on corruption, without giving immunity to anyone, even the most optimists among us did not think that the cleaning process would start from the top.

The Crown Prince›s open and transparent approach in dealing with the global media has changed Western journalists’ attitude toward the Kingdom as they have stopped asking the traditionally stereotypical questions. In this era of accountability, the most important question is: Where will they invest the $100 billion recouped from the detainees at Ritz-Carlton? Is the amount deposited in a special account of the Ministry of Finance? What is the mechanism for its disbursement?

Some information has been leaked out from the department for retrieved assets but we would like to know the latest developments regarding this important file.

Another question is regarding the settlement with the detainees. We have learned some compromises have been made. To be frank, I am for the idea of settlement, because it is the shortest way to recover the embezzled money, which I believe will serve the interests of the Kingdom as well as its citizens. The principle of settlement is applied all over the world and it is not something new, but is it not fair the conditions include a lack of media coverage for people who have been released?

We do not support the view that the settlements were a sort of reward for them. These detainees made quick money exploiting the loopholes that existed in the system. Now things have changed and certain limits have been put in place and it would be difficult for the current generation of officials to violate them. The old generation should at least withdraw now from its past transgressions.

The Western press claims that the detention of the corrupt at Ritz-Carlton would have cost millions of dollars. That is true, but in return hundreds of billions of dollars have been recovered from them. We are against «humiliating» people. When the corrupt is treated with dignity, they may agree to a quick settlement. Much can be achieved through leniency. On the other hand, imprisonment and humiliation would lead to unnecessary complications and resistance.

I am surprised by the negative stand of the Western media on this issue. They always claim that they are protectors of human rights, but when it comes to the Kingdom they criticize for the sake of criticism. They can criticize the Saudi press and its poor global presence. But they should know that it has been moving in one direction as a result of sociopolitical conditions that prevailed in the region for decades. The Western press follows a double standard while dealing with Saudi Arabia.

A journalist who works in one of the world’s famous newspapers and who is notorious for his hatred toward the Kingdom wrote a book that was so illogical that even a low level student of journalism would not accept his arguments. Many people including his colleagues have expressed their surprise at his bizarre explanations. The way the Western press deals with news about the Kingdom is proverbial, if you like it or not.

Now the question is what is after Ritz?

Actually, the cleaning of the drawer of corruption started from the highest echelons, but what about those in the middle? There are many beneficiaries in that category and I hope no one is above accountability. I believe the anti-corruption campaign would continue. It’s not essential that we accommodate all of them in Ritz-Carlton. We can detain them in any other hotel.

Another thing, which is equally important, is administrative corruption, which is as dangerous as financial corruption. We should launch a major campaign to uproot the pillars of administrative corruption, which has infected our state institutions. As a result, people who are not qualified reach high government positions, thus obstructing the country’s progress.

Since the time I started writing, I have been writing about corruption, but I have never expected what has happened now in the war on corruption. We thought it was impossible, but what is important is to continue this cleaning process until the Kingdom becomes free of graft. I would like to thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, the commander of our nation who was the governor of Riyadh for a long period. We also thank Crown Prince Muhammad for taking this bold step. We have been optimistic about the Saudi leadership and wish them every success.