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New Year’s wish

Dec 30,2018 - Last updated at Dec 30,2018

A week ago on Sunday, while we were preparing to celebrate Christmas, a vicious crime was committed in Zarqa. The culprit, it is suspected, was a common burglar who broke into an 85-year-old gentleman’s house late at night, snuck up on him while he slept and struck him on the head and face with a club before robbing his house.  

The victim, as it happened, was a gentleman who had served Jordan honourably. In a career that stretched from 1951 to 1993, he held many positions which included general of the Armed Forces, director of Military Intelligence, Cabinet minister, president of the Veterans Association and mayor of Amman. 

Gen. Mohammad Bashir Al Shishani stands out among his peers because he is universally perceived as exemplary in his competence, honesty and clean-handedness. 

I learned about the crime from Facebook. I was shocked, of course, because if you ask any Jordanian he will tell you that the blessings of being in Jordan are good weather and relative personal safety. 

But even more shocking were the reactions of some bloggers, who only knew that a retired senior government official had suffered a violent attack against his person. 

Some wrote that this was a ploy by senior officials to make the government restore guards in front of former prime ministers’ houses. Seriously? What could have given Jordanians the idea that government officials might send a thug to inflict grievous bodily harm on one of their own, and an honourable one at that, merely to satisfy their ego?

Others, and this is even more shocking, felt gleeful. This is not a typical trait of Jordanians, who are renowned for their compassion and readiness to help. Yet, I found comments on the social media which dripped with smugness that is alien to the Jordanian character.   

Naturally, many Jordanians rose befittingly to the defence of Gen. Shishani. Senior military and government officers wrote that they considered it an honour to have served under him, and everyone scorned those who gloated at the misfortune of such an honourable man.

Yet there remains a most worrying point which was raised by one blogger: He remarked that the public perception of the government has become such that some Jordanians delighted in a cowardly attack against an elderly gentleman whom they did not know, purely because of his association with the government. 

I wanted, at the year’s end, to run an article that assesses the events of the past year, but I believe that the comment of this blogger is more revealing than anything I could have written.

Granted, the gloaters may still be a minority, but the fact that they exist at all should be enough to make restoring public credibility the government’s top priority in 2019. And no, this will not be achieved by a cybercrime law that prevents any discussion of criminality. 

Hoping for a meaningful dialogue between the government and the people, I wish you a happy and safe new year. See you in 2019.

 

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