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Law leads to order

Nov 01,2016 - Last updated at Nov 01,2016

In his Sixth Discussion Paper, tackled here before, His Majesty King Abdullah placed particular emphasis on law and order. 

Clearly he meant that respect for law and order should be the first priority of any civilised and organised community.

Primitive societies created rules for regulating their dealings with each other long before there were governments or law-enforcement mechanisms. Violations led to trouble that caused collective harm to the group so the need for protecting, and indeed articulating, such rules kept evolving and progressing steadily.

These rules were constantly upgraded to match the development of human life.

I grew up in a small village of less than 1,500 people. Life there was really very simple, if not even primitive, with no electricity, no running water, no paved roads, very basic housing without furniture, one boys’ school that taught religion and arithmetic, and none of the modern conveniences present in most homes today.

In the village there was no government, no village council and no police. And yet people lived in peace, respected each other and observed the rules that naturally existed on the basis of mutual respect and common sense.

Each individual knew the limits of his or her rights. When there were minor disputes, they were promptly and successfully dealt with by the village elders.

The role of the individual in any community, therefore, is vital to maintaining social order by respecting tradition, norms as well as any existing laws. That is the perfect recipe for a peaceful and tranquil life.

Obviously our modern and more complex lifestyles as well as the size of the population in heavily populated cities, such as Amman, requires more than what may suffice in a small village; hence the need for written laws and law-enforcement agencies.

But neither laws nor any amount of policing and monitoring could guarantee sufficient order without the strict cooperation of the citizens.

This exact point was specifically highlighted in the King’s discussion paper when he described respect for the rule of law as “the one true expression of love for our country”.

“The state is responsible for upholding the rule of law with justice, equality and integrity” His Majesty said, adding: “On the other hand citizens are responsible for observing laws in their daily lives.”

Visibly concerned, His Majesty observed: “Experience has taught me that individuals accept and embrace the rule of law in principle, while in practice, some believe they are the ‘exception’ and are excused from applying it”. 

The King dismissed “declarations of loyalty and devotion to Jordan [as] abstract and theoretical in the absence of respect for laws”.

But if the King was just concerned about citizens’ failure to abide by the law, he was distinctly outraged with two disturbing, indeed grievous, violations: festive firing and lawless driving habits.

Festive firing has steadily been on the rise despite repeated government warnings and gentle guidance, resulting in many tragic and senseless deaths.

Only when the King stepped in ordering that this ugly practice stop did the phenomenon disappear, almost entirely.

Traffic, however, remains chaotic. It has been impeding movement, causing major delays, wasting precious time, consuming fuel, destroying property and, much worse, resulting in significant numbers of deaths and injuries.

All efforts by the authorities to bring order to our roads have been of little value. The traffic situation continues to worsen.

“I feel so disheartened and outraged when I learn that a young girl has died in the arms of her father because of festive firing in weddings or celebration, or when a mother loses her son in a car accident because of a reckless driver,” King Abdullah said in the sixth paper.

We must, therefore, respond to the King’s sound advice by translating our loyalty to our country into strict respect for the rule of law, not only for the sake of the victims of irresponsibility and recklessness, but also as a manifestation of a dutiful civilised behaviour.

In a big city like Amman, with a population of no less than 3 million people and with an enormous number of moving vehicles, it is impossible for the police alone to ensure compliance.

It is equally impossible to rely on people’s goodwill and considerate performance. Only a combination of the two factors can make a difference.

We should learn that reckless driving is not just a violation of the law, it is disrespectful behaviour, if not direct aggression, vis-à-vis fellow citizens.

The penalties for breaking the law should be much heavier than they currently are. That is the only deterrent that the authorities can resort to. Heavier fines hurt only those who deliberately and recklessly ignore the law, and they deserve it.

No civil sate and no society can function, let alone develop and prosper, if the laws that apply are not strictly and scrupulously observed by citizens.

 

This is what the King is demanding for the country’s and the people’s benefit and that is exactly what we all should adhere to.

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