As many people know by now, Prime Minister Samir Rifai held a meeting with a few bloggers, a meeting that I was invited to. This meeting seems to be referred to by almost everyone as a “secret” meeting. So secret that everyone who calls it a “secret” meeting found out about it from Al Ghad newspaper. Jordanians crack me up. Even if it’s reported it’s still a secret. There’s still a conspiracy. I will be very honest here and say there was nothing noteworthy that took place during that meeting other than it being held in the first place. If there was, I would’ve blogged about it. But there wasn’t. I’m not going to write an “oh I met the Prime Minister post” just for the sake of it. Also, we were all made to swear a secret pact not to reveal what was said…
But if you really must know what was discussed, here are the top ten talking points:
1- Rifai spent roughly 3 hours talking about the government’s initiatives, and those are just the initiatives for the next 2 months.
2- We were not allowed to go to the bathroom.
3- A discussion about whether the national dish should be changed from mansaf to magloobeh ensued. After vigorous debate, a vote was taken. Mansaf won.
4- Rifai, who carries around a golf club at all times, demonstrated for us his golf swing. Have to admit, it was pretty impressive.
5- According to documents presented to us, the Jordanian government is in fact responsible for global warming.
6- One blogger broke down in tears after losing complete bladder control during the fifth hour – I’m not going to mention any names.
7- We spent 20 minutes, as a group, rewriting the National Agenda. Way easier than I thought it would be.
8- A 45 minute debate on what the greatest movie of all time is. Rifai insisted it was “My Fair Lady”.
9- Turns out Rifai is a big Black Eyed Peas fan. “Boom Boom Pow” was playing non-stop throughout the meeting.
10- Spent 1 hour watching Rifai show off his new iPad.
Alright. Enough fun. A more serious rundown is available on Mariam’s blog for those interested, so I won’t get in to it. The only thing I will have to add is this: we were called up individually and we attended. There wasn’t an open call for applications or any wasta involved. Secondly, we made clear several times during the meeting that we were not a representative sample of the Jordanian street, and hopefully a more comprehensive group will attend in the case of future meetings.
Lastly, on a personal note, I emphasized the government’s inability, and often times, unwillingness, to properly communicate with the people, which is a problem that affects it negatively more than anything else. This includes their silence on recent issues, such as stripping Jordanians of Palestinian origin their rightful Jordanian citizenship, as well as the ominous once-proposed Cyber Law – both issues of which were brought up. The argument was simple and has been repeated on this blog several times before: silence breeds fear.
On the communication issues, I also emphasized the government’s ineffective internal communication, specifically when it comes to these kinds of meetings as an example. Bloggers meet with the Prime Minister and ideas are exchanged, recommendations are given, and whether it’s the PM or any other official, there is always the sense that the official gets it, and is on board with it. But that never trickles down to the employee – the government clerk, which 99.9% of the time, is the person that the average Jordanian has to deal with. Something is lost in the translation, be it purposefully or otherwise.
Nothing that was brought up was entirely new and thus nothing was worth reporting, thus my lack of blogging on the issue. I wasn’t aware that the meeting was on-the-record or was going to be reported in the newspaper, but since it was, and since that alone spawned questions over the said “secrecy” of the meeting (that still cracks me up), I just wanted to put up this post for clarification’s sake.
In any case, communication and dialog is never a bad thing, so regardless of what one might think of either the government or the Prime Minister, getting a little over an hour of his time was a significantly positive move. Which is why I will reiterate what I said in the beginning for the politically articulate, there was really nothing noteworthy about the meeting other than it being held in the first place. Whether we were actually listened to or simply heard, is besides to the point. We were in the room and we made the best of that time to voice our concerns of the hour. I do hope more bloggers from more diverse backgrounds will get the chance to talk with the PM in the future.
That’s about it.