To Our Dear Jordanian Government,
Hope all is well with you these days. It’s been a while.
I’m writing to ask for something on behalf of myself and some 6.3 million other people that reside within the borders of this Kingdom. It’s actually quite a simple request really. So here it goes:
Can you please take it easy with those temporary laws?
Seriously. How many of those things have been issued in the six months since this government came to power? These days it seems every day there’s a new announcement of a new temporary law. Yes, we all realize that the Parliament was incredibly annoying and bureaucratic, slowing down and even blocking legislation; and that’s one of the reasons they’re no longer available. But is this reason to go law-happy now? In the name of what, reform? Yes, Parliament wasn’t the best body of government, but I will say this: the process was important.
Yes, the process. The legislative process. There was a process before. Bills were drafted, they were discussed, and discussed, approved or rejected. There was a process. And through it, we, as citizens, became aware, and that’s the key here. Awareness. Public awareness regarding legislation has now plummeted to zero. We know nothing. We find out about new laws the moment when the newspaper announces that they’ve just gone in to effect. Where was the process? No parliament? Fine. At least host public forums and discussions; take input from the community, from civil society, from various actors, and let that input and those discussions raise the debate thus raise awareness. Even if you’re going to completely ignore those people (which you shouldn’t but we know you do), at least there is a policy process in which engagement is pursued, and more importantly, through engagement, public awareness is raised.
Even when there was a Parliament and a notoriously bad bill was being floated around, a piece of legislation that everyone in the country prayed would not become law – even those bills, the controversial ones, raised enough awareness over a decent interval of time that people knew what was going on in their own country.
Lest I remind you all, that with all that has been happening in the country lately, the civil discontent that has been brewing beneath the surface and erupting every few weeks in various forms – this is an absolutely bad time to be passing laws with absolutely no public awareness raising, with absolutely no oversight, with absolutely no process except for behind-closed-door meetings and then overnight announcements. It tends to make people even more confused and angry.
Many of the temporary laws that were passed the last time government was suspended remain in effect today. It’s safe to say that the people have a right to be active participants in the process, or, at the very least be aware of things. Especially in a time when all legislative powers involving the citizenry have been suspended and all such powers are strictly governed absolutely by the executive branch of government: whom no one elected.
Moreover, you should want that debate; that process. You should be chasing it yourself. It can get ugly, sure, but it is the only thing lending an appointed government with absolutely no checks or balances, any ounce of credibility. People might not like what they hear when you speak and inform, but they will respect the fact that they were not cast aside and ignored. Public perceptions can even be shifted in favor of a government that actually communicates with the people; especially when it’s communicating the most important thing there is for a government to communicate – laws and policies. This is to say nothing that laws are all the more strengthened and effective when the people are aware of them and can actually apply or abide by them.
I’m not asking for much. I’m just asking for some communication; for some awareness. Enlighten us. Don’t keep us in the dark and then horde the flashlight, blinding us every time you shine it towards our faces.
An (uninformed) Jordanian Citizen