Jordan’s Casinogate

This ongoing story about the so-called “casino deal” has just been one mess after the other, and it just doesn’t seem to want to go away. In 2007, the Bakhit government supposedly signed a deal to create a casino at the Dead Sea, but last minute they pulled out of the deal supposedly due to the voices of opposition at the time. As a fine for pulling out, the government is said to have paid a significant figure, which has since been denied.

I have a few random thoughts on this whole case, which the online community has since dubbed “casinogate“.

First, this whole case is a mess. From top down it is a clear mess. The so-called investigation was handled by a parliamentary commission behind closed doors, when it would have been more appropriate to have it handled by an independent body, but alas, none exist in this country (thus a lost opportunity to cut the state strings attached to the anti-corruption commission). What we have are their findings in a never ending report consisting largely of an infinite stream of interviews with former and current officials. If this was an attempt at using the “casino file” as a way to demonstrate to the public that the state is serious about tackling corruption, these meetings/hearings should have had an open door policy. For the commission to refer it to the parliament as it is the only body that can impeach ministers is in itself absurd. Immunity should be lifted from any such investigations, and heck, if our officials are going to constantly tell us that “no one is above the law” then, simply put, no official in this country should have any sort of immunity to begin with.

Second, the arguments being made are hypocritical. In an extraordinary parliament session yesterday that did not seem to want to end, MPs went on and on about how gambling is Islamically forbidden. This is a country where the main reason Saudis and other Gulfies come here in the summer is because the weather is cooler and its full of bars and nightclubs. Are we seriously concerned about a casino? These arguments by the way were made by non-Islamists, so for those who are constantly concerned about an Islamic uprising in Jordan, which will inevitably somehow end in the establishment of a new Taliban state, I’d advise you to be more concerned with the degree of hypocritical cultural conservatism that continues to snap at the heels of progress in this Kingdom, and is much more widespread than any religious fervor.

Third, let’s get serious.

This whole case is one big distraction that has no credibility nor place in the public discourse. It has been forced upon us after so many years simply because HM King Abdullah appointed Prime Minister Bakhit, who exited the prime ministry with this thing around his neck and came back in to the game with it still hanging there. From a political point of view, it had to be dealt with as it was naturally the issue everyone was talking about on the street shortly after the appointment. But at a time when we are dealing with some of the most important issues this country and region has ever been forced to face, our entire political apparatus, be it appointed or “elected”, is busy talking about a failed business deal. That’s what this is. Legal and constitutional arguments aside (of which I would argue there are few to begin with), at the end of the day that’s what this is. A business deal that happened behind closed doors failed. What else is new? How many gigantic business deals has the government done behind closed doors? I’d argue it’s a majority. So what’s so different about this one? The difference is, gambling is sexy. It was a reason for everyone with a moral streak to came crashing in to cash in on the populism it can generate.

And so we hold private investigations, and then public sessions calling for the impeachment of the Prime Minister who seems to declare, at least publicly, that he didn’t know what was going on. And apparently the way it was conducted under the parliamentary dome speaks volumes as to the extent to which this case has been used for window-dressing. Watching that session, which some seem to be calling a “test of democracy”, made me sick to my stomach. If that’s the kind of democracy people are envisioning then we are on the absolutely wrong path. There are corruption cases that are much more legitimate and much more pressing in my opinion, and involves actual theft and bribery. How about the former minister of public works bidding for a multimillion dollar housing project for the poor, with a company he set up while still in office?

The conclusion of this, as of today, seems to be that the tourism minister of the former Bakhit government was acting on his own accord, even though he, Dabbas, has denied this recently. I honestly don’t know where the truth is and I highly doubt a minister has the capabilities to act on anything without anyone else knowing about it or being involved in it, especially in a country where even your next door neighbor knows what you had for dinner last night. And if that is truly the case, then I have to tip my hat to the Prime Minister who managed to somehow put this thing behind him and handled it fairly well. I don’t know how much of this was induced by regional events and I assume much of it was. I highly doubt a former Prime Minister suspected of being involved in a corruption case would be so eager to refer this very issue into the public spotlight without there being public pressure to do so. That said, I don’t recall this many officials ever being called in for questioning on anything, so that’s a good precedent to set.

But the irony of all this is, however, quite beautiful, and could only be produced by 100% Jordanian political craftsmanship.

At the end of the day, we essentially have a parliament that is illegitimately elected due to it being “voted” in through a flawed electoral law that, less than one year later, everyone now suddenly recognizes as being flawed (as if the whole virtual district thing wasn’t a clue right out of the gate). And it is this same body, who has members that are allegedly responsible for mobilizing young supporters to beat up and intimidate peaceful protesters and attack a foreign media office, who are asked to launch an investigation committee in to a deal that was done and over with four years ago and that nearly everyone had forgotten about until the Prime Minister responsible for it was appointed once again to fill that role. And to lead that body are members of parliament lead by a guy who burned an Israeli flag under the dome once, and almost set the building on fire.

And I could go on and on and on and on…

But unlike this case.

I won’t.

24 Comments

  • إلى متى سنبقي روؤسنا في الرمال، البرلمان المزيف ورئاسة الوزراء وكل الوزراء لا يعنون شيئ في آخر المطاف، كلهم صفر على الشمال الملك والديوان الملكي هما المسؤولان على ما يحدث من فساد مبرمج ومتكرر، يا سيد نسيم أنت تبحث عن نبعة ماء في سراب مستمر واسباب هذا السراب هوا التخبط في الرؤية والتحليل السليم لما نواجهه من كوارث وويلات أقتصادية

  • What is the case?A bad idea for an Islamic country?
    what the investigation was looking for?No corruption at all in this case.

    We have a country where its people are divided,about 50% of its population marginalized,people get positions because of their tribes,free scholarships regardless of academic level, violence on the streets,universities,endless list of failed projects,huge debt,a weak economy, yet they are discussing something like the casino,who signed it and why!

    A parliament voted in by virtual districts and family names.

    Jordan missed the whole Arab Spring, and all fingers point to one direction: The only stable institute in Jordan’s history.

    Of course Jordanian who cheer on the streets do not read English, and the Darak don’t read English,so your article will only reach those who know the truth and have left the country in hope for a better life,instead of suffering in a very poor economy.

  • what did you expect ?
    this parliament and government is an insult to people even with minor itellectual abilites..

  • Actually the major part of the investigation was done by the Anti-corruption opportunity, and hence the systematic way of meetings and statements presented in the report. The MPs whould never have done such a systematic investigation. The report was sent by the ACC to the Parliament that carried on with analysing the results. The parliament of course wanted the credit and did not even thank and mention the ACC’s investigation.

  • @Nas: Men el Akher, is it established/paid/sponsored by a)The royal court b)Al Dewan c)Queen Rania Office d) USAID e)The US embassy f)Foreign NGO
    Please, be straight forward,claimg that 7iber pays itself from members activites,then you are officially the smartest start up.

    How come 7iber never really points out what is wrong with this country? The elephant is huge and present,we all know it!!!!!! Do you dare publishing asking the questions you really want to ask?
    Of course you do not,because you think of your poor mother and father if you get treated like Layth Shbeaylat or Toogan Faysal 😉

  • Oh Seriously you random guy. You forgot to mention g) Mossad, h) Illuminati i) Fox News, and h) Iran.

    [/sarcasm]

  • Oh, seriously Young Turk! It was a rather simple question that imply accountability this blog so often cries for. How about to practice what we preach? So, who’s finances 7iber owes its birth and existence to?

  • for those getting bored, and given we don’t get new movies anymore, I suggest you follow the Military academy in Birgesh debate and the last news of the “scoping session” then you will see how weak the ministries of environment, agriculture etc… are .. the government is and was for a few years soooo weak.. and just to remind you, some of the pseudo-green – activists of Birgesh are responsible for the Dubai-capital – Dibbeen forest destruction which is currently going on .. this makes everything still more interesting, and then the last rumors that corruption and US officials are also involved in the birgesh – issue, wow!

  • @randomguy: sigh. well, thank you for calling us the smartest startup. i have no desire to convince you or anyone else for that matter, of anything, but 7iber is in fact a non-profit that is run by individuals who are financially supported by the organization’s for-profit arm, 7iberINC. no more, no less. the latter is what allows us to work on projects and trainings we like to do anyway, while keeping us financially afloat to contribute our time and efforts to the website. and one of the advantages of this model is to counter statements made by people such as yourself. the site doesn’t accept advertising or funding from any organization right now. everyone 7iberINC has ever worked with is mentioned on the company’s blog, so it’s no secret.

    furthermore, i think if we were funded/supported by all those organizations we’d be living it up right now! perhaps we’d even have one of those offices that have a swimming pool they fill with money.

    as for content. it’s user-generated; not by on-the-payroll journalists but by citizens. we don’t have control over what people say or think. and a great deal of the political commentary people submit highlights exactly what is wrong with Jordan, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. maybe you’re logging on to the wrong website..?

    as long as content is not slanderous, then the work is publishable. if you feel a voice is missing from 7iber then I’ll tell you what I tell anyone who tells me the same thing due to their inability to comprehend what citizen media is….contribute to it.

    @coffeegirl: please see above. and since you and antar are so keen on accountability and ethical well-being, one might remind you both that it’s probably a good idea to have some evidence to support your claim. otherwise, i could just say that you are funded by the israeli government to leave absurd comments on arab blogs in order to incite and insult. and as long as someone backs me up on that claim, then it sticks.

    but you and i both know that that’s not how this works 😉

  • 7iberINC wa awladuahu
    don’t worry,they don’t pay much

    تشغلوني مدير عام عنكو؟ بجيب دعم من الي بالي بالك

  • @Young Turk
    disnep corp for sure
    @coffegirl
    lets discuss this over a cup of coffe 😉
    @antar
    shutup,inta mo coooooool
    bedi moveeez

  • Nas,

    The Israeli government asked me to quote Jeffrey Ghannam report for NED’s Center for International Media Assistance. 7iber mentioned right after Aramram, so, it would be only natural to assume you haven’t gone far from it sponsorship wise:

    “Aramram.com is one of those sites, established by a small group of young Jordanian media entrepreneurs with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The website produces original youth-oriented video and written content built around themes such as the environment, Jordan’s ethnic minority communities, encouraging civic responsibility, music,dance, and the views of a progressive professor at the University of Jordan who offers religious perspectives of everyday events.“The concept was to create an outlet where people could interact. In Jordan, people don’t interact,they are in small groups and they don’t open up easily,” said Hams Rabah, 28, one of the partners in Aramram which is part of Greyscale Films, a production house and a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.”

    Interesting my comments usually consist of links and/or quotes one can verify. So much for absurdity.

  • @coffeegirl: aramram has no connection to 7iber whatsoever. and we have never been funded by NED. your assumption is faulty….to say the very, very, very least. but thanks for the attempt anyway 🙂

    @randomguy: you’re right, we don’t pay much. just enough to keep afloat. which i suppose defeats you’re accusation that we’re funded by all those organizations! 😉

  • اسمع
    لسى مش مقتنع بسلافة انو حبرإنك بتصرف على الموقع و نشاطو من خلال دورات اعلامية للمؤسسات عن استخدام الاعلام الرقمي المتعدد وانداري شو
    والله نفسي اصدقك، انتا زلمة مليح، بس الفريق المعاك، شغل دورات و مؤتمرات بدعم مكتب الملكة، و تسفير على جامعات مرموقة لدورات اعلام و مشاركة بمؤتمرات شباب في اسرائيلية
    مش نظرية مؤامرة، بس اكيد إلكم وظايف رئيسية و حبر جانبي، يعني كلفة حبر هي تسجيل الموقع و تسجيلو كمؤسسة اعلامية بوزارة التجارة
    طيب الدورات وهل قصص، كل كم بتصير؟
    Aramram is USAID funded????? Now this explains why their videos are of high quality,flashy and no real affect on the masses,who don’t have internet to start with

    Anyone can get me finance from USAID or you know who,I will start some initiative to spread something and raise awareness over something, I will defy the norms,
    use me please: I will say premartial sex is everyone’s right,don’t judge and I will support sex education for 14 yars old kids and distribute condoms,all in the name of sex education,I will ask to give free after morning pills,I will ask to legalize marijuana, yella sponsor me

    @coffeegirl
    The what government now you work for? WTF
    The date is canceled, I can always accept the CIA’s money over yours

  • @randomguy: I don’t know who you are referring to that is in our group. As far as I know no one in our group has worked or works with anything Israeli, and we definitely don’t as an organization. And we don’t work with usaid or the ned either. Most of us have part time jobs, but some of us work full time based on projects that we have on our plates.

    I think you have to be careful with what you say in the name of accountability when you have nothing to back up your claim. What youre doing is known as character assassination.

    But fortunately, you’re doing a terrible job at it 😉

  • ok,I will dodge the blatant “asfeen” or threat.
    I personally trust your credibility, so hats off,you are the most successful media startup,if you are able to cover costs,pay salaries by your own,would be impressive.

    I think aramram.com had to state who funds and who dictates their agenda

    enta kam ratbak?

  • @ Nas : there are rumours and there are facts, if you need proof for some facts i mentioned I can provide them, starting with the MoU signed between dubai-capital and rscn a few years ago .. I can also send you proof of how a few of the so-called activists are making use of or leading protests for for their own business agenda..but I don’t want to expose persons.

  • random guy,

    Obviously, sarcasm isn’t your strong point or maybe you missed Nas’s ‘theory’ who I might be funded by? In any case I’ve never agreed to the proposition, so, your indignation is unwarranted.

Your Two Piasters: