Date: 26 February 2007
PCHR Organizes a Symposium on “One Year after Swearing in the New PLC”
On 25 February 2007, PCHR organized a symposium entitled “One Year after Swearing in the New PLC,” in the Service Club lecture hall in Khan Yunis. The event was organized to discuss the most notable internal and external obstacles that have faced the second PLC in its first year in office since taking office on 18 February 2006, as well as the Council’s achievements and failures. The speakers were Dr. Ahmad Bahar (Acting PLC Speaker), Dr. Mohammad Hejazi (PLC member), Dr. Ahmad Dahlan (lecturer at Al-Azhar University), and Mr. Sayyed Baraka (President of the People’s Forum). Representatives of civil society and political parties, academics, society leaders, and concerned citizens attended the symposium.
In his opening speech, Mr. Hamdi Saqqoura (Director of PCHR’s Democratic Development Unit) stated that the second parliamentary elections were an important event in Palestinian political life. These elections were fair and transparent by the international testimonies, and were an event of national pride for Palestinians. He also stated that these elections and their results were accompanied by extreme difficulties, the most notable of which are:
– Escalation of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, including the detention of PLC members and government ministers;
– Boycott and siege imposed by the international community against the Palestinian people after the elections; and
– Internal fighting and conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Dr. Ahmad Bahar, the acting PLC speaker, talked about the legislation passed by the Council since it started to function. He pointed to a number of legislations approved by the President, and others awaiting his approval. In addition, he pointed that the Council issued a number of important decisions on:
– Forming a Commission to investigate the attack on Jericho prison in March 2006;
– Outlawing political detention;
– Respecting the decisions of Palestinian courts.
On the monitoring front, Bahar stated that the Council held 12 sessions to hear testimonies of government ministers.
Bahar also talked about the obstacles that faced the Council, most notably the political, economic, and security siege, and the abduction of nearly one-third of the Council members by Israeli forces.
Dr. Ahmad Dahlan stated that the extreme difficulties facing the PLC were caused by two shocks taken by the two main political parties. The first shock was that the ruling party Fatah, which held a monopoly on power for a decade, found itself in a sudden outside the power circle. This led to a disturbance in its balance; and led to it committing acts it should have not committed. The second shock was the overwhelming joy of victory by Hamas, the winner of the elections, which did not foresee such a landslide victory.
Dr. Dahlan divided the first year of the second PLC into four parts:
1- Inability of Hamas to reach a real political partnership with others;
2- Forming a government from one political party (Hamas);
3- Kidnapping of PLC members and ministers; and
4- Infighting and conflict over power.
Mr. Sayyed Baraka stated that the Mecca Agreement between the conflicting parties should have been reached earlier in order to preserve the blood of innocent people who fell during the infighting. He wondered as to who will pay the bill for the belated understanding. He also stated that Palestinians practiced democracy during the elections, but that the participants were not democratic. He asked as to how we can claim to be democratic when we readily take up arms to resolve disputes. He said, “We practiced democracy without a democratic culture.”
Dr. Mohammad Hejazi, PLC member, stated that the Council did not register any notable achievements in its first year. He considered the main obstacles facing the PLC to be:
1- Electing the Council’s Board from one party, Hamas, without participation from other parties;
2- Detention of PLC members, closure of border crossings, and checkpoints throughout the West Bank, which disrupted the normal functioning of the Council.
He stressed the lack of democratic culture, as evidenced by the infighting. And he called for unity of government and authority, as well as the unity of arms under one authority to protect national institutions.
The floor was opened for discussion after the speeches; and a number of important points were raised by the participants. The attendance asked the Council to play a more proactive role in stopping infighting, and in improving living condition in light of increased unemployment and poverty due to international sanctions.