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MENAFN - Arab Times - 06/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab Times) With protests in Kuwait intensifying seeing the use of stun grenades and smoke bombs, expatriates are feeling a mild sense of panic, fearing if the situation would spiral into violence like in some of the neighboring countries.

Arab Times received a series of calls from expatriates Sunday enquiring if the situation in the country is normal, or if they should consider sending off their families back home.

Former oil minister and political commentator, Ali Al Baghli, made light of the concerns of the expatriates saying there is no reason for panic. Talking to the Arab Times Monday, he rejected the claim that the protests are growing in intensity, saying there is about 30 percent decline in the turnout of protestors Sunday compared to the previous gathering. "So, we see that the opposition's strength is slowly dwindling. This shows that trouble far from burgeoning is only dying down," Baghli added.

Further, Baghli said that the protests in Kuwait cannot be compared to the regional upheavals, because here the conflict is not over bread and liberty. "We have both of these commodities in abundance in Kuwait. This is an exercise by the opposition to assert its presence."

Baghli said that he is not against rallies and marches, because it is the right of the people in any democratic system. "However, the protestors must respect the law of the land and learn to protest in a civilized manner. There are places allocated for them to express their dissent; they are not supposed to break the law and hold protests at places of their choice, like Sunday's protests in Mishref."

The opposition is trying to show the government their muscles, which is the only logic behind their disobedience of law. Baghli said that while he respects the right of the opposition to express itself, he advises dissenters to abide by the law as the law has provisions for venting anger."

Siddique Valiyakath, a respected community leader and a well-known figure in several social organizations, said people have been making frantic calls to him to ensure everything was normal. There is a certain amount of concern among the expatriates, especially because they are aware of the violence going on in the region.

Siddiq has been exhorting calm, and strongly advises expatriates to stay clear of any conflict because this is an internal issue of Kuwait. "We are guests here, and we have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of the state."

There is a chance that some employers, who are sympathetic to the opposition, might encourage their expatriate employees to take part in the protests to show greater strength. Siddiq advised expatriates not to take part in the marches, as the consequences could be very serious.

Some sources, unwilling to be named, said that the protests are not really about constitutional amendment. This is only a cover for deeper grouses such as a few families benefiting from the developmental projects at the expense of others. This is the vibe the sources felt from at least some Kuwaiti diwaniyas.

Many of the projects handled by these companies have serious setbacks, yet the meaty projects are being handed to them, they complained. Fanning this basic dissatisfaction are political undercurrents with their own axes to grind. The Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, they added, is a frontline force leading the opposition with its own set of agendas. "All these factors are playing out in the current turmoil. The government has been toeing a cautious line, which the opposition is taking advantage of, almost inciting the government to crackdown on it."

Sam Paynimud, another expatriate community leader, and President of KALA, was of the opinion that there is no great panic among the expatriates, "as people know that there is little chance of these protests turning very violent and a total disruption of law and order."

Kuwait, he said, is a strong country, and is capable of containing any dissent from breaking the banks. "Moreover, the issues here are not of basic amenities of life like food or water. In the countries where revolutions are taking place, the people had nothing to lose by fighting. They had deep simmering discontent; whereas Kuwait is a welfare state, and the people here are by and large happy. Too many people have too much to lose by upsetting the status quo here. So, expatriates can rest assured that things are gong to be fine here."


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