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A Constitutional Step ... Smooth Transition of Power and Consolidation of Stability

A Constitutional Step ... Smooth Transition of Power and Consolidation of Stability

Saturday, 16 January, 2021 - 12:30

In a historic step, Sultan of Oman Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued important and unprecedented decisions and decrees that will change the country’s modern history. They include establishing the position of Crown Prince, which inaugurates a new phase in the life and future of Oman, its people and future generations. This step was very well received, garnering remarkable popular support. What is happening in Muscat today amounts to a serious attempt by the new leadership to bring about real change on all levels, especially since the country is currently politically stable and socially harmonious.

I remember that while I was studying English in a British city over three decades ago, we were surprised, at that time, by the large number of Omani students who came to the city and had enrolled in English language programs. This was a familiar scene seen in many other British cities, as I later found out. Indeed, this was an indication that Oman was educating its new generation to develop the capacities needed to play an influential role in development and national progress efforts. The fruits of this policy are apparent in refinement we find in the Omani people, who genuinely reflect the sincere efforts that have been made, as do its people’s strong public engagement and the prevalence of coexistence and tolerance in their most pristine form.

Shortly after his assuming power, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued an array of royal decrees that demonstrate a desire to introduce changes that improve governance, enhance development and take the country to a new stage. They include the nullification of some laws, the restructuring of some ministries and creation of others, and ministerial amendments that included the foreign and financial ministries, whereby veteran minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah left after spending nearly four decades in office.

The issuance of these two decrees coincided with the anniversary of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s assumption of leadership on January 11, which has clear and symbolic connotations, and this historic move adds to this annual occasion.

The first is the issuance of the Basic Law of the State, by “setting up a specific and stable mechanism for the transfer of power in the sultanate, and the establishment of a mechanism for the appointment of the crown prince, clarification of his duties and powers”.

The second is the issuance of a decree that introduces new rules on how the Council of Oman - whose two chambers include an appointed Council of State and an elected Consultative Council - will work. Per the new system, a royal decree will be issued to appoint the current minister of culture, sports and youth in Oman, Dhi Yazan bin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, 30, as crown prince, since he is the sultan’s eldest son.

There are some substantial decisions and radical changes incorporated in the recent decrees, and they will reinforce important concepts, such as transparency, accountability, justice, and push for the realization of Oman’s Vision 2040, which reflects the aspirations for the future of a special people and an extraordinary country, the Sultanate of Oman.

In fact, what is happening in the Gulf states deserves praise and esteem. Recent developments affirm that they are well equipped for the future, as they are delegating power to young leaders, who are better equipped to understand and speak the language of the future.

The Saudi experience is a good example. The remarkable presence of the young Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and what he is doing for his country, are an exemplary case that deserves to be replicated. He put his country under the spotlight, on the international map, painting it a positive image and challenging old stereotypes. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman came to power at the appropriate historical moment for Saudi Arabia, at the right time to move to a new and better stage. Saudi Arabia, which had been seen as an extremely conservative country, is undergoing political, economic and social changes that will transform it into a modern and civil state.

An objective assessment of the events in Oman since the sultan became ruler concludes that he understood the magnitude of his responsibilities and is planning for the long-term. He went about developing the system of governance and filling gaps. The previous state of affairs was acceptable, and it was in line with certain well-known arrangements done by the ruling family's council. Its framework was agreed upon during the reign of modern Oman's founder, the great late Sultan Qaboos bin Said (who didn't have an heir). But novel circumstances and the critical nature of this phase demand a new vision that accounts for the forthcoming challenges and the changes the country, the region and the world are undergoing.

This means facing up to potential circumstances and contingencies that could create a constitutional void; this calls for solidifying government institutions and their sustainability with an effectiveness that allows the sultanate to further its interests and maintain its unity.

The sultan's constitutional action is a qualitative step forward that strengthens the modern Omani Sultanate's stability. History will attest to what the current sultan has done as a step that safeguarded the country in a region that is turbulent by nature.

Remarkably, the decrees regarding the mechanism of the transition of power and the manner in which the heir is appointed came while the country was neither suffering from any kind of political crisis nor was it under any pressure. But it is under such circumstances that leaders' acumen and ability to make decisive decisions become apparent since the state and society need these steps.

Despite their significance as social heritage, historical traditions, and the prevailing consensus are not necessarily useful for the future in the same way they had been in the past. There is a need to establish mechanisms that enhance the country's stability and allow the transition of power to continue to run smoothly. This is especially necessary because life has become complex, and Oman, like every other country, does not live in isolation. The matter regards the future of generations and the nation's stability, and the leadership appears to be looking in this direction.

The Omani nation is unique and exemplary for many reasons, the most prominent of which are its tolerance, coexistence and the healthy balance it enjoys academically, culturally and socially. As a former member of the Saudi Shura Council, where I had served over the past 12 years, I met regularly with Omani cultural and parliamentary elites. I continue to admire the Omanis' character, moderation, rationality, culture, tolerant spirit and tranquility. An exemplar of this character is Sheikh Khaled Al-Maawali, an educated, humble upright young man in his forties, who has been the chair of Oman's Shura Council for years; indeed, my personal admiration for his qualities, character, and vision grows every time we meet.

The new Oman is undergoing a tremendous developmental surge. More importantly, the Omani people are paid close attention to, which explains the strong capacities and distinction of the current generation of young men and women of the new Oman.

Oman's current foreign policy is greatly admired and garners a great deal of attention. Like its Gulf sisters, Oman always supports Gulf cooperation. And Omani policy, its neutrality, calmness and refusal to get involved with divided political camps have been respected for decades. When the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said passed away - may he respect in peace – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz was among the first leaders to arrive in Muscat, paying his respects and consoling the Omani people after their great loss. The king's presence in Muscat also conveyed Oman's significance for its older sister and the strength of the two countries ties. It also affirmed the new leadership in Riyadh's concern for the sultanate's stability, its people's well-being and its role in the Gulf and region.

The Omani sultan's decision is a milestone in the country's history because it entrenches the smoothness of the transition of power and paves the way for future generations to enhance stability and focus on developing the country and its people. This implies the sustainability of the system and the state and the realization of the Omani people's aspirations.

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