Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Syria: The full reform menu

Guest post by Middle East publisher F. Najia

The tide of demands for political and economic reforms in the Arab world having whipped Syria, President Bashar Assad is about to address the issue in a televised speech to the nation.

The big question on everyone's mind is: Will he go far enough to quell growing unrest in the country?

Ibrahim al-Amin, board chairman and chief editor of Lebanon's pro-Syrian daily al-Akhbar, this week prescribed the following reform menu to the Syrian leader in an opinion piece titled, "Syria: The race between sedition and reform."

Amin’s panacea:
  • Lift the state of emergency and issue a new emergency law to be invoked only in a state of war or in cases of natural disasters
  • Release all political prisoners and detainees under a general amnesty
  • Suspend forthwith Article 8 of the Constitution and set up an all-inclusive national committee to draw a new constitution inside six months
  • Draft a new electoral for parliamentary and local elections and sanction the establishment of political parties through a simple “legal notice” procedure. Follow-on, by year’s end, with parliamentary elections under full judicial supervision
  • Endeavor to reform the judiciary and uphold its independence by making all its branches, including the attorney general, accountable to the supreme judicial council
  • Sever all dealings by civilian and military security services with citizens and create a solitary security service to deal with national security matters only
"New PM Farouk al-Sharaa?"
  • Dismiss the current council of ministers and the entire economic team, and then bring in a consensual figure – such as Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa -- to form a new government
  • Keep hands off the media sector and cease its funding. Lift media censorship and abolish state monopoly over print, broadcasting and digital media publishing
  • Start the ball rolling to kill off the “parallel (or black) economy,” which has been the root cause of corruption in all sectors
  • Nationalize the two cellular telecommunications companies, and freeze the assets of leading business figures pending investigation by an independent judicial body
  • Close the file of missing persons with full transparency and issue passports to all Syrian citizens except in cases of high treason.