In my humble research, I have not succeeded in finding any update for the [Saudi] system to handle fraud and forgery since that law issued in 1960. I certainly hope that I am mistaken. But if I am not, then this means that we are not working with this system. For, if we were using a system, it would have had to be updated many times by now in order to keep in line with new developments.
One week ago, a program for aiding the unemployed publicized that more than 6,000 instances had been discovered of dead people applying for aid.
This means that there are those who have assembled fraudulent information on deceased individuals in the hopes of attaining a reward. This is one instance of fraud. It is not necessary that one of us forge a single bill of currency or a government signature for us to criminalize it.
Two days ago I was with a group of friends deeply engaged, as usual, in endless conversations about reform. These days, the topic takes up a considerable amount of any gathering. It’s gotten so bad that just about everyone involved becomes convinced they’re an expert on the subject.
This time, the conversation went in a number of different directions, with participants suggesting several remedies. Some of us spoke of the need for real development, concretely measured and meeting high standards of quality. Others focused on the spread of corruption and how official bodies may be formed in order to effectively confront it and free the country from its ill effects. Still other discussions went to the role of officials and the need for rotation in office, such that no positions would remain stagnant for more than four years. This would inhibit an administrator’s loss of ambition and the decline in their performance of their duties as responsibility gives way to mere routine.
One of my interlocutors asked me: “What would you do, if you were tasked with remedying the situation?” Without hesitation, and before anything else, I replied: “I would concentrate on cultivating the individual, on subjecting him to the rule of law. Those who violate the regulations must be punished stringently, without regard for connections and without leniency. The law must be made to apply to everyone, without making any exception whatever. Not for emirs, not for sheikhs, not for senior officials.”
Then I wondered: How can we imagine that we will build a country without first building human beings? Has there ever been a civilization in this age that did not carefully cultivate the human being first — whether by safeguarding his rights, or by punishing him whenever he violated the public or private rights of others?
What exacerbates the injustice in this case is the matter of fraud (about which I spoke at the beginning of this article) is an open secret. The ones who falsified the documents at the unemployment ministry did not do so fearfully, driven into hiding underground. They fully expected to obtain the reward for less effort than it takes to drink a cup of water. I hope that no one will come here with a preconceived opinion about the ministry itself and attempt to justify a base act of fraud. It is completely unjustifiable. Above all else, it is an act of sinful rebellion indicating no fear of God whatsoever. It runs directly contrary to the faithfulness and uprightness commanded by our noble religion.
But what other practices do we currently engage in that involve fraud? Can all the witnesses upon whom we rely in the courts actually be witnesses or are they just looking to fill the vacuum and finish the job? Here we ought to stop for a moment and wonder about some of the routine procedures that we undertake without appreciating the degree to which they may be culpable in exacerbating the spread of fraud, forgery and perjury. We should review and, perhaps, dispense with some of these procedures. Particularly with those that no longer hold any value or substance.
I’m willing to bet anyone willing to do so that there has not been a single case in which a witness was subsequently called to account for their testimony or documentation. After all, isn’t this the purpose of the witness? To return to their testimony when problems are uncovered? And what about accepting women’s testimony in the courts? A woman comes to court but — because the judge does not wish to depend upon her ID card (since it has her picture on it) — she must be accompanied by a man to introduce her to the judge and vouch for her. A woman of close acquaintance told me that she was unable to find someone to introduce her to the judge in one of her visits to the public notary … except for a Miswak [twigs used as toothbrushes] vendor plying his wares on the sidewalk in front of the building. She brought him in to identify her. The judge promptly accepted his recommendation and rewarded the vendor with 100 Riyals!
Such practices take place every day under the regime’s eyes. These practices reek of disorder, forgery, and fraud — yet we are unmoved. We accepted these practices, with all their attendant excess, just as we have accepted many evils simply because we have grown accustomed to them — not because they are in any way legitimate or rational.
I call upon the responsible authorities to look into these issues with due haste. We will not be able to realize our aspirations or ambitions for future generations so long as we are deeply mired at, and fully adept in, skirting the rules, engaging in cronyism, and letting counterfeiters and others who violate public trust get off the hook, without being held to any legal accountability.