CAIRO: With his characteristic biting wit, the brilliant Oscar Wilde once described democracy as “simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.” (For those who aren’t familiar with the word, a “bludgeon” is “a short, heavy club with one end weighted, or thicker and heavier than the other.”)
Until last week, I hadn’t realized the full extent of Wilde’s genius; how his simple words would resonate across continents more than a century later, infused with renewed vigor at none other than Egypt’s very own People’s Assembly.
It was with a combination of incredulity and tragic bemusement that we reported on the harebrained suggestion by three Members of Parliament, two of them belonging to the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and the third to a branch of Al-Ghad, to shoot protestors during demonstrations. Yes, shoot to kill.
The details of how the discussion began and developed could be a chapter in a manual on how to run a police state, pretending to be a democracy.
As reported in Daily News Egypt, during a joint meeting between the Human Rights and the National Security committees at the PA last Sunday, NDP MP Nasha’at El-Qassas, said “If it was in my hands, I would interrogate the Minister of Interior for his kindness when dealing with those outlaws.”
The second NDP MP who supported him, Ahmed Abou Aqrab, urged the Ministry of Interior “to stop its kindness and to deal with those protestors harshly…they should be beaten with an iron fist,” he said; while the third, MP Ragab Hemieda, posing as the opposition, commented on the primetime TV show “From the Heart of Egypt” Sunday night that the law permits security forces to use force to break up protests. He was actually saying that it was legal to kill protestors.
And it gets worse.
The MPs supporting this proposal suggested filing an interpellation request to the Minister of Interior to scold him for the “kind treatment” police gives protestors.
Flashback two weeks earlier and in this very same newspaper we reported on how a group of no more than 100 democracy advocates were beaten with batons, dragged, slapped, kicked and punched by a gang of riot police and their plain-clothed thugs in a scene of utter pandemonium that ended with the arrest of at least 70, who were released a day or so later.
Political posturing aside, for a so-called representative of “the people” to make such an absurd suggestion begs the questions: How can these MPs get away with inciting murder? And who are they trying to please?
Surely the NDP itself is aware of how such scandalous behavior by their party members, speaking under the haloed dome of the People’s Assembly, must have driven their public image even deeper into the abyss of ignominy.
The fact that the whole sordid discussion was clearly not one of those orchestrated storms in a teacup we often witness under the same dome to keep up the façade of democracy, is even more cause for concern. The plain, simple truth is that left to their own devices, some of this country’s legislators — wherever they belong on the political spectrum — do not owe allegiance to the people, the law or the constitution.
Both the NDP and Al-Ghad must do the right thing by subjecting these three aberrations to serious disciplinary action within their parties, and disqualifying them from running in the coming PA elections slated for October. This must be done with the clear and express purpose of penalizing them, and not with the intention of finding loopholes to get them off the hook.
There should be zero tolerance for such criminal thinking, even if it takes a presidential decree to do so.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.