Home > Interviews
Speaker of Parliament, Sheikh Yahya Al-Ra’ee:

“A person might wear a clean shirt, tie, trousers and shoes. However, he does not have a single Rial in his pocket to pay for his breakfast. This is the case with GPC though people accuse its affiliates of corruption. ‘GPC is like a camel that carries grapes and eats thorny plants.”

  Interviewed By: Interviewed by Alahale newspaper in cooperation with the Yemen Post
  Article Date:
August 18
, 2008



Yemen Post: It is said that you signed an elections agreement with opposition parties, is this true?

Yahya Al-Ra'ee: As for opposition, they signed an agreement following the presidential and local elections and among the agreement's articles is forming the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) from judges. 

YP: The agreement was sponsored by the European Union?

YR: At that time, the opposition represented in Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) insisted on the agreement. Both General People Congress (GPC) and JMP have been meeting for dialogue over the last couple of months. In a country like Yemen, having economic problems, it is difficult to wait until the end of the year when every party starts to set its conditions. Yemen is a mother for all, and we have to safeguard it.

Later, the government referred the law draft to parliament which stated clearly appointing the SCER members from among a group of judges chosen by the Supreme Judicial Council. The fact is still that neither me nor GPC will seek reconciliation with JMP unless President Saleh, the father of all, is content with it. Saleh was content with the dialogue in the past and supported it as well.

YP: Can you accept delaying elections for making a constitutional amendment?

YR: Why? Is Yemen involved in a war or crisis? We can start working according to the new law as it declares that the state should announce a tender for companies to prepare the electronic electoral registry. The amendments can be presented over the coming period, because there is a bicameral system. There should be enough time because the companies that bid for preparing the electronic system demanded a time span of not less than three years, while others asked for one year and a half. The matter also requires millions of dollars; e.g. a French Company asked for $150 million to send committees to every village for eye scanning. However, this will help a lot, and people will not say that the elections were rigged.

YP: Regarding the constitutional amendments, will they be balloted during the next elections?

YR: We are decisive about them and we have completed it as a GPC general secretariat. They are now in the Shura Council, but the Shura Council should take its time in its discussion. There exist civil society organizations and the opinions of all political players should be considered. When it is referred to us, we pass it because it is clear.

YP: Are you supporting these amendments?

YR: We are for these amendments and we were behind making them. They are part of Saleh's electoral platform as he promised constitutional amendments, bicameral and bicameral systems. As an official, let me tell you that JMP is not for the constitutional amendments, at least not now.  

YP: JMP opposed them from the very beginning?

YR: They are against these amendments and against the bicameral system and other amendments.

YP: In case the elections were conducted, do you in GPC think that South Yemen sons will intensively participate in these elections?

YR: Frankly speaking … there exist problems and conspiracy; however, the wicked people are few and the good people are many. If we speak about 1994 civil war, how can we consider the victory to be for northerners only, when people from across south Yemen achieved this victory as well. It was a victory for the entire country.

YP: Does this mean that you are confident that people from the South are happy with the unity and the current circumstances?

YR: I tell you that people will safeguard the unity despite all problems, because they were victims to dissipation before the unity.   

YP: But people have demands?

YR: The popular demand is something and the private demand is something else. Personally, I am for the rightful demands, and we will not stand against them, regardless of who seeks those demands (a northerner or southerner).

YP: A committee headed by Basurah and Hilal named 15 people who are behind looting the lands in the South of Yemen; have you, parliament and GPC, discussed this report and worked for giving back these lands to their real owners?

YR: The issue of land is highly problematic and these problems piled up right from the 1970s, passing by the privatization under the Socialist Party and ending with January 13, 1986 events. There had been constant pillage and change of lands possession. 

YP: But the report was not published?

YR: The report mentioned that 15 people pillaged lands, but did it specify those who pillage the lands and their location. For each influential man, there are 100 influential men behind him. The problem is with state's housing, real estate and lands authorities who grant the same land for more than one person at the same time. 

YP: Whose responsibility is it? 

YR: It is our duty. All of us should work for solving such problems, not just point out to the mistakes and leave. 

YP: Why is Saleh forced to interfere in every issue and where are the ministries, apparatuses and ministers?

YR: Consider yourself to be in a big family and your father was the head. This is how it is and should be in Yemen with President Saleh.

YP: Why aren’t officials held into account for the problems that happen in the country?

YR: We should all be responsible for the mistakes that happen, and they should be dealt with seriously. For this I say that President Saleh has a wide heart and such cases make him carry the whole burden.

YP: The country established an authority for fighting corruption and people now ask why they did not see a single official trialed over corruption?

YR: The problem is that we are running and following the west. Things are not stemming from our own. Nothing came from among us except Ali Abdullah Saleh.

YP: And what about us?

YR: You and I are against corruption. We, in parliament, approved the corruption combating law and elected the members of the Anti-Corruption Committee and people assure that the members are all honest and truthful.

YP: The GPC's General Committee did not meet and it is said that it was because of differences and lack of budgets for running the party's different circles?

YR: A person might wear a clean shirt, tie, trousers and shoes. However, he has not a single Rial in his pocket to pay for his breakfast. This is the case with GPC though people accused its affiliates of corruption. 'GPC is like a camel that carries grapes and eats thorny plants'. 

YP: Do you wish that GPC could get majority in the upcoming parliamentary elections?

YR: Democracy is the majority and it is bitter. If you do not accept the bitter, you will get something even worse. What is happening in Yemen is happening everywhere: reconciliation, compliments and promises. At the end, your programs and services are what make you reach elections box. You have to recognize the result whether negative or positive. 

YP: Then why do you negotiate with others?

YR: Yemen is like this. Everyone in opposition parties want to achieve their own parties' goals. JMP is seeking to achieve its goals and having its share of the cake. Partisan work is not ripe enough. There is no ripeness with GPC or JMP; this is what President Saleh has.

YP: You, in government and GPC, offer kidnappers more than you give to parties?

YR: This is something spoken by parties, and I consider this question to be made on their behalf.

YP: In the gas deal that Yemen signed with the Korean company, do you think that the agreed upon price was enough?

YR: I am neither an economist nor a businessman. Go to Oil Minister and ask him.

YP: Why does President Saleh trust you and appointed you as parliament speakers though they are many contenders?

YR: I do not know. This is something that president Saleh knows. 

YP: I see that you love him very much and it is clear in your speech?

YR: President Saleh is tolerant and he says always that Yemen holds all. He fired none and he brought back Yemen's former presidents and granted them everything. He cares after all Yemenis and he granted amnesty to people.

YP: Why does not he act so with other detainees?

YR: Who do you mean?

YP: Al-Khaiwani, Al-Qarni, Bin Fareed, Ba'awm, Yahya Ghaleb, Al-Dahbali, Yahya Zaid and hundreds of others!

YR: I appreciate this and I think this is what brought you to interview me. However, let me tell you that President Saleh granted amnesty to Al-Khaiwani before, but he involved himself in more problems? I request the president to grant him amnesty as is the case with the others.