Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1524

05MUSCAT15242005-10-12 12:41:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  Summary:  The Omani Internet message board "al-Sablah" is the 
liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language forum for 
political and social discourse in the country, touching on issues 
and personalities rarely addressed in the conventional media. 
While not totally free, nor wholly reflective of Omani public 
opinion, this popular site nevertheless offers a worthwhile 
window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of the day. 
This edition of Oman Online contains the following topics: 
-- Omani Democracy 
-- Irresponsibility In The Private Sector 
-- Appeal For Freedom Of Expression 
-- Approval For Private Television And Radio Stations 
End summary. 
Wanted:  Prime Minister 
¶2. Representative government took center stage in al-Sablah when 
a member posed the question, "How far has democracy reached in 
the Sultanate of Oman?  The Majlis al-Shura (Consultative 
Council) has limited powers, the Majlis al-Dawla (State Council) 
is merely a form of early retirement, and there are no political 
parties."  Most respondents agreed with the tone of the topic's 
author.  "The government prohibits opposition groups and 
political gatherings, and has even put a ban on the press," noted 
one observer.  Another contributed, "There is a fear that if the 
ministers allow civil society to develop, the people will soon 
call for the ministers to be changed."  One gloomy participant 
wrote, "By the way, huge budgets are being allocated to the 
Majlis Oman - so at the end of the day, not only do the people 
lose democracy, but they lose their money as well." 
¶3. This popular topic (3,628 hits, 1,075 responses) provoked 
others to ask, "Why don't we have a genuine Prime Minister in 
Oman?"  The vast majority of respondents agreed that establishing 
a true PM would be a boon for the Omani government.  However, 
others lamented that "We have been calling for such an official 
for years. do you see anybody in that position yet?" 
The Irresponsibility Of Youth 
¶4. A new topic that generated 1,335 hits and 44 responses dwelt 
on the perceived irresponsibility of young Omanis working in the 
private sector.  "Unfortunately, many of these young workers are 
not disciplined and always looking to get out of their duties," 
complained the author.  Many readers agreed: "The productivity of 
these young Omanis is far less than the expatriate employees, and 
they do not work faithfully or honestly.  They are always coming 
up with new justifications for taking leave." 
¶5. Some blamed the phenomenon on the government's "Omanization" 
policy of setting quotas for Omani employees in the private 
sector.  "Private sector institutions accept uneducated and 
unqualified people because they are obliged to satisfy the 
Omanization quotas from the Ministry of Manpower," declared one 
writer.  Others sought out additional targets: "The Ministry of 
Higher Education bears full responsibility for this predicament 
when it blocks the path of education for these youths, and will 
not help them continue their studies." 
Mass Appeal 
¶6. One of the al-Sablah message board supervisors penned a letter 
of appeal to a number of royal family members, urging them to 
increase the freedom of expression for Omani citizens.  "Your 
Excellencies, the most important type of freedom is the freedom 
of speech," began the letter.  "The recent incidents of arrests 
and mistreatment - including that of Taybah al-Ma'wali - are 
evidence of the shameful state of freedom in the Sultanate, which 
will result in a retarded generation incapable of constructive 
criticism."  Attracting 1,700 hits and 45 responses, the letter 
received broad support from al-Sablah members. 
Channeling The Discontent 
¶7. The news that the Ministry of Information approved 
applications on October 10 for a private television station and 
two private radio stations was greeted with a mixture of hope and 
suspicion among al-Sablah members.  "Maybe these new channels 
will mask the defects of our current stations, and we hope that 
serious intellectuals and innovators will play a greater role in 
these channels," wrote one contributor.  Others (out of 233 hits 
and 14 responses) expressed skepticism that the channels would 
offer anything new.  One individual wrote, "I hope one of the 
radio stations broadcasts the Qu'ran and Islamic lectures.  We 
have gotten bored of the Sultanate's only radio station, which 
only plays music all day long."