So we’re closing on a year now since citizens were last allowed being at the Farooq/GCC/Pearl (FGP) intersection. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that we’re still not allowed to use the intersection on our way to wherever? It really depends if you’re a person who appreciates things with a glass half full perception or a glass half empty one. Here’s why.
There was a time once that I had to make way for a new desk in my relatively moderate home office. Standing in the middle of the room, I look around and try to visualize what exactly I will be doing in order to fit the new desk. I then came to the conclusion that I actually needed to do a complete overhaul to the room. I knew I had a lot of stuff, but it didn’t stop me from being amazed that this medium sized room had almost 3 or 4 times the things I’d thought. The operation soon became a massive cleanup, re-organize, re-interior design, re-decorate, and just about everything else. This is what’s happening with the FGP intersection.
I know for a fact that there was indeed a long awaited plan to turn the roundabout into a traffic light intersection in order to ease traffic long before February 14, 2011. That’s not the case. I believe the government is finding out the hard way that its implementing bodies will not be able to make sure that the intersection will only be used to the purpose it is originally made for, cars. In a way, Bahrain’s problems are mirrored entirely by the inability to manage the FGP intersection.
First, the Traffic Directorate in the Interior Ministry. I believe that every member of the traffic directorate is an excellent policeman, and perhaps that kindest in the world, and that’s the problem. I don’t see traffic police anywhere near implementing world-class regulations. Without going into technical details and only brushing on the basics, I honestly believe that traffic policemen in Bahrain don’t know when or when not to use the sirens and flashers. I don’t see forceful application of seat belts, safety distance, speed, proper parking, dangerous driving, and just about everything else. The other day, I saw a policeman in Seef area and asked him politely to give those who are wrongly parked across the street a traffic violation that they deserve. This is what he said, “they don’t really have anywhere else to park!” I rest my case.
Second, the punishment institutions. The concept behind being punished for breaking the law is not about making sure the bad guys stay out of public, but more about prevention from breaking the law in the first place. It is about deterrence. However, in order for the deterrence mechanism to work, people have to know about the consequences of breaking the law. In addition, the consequences have to be qualitatively and quantitatively good enough to create the psychological deterrence that would prevent people in the first place from committing an illegal act. When this is in place we can then move forward by instituting a punishment system perfect for deterring the given crime. How much do you want people not to litter? Make a law for it. How much do you want people not to be sectarian? Make a law for it. But the most important thing is for you to publish it, publicize it, market it and keep on repeating. A BD10 for littering, or a BD50 for committing a sectarian act for instance, doesn’t really deter me a bit. And, I have no idea how much trouble I’d be in if I get out of my car and jay walk.
Third, the law that doesn’t protect the businesses. Every individual should have equal rights, and the law should protect his or her rights. Guess what? Businessmen are also citizens with rights as well. Me, and many other consumers used to take the FGP intersection all the time on my way to almost every market in Manama. Even City Center Mall, I used to go towards FGP intersection and do a U-turn just before I reach the roundabout in order to use the basement parking lot of the mall. I take it on my way to Adliya, Manama Souq, Marina Mall, Fish Market, Salmaniya, and etcetera.
Lately, the FGP intersection is becoming more like the Mecca for protesters. Here’s what I will do. I’d find an empty area around the intersection and make it a park. I’d make some walking bridges all around and allow people to ‘touch base’ in wherever there is open area left. I’d create a memorial if need be and make sure the thing doesn’t turn out to be a new religion of some sort. I’d make sure that nothing interferes with traffic, and find a way to make money out of it, tourism for example.
In a way, our leadership has chosen to make a turn for a better future because of events that circulated around the FGP intersection. This is a moment in our history where we have decided not to let any citizen fall behind. Let’s create a memorial for our mistakes and for our attempts to learn from those mistakes. Let’s not shy away because we are now much better men and women than we were a year ago. Let’s reform and move on.