Important Notice

It is not my intention to denigrate Saudi Arabia or its people. It’s like everywhere else, there is good and there is bad. I would rather focus on the unusual and the humourous. Offence is not intended.

Politics
“The country is not perfect. The media cannot be trusted, mistreatment of religious minorities is common and there are some that live in fear.” You can decide for yourself whether that statement is about Saudi Arabia, the UK, or any country for that matter.
Religion

To quote the Joker, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

khalas.
That is all I will say about either subject.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Corruption

Our recent trip to Europe included a stay in part of the world I've grown to love, rural Spain. It's a beautiful place with friendly, laid back people.
Unless I actually need some work doing, I like their priorities:
Pablo: We really should finish building that wall.
Manuel: Its 11am already, shall we have a quick beer first?
Pablo: Good idea!
Manuel: That’s why I’m the boss.
Ten beers later…
Pablo: We really should finish building that wall.
Manuel: Well its 1pm, it’s too hot now.
Pablo: Mañana?

Manuel: Mañana.

I used to think the Spanish are bad drivers, but Saudi gentlemen have opened my eyes and changed my traffic manners. So whilst I was driving on a dangerous mountain road in Spain and two men strolled out into the winding road ahead of me I didn't slow down. Instead I beeped my horn and sped up. One man leapt to the other side of the road whilst the other slipped into a ditch.
Had I known at the time that they were the local deputy mayor and the chief of police I may have slowed down. We will never know. Given that they've both been involved in some shady dealings I probably would have taken great delight in going even faster. They clearly expected me to stop and the local people who knew them most probably would do so. Corruption in local government in Spain is allegedly a real problem so who'd want to upset the deputy mayor? Their prince-like behaviour reminded me of those Saudis (not ALL Saudis!) that believe queues and rules only apply to other people.

A while ago a friend of mine was driving back from Bahrain to Riyadh. He drives a nice car. A very nice car. As his family was with him he was driving back carefully, below the 120 km/h speed limit and way below the apparently expected speed of around 180 km/h. This perhaps was his gravest mistake.
A police car pulled up along side them. The two cops inside stared at their nice car. They stared at their white skin. They gaped at their fair hair. They then pulled them over and tried to find an excuse to give them a ticket. They failed, so they wrote them a speeding ticket. They gave them a speeding ticket whilst they weren't even moving.
In Thailand the traffic police corruption could be humourous to us because they'd usually accept about 60 baht (less than USD 2) if they caught us breaking minor traffic laws. In Malaysia it suddenly seemed more sinister because the greedy gits wanted 300 ringgit (USD 88) if you were speeding. Taking a bribe instead of handing out a fine is certainly corrupt and it gets worse the more they want, but to me it is not as bad as punishing someone who is not breaking the law.
My first response upon hearing his story was indignation. How dare they behave like this! Corrupt scoundrels! This never happens in England! …or does it? I'm English and I'm white. Most of the English police are also white. I believe the Saudi police stopped my friend because he was in a nice car, in their country, and the colour of his skin did not match their own.
Perhaps now I better empathise with those minorities in England who complain about police corruption. Just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it is not there.

20 comments:

Kathryn said...

Where my husband works there had been some complaints about traffic running red lights in peak hour and a circular had gone out. Of course the Saudi drivers are the worst at it, but all the expat staff were notified as well. Of particular interest was an intersection where a traffic policeman has a key and has control of the lights. One day, not long after this, my husband's boss was at this intersection in the middle of the day with nobody else there but the traffic cop. The light went green and he moved off but it immediately went red again and he was then in the middle of the intersection on a 'traffic-policeman-induced-red-light'. Of course, he got pulled over and they fined him and confiscated his car for 2 weeks. And Western expats continue to be a target at this particular intersection, while the Saudis continue to turn left from the right lane and vice versa, run the red light, drive in the emergency lane, approach the intersection on the footpath, run red lights, whatever!

Anonymous said...

You were ripped off in Malaysia. RM50 is more than enough.

--paul

Abdul ! said...

because of the car they stopped them...YES.. it happend to me a LOT !! thats why i sold my old car :(

But regarding the skin hmmmmmm
i don't think so !

Anonymous said...

We often drove to Montreal from Toronto as the extended family lived there. I remember one trip in the seventies crossing the Quebec border and my father being pulled over for speeding. When my father politely pointed out that there were quite a few cars passing him, the officer shrugged and said, "Oui, but yoo look like you can afford de teeket."

Lisen

Anonymous said...

white skin , fair hair the saudis love it. Im English i live in Saudi ,so i know what im talkin about.Sounds like your friend just had spot of bad luck by being fined by a crook of a policeman.BTW a fellow SAudi complained about a being fined for speeding when he most certainly wasnt. No ifs no buts the policeman was always right.

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