Protesters occupy minister's office
By MOHAMMED AL A'ALI
PROTESTERS demanding answers over the dumping of applications for a national jobs scheme briefly occupied a government office yesterday.They slipped into Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi's office suite, where they regrouped and took over the reception area.
The Unemployed Committee members demanded to see Dr Al Alawi and began shouting insults and slogans when he refused, before being escorted out by police after about half an hour.
Thirty demonstrators originally gathered at the gates of the ministry, near Zayed Town, demanding to see officials.
They said they wanted an explanation as to how people's applications to the National Employment Project (NEP) were dumped, along with other documents, in a refuse bin in A'Ali.
The protesters grew frustrated when no-one had come to see them after about an hour and a half, so began slipping inside the building.
They said that Dr Al Alawi refused to meet them, saying that the committee was an unlicensed group.
The demonstrators were trying to present Dr Al Alawi with a letter on what they called the NEP crisis, signed by five of their leaders.
Meanwhile, the ministry issued a statement that a panel investigating the dumping of the papers had submitted its report to Dr Al Alawi and details would be released next week.
The inquiry has been carried out by a panel chaired by assistant under-secretary for labour affairs Jameel Humaidan.
The Unemployed Committee is not registered with the Social Development Ministry and hence dealing with it is prohibited by orders from the Cabinet.
The statement said the committee was trying to undermine the NEP.
It said that the project's achievements were evident to everyone, as it had helped find jobs for Bahrainis, in addition to increasing salaries in the private sector.
Some of those who call themselves unemployed are not as they claim, because a number of them have benefited from the project and others from increases to their salaries, said the statement.
Committee leader Naji Ali Fateel said Dr Al Alawi used to deal with them, so they didn't understand why they were suddenly "illegal".
"We don't have any grudge against the minister or the project, because we are backing it, as we have enrolled in it, but we have some reservations, which the minister doesn't want to listen to," said Mr Al Fateel.
Mr Fateel said that some companies the unemployed are sent to refused to give the salaries promised by the ministry.
"They say the ministry can say whatever it wants, but we are paying and they are not," he said.
Mr Fateel said the ministry was not giving a true picture.
"It says that the rate of unemployment in the country has dropped from 15 per cent to 3pc, using just a fraction of the BD30 million allocated for the project, but what we are noticing is the opposite, as expatriates have now reached 80pc of the private sector workforce," he said.
Mr Fateel said the dumping of jobseekers' applications was the last straw.
"We are waiting for the ministry's announcement on who is involved and what went wrong, hoping that all of those involved get punished," he said.
"This is a clear breach of human rights and people's privacy.
The committee announced earlier that it was planning a class action lawsuit against the ministry over the incident.
Committee leaders are contacting applicants, whose documents and pictures were seen thrown in the dumpster, to convince them to sign up for legal action.
The dumpster and its contents are currently in the possession of the Central Governorate Security Directorate, but some papers were allegedly already taken by youths before the area's MP Sayed Abdulla Al A'ali contacted authorities.
The committee is worried that the documents would be misused, since many were of female applicants with their contact numbers and addresses.