Top Bahrain official dismisses US diplomat's claims
Manama, 20 days ago
A senior participant in Bahrain's National Dialogue process has rubbished claims by an expelled US diplomat that he was booted out to undermine the talks.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski left the country on Tuesday (July 8) night after being declared persona non grata by the Bahrain Foreign Ministry, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It followed the latest in a long line of American diplomatic mistakes in Bahrain, which in April prompted former US ambassador Adam Ereli to criticise his own government's policy here - saying it had "made things difficult".
In a parting shot Malinowski claimed Bahrain's decision was designed to "undermine" the dialogue process, rather than for his ill-advised meeting with opposition leaders on Sunday that prompted claims of US interference.
"Seems #Bahrain government decision not about me but about undermining dialogue," Malinowski tweeted on Tuesday.
"Those committed to reconciliation should not be deterred."
However, a senior figure representing Sunni political groups in the National Dialogue process dismissed the comments, which he said were yet another attempt to interfere in Bahrain's internal affairs.
"Linking the government's move to expel him with the National Dialogue is totally unacceptable, as he is again making the same mistake - interfering in our internal affairs," said National Unity Assembly (NUA) chairman Dr Shaikh Abdullatif Al Mahmood.
"The diplomat (Malinowski) was here with an agenda and his intentions weren't right, which is clear from the fact he did not meet Foreign Ministry officials and called off the meeting with the NUA at the last moment.
"His intentions were definitely not 'reconciliation' and he has no authority to urge people not to be 'deterred'.
"After being expelled and his infamous links with the opposition being exposed, Malinowski stands in no position to speak about 'reconciliation' or 'undermining the dialogue'," Dr Al Mahmood said.
Meanwhile, dialogue participant and Shura Council member Khalid Al Maskati said Malinowski's comments on the National Dialogue were "surprising".
"His issue has nothing to do with the talks, which is purely internal and as far as we are concerned this person and his involvement is not our business," he said.
"I personally have not heard of him nor know much about him.
"The process of the dialogue is continuous and we seek direct involvement of participants from all sides within the nation.
"The language of the dialogue is clear to all of us and we understand this language at the table among us.
"We do not welcome any external statement or initiative - neither do we need anyone to help us understand the situation better."
Malinowski was pictured holding talks with leaders of opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society on Sunday while in Bahrain on an official visit.
He was a vocal critic of the Bahraini government in his previous role as Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, getting arrested in Bahrain attending an illegal protest and producing a report on the country in May 2012 titled "Prison Island".
MP Latifa Al Gaoud, who is representing parliament in the National Dialogue process, said he was in no position to comment on the talks.
"He should refrain from making such comments," she said.
"The dialogue is an internal issue, which has nothing to do with him or his country."
She reiterated that many people in Bahrain supported the government's decision to expel Malinowski.
"It is not an isolated view of the leaders or the government - it is the people's voice," she said.
However, a senior member of the opposition group National Action Democratic Society (Wa'ad) Dr Munira Fakhro suggested a foreign mediator would benefit the dialogue process.
"The internal dialogue failed twice since 2011 and what we need now is another player who could be either from the United Nations or the superpowers," she said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Tribune secretary-general Abdulnabi Salman claimed the expulsion did not help the political climate.
"We do not know if Malinowski, who represented the Obama administration, had a solution to the political crisis as we could not meet him," he said.
The government accused Malinowski of discriminating against those not affiliated with the opposition by attending the Al Wefaq meeting on Sunday.
The US later claimed other meetings were also due to take place, but Sunni political leaders told the GDN they were only approached on Monday after news of the Al Wefaq talks surfaced.
Last month Bahrain launched an investigation into foreign funding of domestic opposition groups, amid allegations that the US-backed Middle East Partnership Initiative was seeking to alter the political landscape.
The US Embassy denied the allegations, but MPs once again called for the removal of unpopular US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski - whose performance was harshly criticised in a US State Department report that emerged in March.
It emerged last week that Bahrain - a long time ally of the US - was among 193 countries whose governments were being spied on by US intelligence services. - TradeArabia News Service