The bellicose rhetoric that accompanied with yesterday’s disastrous dealing with the residents of South Shuneh changed to a more conciliatory tone today. In an attempt to explain the government’s position, the prime minister resorted to trying and confuse the issue. He held a meeting with the heads of the major daily newspapers, and later an unnamed source told the press that the campaign included not only South Shuneh, but other areas including Lubban (the tribal area of the minister of interior, Eid Fayez), the Kfarrat area (in the north, on the Yarmouk River), South Shuneh, Azraq and other areas in the eastern desert.
The unnamed source talked about forcing people to pay their water and electricity bills, and about a scam to forge land deeds to sell land illegally. Don’t ask me what the forgery case has to do with anything, because I don’t know. As for collecting water and electricity bills, I think that Jordan is the only country in the world where bulldozers are used to punish people who don’t pay. Gulp. I’d better make sure that I’ve paid mine. The statement talks about outlaws in the area, as if the destruction of farms is related to capturing gangs.
It is true that some large tribal land owners use large amounts of water and electricity, and use thugs to intimidate the bill collectors so they don’t pay. If the government can get them to pay, well, good for them. However, the statement dishonestly implies that this is the issue in South Shuneh.
In South Shuneh the issues are unlawful use of land and the drilling of wells without license. The government statement claims that of 470 wells, 85 have been retroactively licensed. Attention was pointed to one relatively large farm (300 dunums) and ignored the fact that most of the farms destroyed were small lots. The government now says that they want to “alleviate the hardship of 45 families that may have been harmed”. How nice, destroy their livelihoods and then give them handouts. The damage has been done, and no number of press statments will change anything.
In principle, the law should be enforced. Mixing the case of the wealthy landlords with that of the poor farmers who had their lived bulldozed before the government realized the implications (if they care) is disingenuous. A more humane approach should have been used and a legal settlement should have been sought. This should not have happened in Jordan.