By Arab News
By Mohammed Alsaif
It was an unexpected announcement that was issued last Friday by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to replace the president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Humayen, with Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh.
The previous president, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, worked for two years trying to make a significant change in the old, inflexible organization. But it seems that his actions were not moving at the required pace the king was hoping. The constant negative media coverage of the commission’s actions didn’t make the job of the former president any easier.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was (and still is) one of the most debated government agencies in Saudi society. The specific nature of the agency’s work in dealing with people’s moral character and sensitive ethical issues makes the mere mistake by one of its members reflect negatively on the whole organization.
Effecting any change, whether major or minor, in the commission will not be an easy job for anyone. I really feel that the task of the new president will be difficult, with him and the commission members encountering many obstacles.
But I also believe he can bring a new spirit to the closed fortress. People around Sheikh Abdullatif describe his character as a balanced nonextremist scholar. He believes in the rights for women to work and keeps an open mind to controversial issues that arise in modern living.
Many observers think that the old guard, who control the commission, would be the major obstacle in the way of the new president. But I think that the big challenge will not just be changing names or players on the working roster. It will be mainly creating a new doctrine for the commission, updating policies and procedures that will pave the way for stronger recruiting criteria, and guarantee the employment of new qualified people.
He would be expected to set up a system of control and retribution to limit abuses of some members to decrease the errors and shortcomings that are expected of any government agency. And above most, establishing regulations to guarantee that the privacy of people is no longer tolerated.
The new phase of change going through the commission will be very important in the coming days. Media will be watching closely for any modifications Sheikh Abdullatif will be making in the organization.
Nobody expects him to be able to implement changes overnight, but many agree that change is overdue and is a pressing demand by the king and community.