Saturday, October 11, 2008

Signage, fish and terrorism

Road signage, whale sharks and terrorism laws don't have anything in common except that they're subjects on my mind today, so this is a bit of a mixed bag of a post.

First the road signage and a detail related to our new address system which I've talked about previously.

Having road names and building numbers is obviously the best address system, as proven around the world for over a hundred years.

But to drag the directional signs on our roads into it is a huge mistake. As I've said before, the directional signs should remain as they are, to suburbs. Like this:

Instead, the RTA is changing the signs to things like this:

Where the hell is that?

It's hard enough trying to find our way around Dubai as it is, with the endless construction, diversions, new roads, moron drivers, without this confusing signage.

We know we want to go to, for example, Umm Suqeim 1 or Al Quoz or Al Barsha. We can't be expected to learn and remember thousands of street names.

I passed the sign to Al Rasaas Rd while driving along Sheikh Zayed Road earlier today. It was pointing to an exit in the direction of Jumeirah/Umm Suqeim...or it could have been to a flyover looping across to somewhere in entirely the opposite direction such as Al Barsha. I have no idea and the sign does nothing but confuse me.

So, feedback to the RTA. The new addressing system is great, but please don't confuse it with directional roadsigns. They are two totally different things.

And then the fishy business going on at Atlantis with the captive whale shark.

Gulf News has a major 'free the whale shark' campaign under way and it's getting an inordinate amount of radio air time. On Thursday the International Herald Tribune ran an Associated Press story about it, which you can read here.

I really don't need to say more about the subject than obviously the animal should be released the moment she's fit enough.

What interests me about it all is the appalling way the hotel has handled its PR over the issue. They've acted in the same way over the other negative stories in the media here and overseas, about rooms not being available, of no water, of running out of beer and wine, of no parking space. The PR strategy seems to be ignore it and it'll go away, which is absolutely the worst possible approach.

Look at this para from the AP story carried in the IHT:

Representatives of Atlantis resort, which is located on a man-made island built in the shape of a palm tree, did not return calls to the AP on Thursday. They also did not respond to AP's request to speak to one of the marine specialists the hotel says monitors the whale shark around the clock.

That kind of non-communication raises all sorts of doubts and questions.

They originally announced that the whale shark was in their aquarium for medical treatment after fishermen had found it in distress. But they fudged around the timing of her release in the one interview I've heard, since when they've gone completely to ground.

Full marks for helping the animal. But refusing to say even that she will be released leads to the suspicion that they intend to keep her as an attraction for the paying public.

That leads naturally to suspicions about the capture by fishermen, particularly as it was just before the hotel's opening. And to whether the announcement of it was nothing more than a sales pitch to let the paying public know she was in their aquarium.

The answer is simple - call a media conference, announce that the animal was in distress, that they're doing all they can to restore it to health and the moment it's recovered sufficiently they will release it. That gives the hotel nothing but good publicity.

Instead they've ignored the many opportunities they've been given. In this day and age I can't believe any company could handle their PR so badly.

There's an old truism. It ain't the problem that's the problem, the way you handle it is the problem.

And so to terrorism laws.

Again this is something I've talked about in the past. The terrorism laws introduced by our governments are open to mis-use and abuse by our own governments and their agencies. And they're doing it.

The latest example is the UK government using their terrorism laws to freeze billions of pounds of Icelandic bank assets held in the UK.

Here's what the Financial Times has to say:

Financial crime lawyers said the government's un-precedented decision to apply the freezing order for purposes other than tackling terrorism opened the way to its use in other cases centred on commercial and political interests.

The Treasury's action on Wednesday to protect the deposits of British account holders has highlighted broader concerns that some security-related laws passed since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks are so widely drafted they are open to abuse.

I had many a debate when the laws were being introduced in the US, the UK, Australia and I seemed to be a voice in the wilderness. The general opinion was 'we need the laws to catch the terrorists' and 'our government can be trusted'. As I argued at the time, that's naive in the extreme.

I've talked before about the previous Australian government's use of terrorism laws in the case against Dr Haneef, which was thrown out of court. You can read about that here.

Of the UK government's threat to use terrorism laws against climate change protesters, which you can read about here.

Now we see the use of them against institutions of a friendly country, as reported in the Financial Times which you can read here.

I'll simply repeat a few things I said in those previous posts:

And worst of all the naive belief that only the bad guys are affected by the terrorism laws. That innocent people will not be caught up in the paranoia. The reality is of course that any of us could be caught up in it.

...everyone, should be dealt with in a way that is consistent with our established values of justice, of fairness...overly draconian new terrorism laws are open to abuse and they will be abused.

If we allow our governments to erode and gradually destroy our established values, we're going backwards.

Terrorists are laughing - our own governments are doing their work for them. The destruction of our way of life is coming from within.

Sorry, if you stayed with me this far that is, I seem to have rambled on for much longer than I intended.

Now it's almost time to go out for dinner, to a Chinese restaurant we like very much at the top of Beach Road. I should post about that tomorrow because if you enjoy Chinese food you should give it a try.


Dubai Sunshine said...

Your thoughts mirror mine exactly re: Atlantis...I wrote the almost exact same thing earlier this morning:)

And I HATE the new road signs...I get lost ALL the stupid!

ZeTallGerman said...

I join your sentiment: FREE SAMMY! (am wearing my Gulf News whale-shark badge loud and proud since Thursday :-)

dave said...

Giving directions to people who don't know there way around has become virtually impossible since the implementation of the new road signage. I think it is April the 1st all round with the RTA.

Rose in Dubai said...

Chinese at the top of Beach Road?? Which end is the top? Always looking for good Chinese!

Seabee said...

Rose, sorry I'm being influenced by the RTA directional system of being vague. I mean the Dubai end, the Jumeirah end, where the giant flag is.

Report on the restaurant coming up in the next post.

Alex said...

same applies for the new Sheikh Zayed Road's "south & north" signs... before it was "Dubai - Sharjah" or "Jebel Ali - Abu Dhabi".... That makes everything harder in Dubai