Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another ridiculous sentence

Soup up the engines of your 4x4s, race each other at 130kph in a 60kph residential area, kill an innocent driver unlucky enough to be on the same street.

That's what two drivers did in Al Khawaneej.

They deserve the full weight of the law.

What did they get? Three months jail and licences suspended for one year.

There was also the usual diyya of Dh200,000 but that's the same as an insurance payout and it's hardly a punishment for acting with such utter disregard for other people's lives.

Why such a risible sentence?

Because they're students and judgement was 'in consideration of their young age and their studies' apparently.

One is 18, the other 19. They're old enough to drive, old enough to have licences, old enough to have 4X4s, old enough to kill someone through their criminal actions...but not old enough to be held truly accountable.

There needs to be some serious thought given to a justice system that gives one month for kissing and three months for killing.

Prosecution has fifteen days to appeal the sentence. I sincerely hope they do.

Khaleej Times has the story here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting the easiest part wrong

I never cease to be amazed that the simplest part of any problem is so consistently mishandled by companies.

It's always been the same, they never learn and I don't expect they ever will.

The easiest part is communication.

Tell the people affected what the problem is, what you're doing to correct it and, if possible, when you expect the problem to be rectified and service back to normal.

How hard is that?

For some inexplicable reason it's so hard it's impossible.

We've had it throughout the volcano ash cloud chaos, the biggest complaint from people, as always, is the lack of communication, lack of information.

Dubai's Metro is at it again too.

Passengers using the Dubai Metro once again faced delays yesterday following a disruption, which was not explained by the Metro operators.

However, what frustrated the passengers the most were confusing announcements made inside the trains and by ill-informed staff at the stations.

Situation perfectly normal then.

Metro operations remained suspended once again for around 50 minutes after 12:15pm on Sunday and then around 3pm while passengers wondered what had happened.

Leaving passengers stranded with no information makes it impossible for them to know what to do. Do they stay in the station and wait for an unknown amount of time or do they make other arrangements to get to their destination?

They can't make the decision thanks to the lack of communication from the Metro operators. Even worse, they're getting the usual 'five minutes' rubbish from staff.

How many times have I been told 'five minutes', or 'take a seat, coming'. It's just a way of getting rid of you, to stop you pestering them.

It's typical too of the 'customer service' we've come to expect. Take your money and that's it, nothing after that is of any concern to the company.

The problem was later explained with the usual platitudes.

A Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) spokesperson said that technical issues were behind the slight disruptions.

"We are preparing to add more trains with the opening of new stations from April 30" said Peyman Younes Parham, director of marketing and communication at the RTA.

"Techical issues are being sorted out, especially regarding the train headways and waiting time of passengers and this has led to some delays. It is quite normal when you add more services on a running track."

Why didn't you tell your passengers that? Why weren't your staff briefed? Did it happen unexpectedly - your statement 'it's perfectly normal' indicates it didn't? So why no advance notice?

If it was unexpected, why wasn't information put on the electronic boards and the public announcement system?

The story's here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A tight spot

I know many of us get irritable with people who take up two parking spaces, but I think perhaps we should be a little more understanding.

I mean, however good a driver you are it's sometimes difficult to sqeeze a large car into a tight space.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kissing Brits sequal

There's a sequal to the kissing Brits case reported in Gulf News today - and yet again I'm at a loss to understand the way the legal system is adminstered here.

Having failed in her bid to have the original verdict overturned,
which I posted about here, Charlotte Adams said she wouldn't appeal further, she'd do the one month jail time because she was stuck here with no money and just wanted to put it all behind her as quickly as possible.

That was was nearly three weeks ago. Yet a source in the Criminal Rulings' Execution Section told Gulf News: "The 25-year-old convict decided to turn herself in more than 10 days ago… "

Does that mean someone given a jail term can decide when to start it?

The source went on: "...since then she produced herself to the Public Prosecution but was asked to wait for 10 days due to administrative procedures, which delayed the process of executing the verdict."


You're given a jail sentence, your passport has already been confiscated so you can't go anywhere...and you can't even begin your jail sentence because of some weird bureaucracy.

Had she gone to jail as soon as the appeal was rejected Charlotte would now be well into her sentence and only about a week away from being able to go home.

Today's Gulf News report is here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The volcano wins


Even if I spoke Icelandic I'm not sure I could pronounce the name of the volcano that's just stuffed up our travel plans.

Mrs Seabee has had two days of meetings in England later this week and, with me tagging along, planned a few days holiday afterwards.

We were due to fly out tonight but the travel ban has been extended yet again and Emirates have just confirmed our flight is cancelled.

Just my luck. I've been reading in the Daily Telegraph: "Britain to bask in spring heatwave. The south will experience a ten-day heatwave" with temperatures possibly soaring to...wait for it...*gasp*...20C.

Now we'll have to stay here where there's not a heatwave. It's only 33C today apparently.

At least it happened before we travelled, so we're not part of a reported seven million people stranded because of the unpronounceable volcano.

The Royal Navy is being called in to collect stranded Brits, and some of them will be getting a lift home on the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. I wouldn't mind that, it sounds an exciting end to a holiday to me.

HMS Ark Royal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A losing battle

The water movement in Dubai Marina is very sluggish so there tends to be unsightly collections of rubbish.

Fallen leaves from the landscaping are part of it but the majority is thanks to people, inevitably, doing the wrong thing - plastic bags, plastic bottles, drink cans, paper.

Trying to clean it up doesn't involve anything high-tech, just a guy on a flat-bed boat with a net on the end of a pole.

The rubbish wins.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I couldn't help laughing...

The Daily Telegraph reports the UK's hottest day of the year so far.

"Beaches and promenades at resorts including Blackpool, Brighton and Bournemouth were busy and ice cream sales brisk"

Here's Brighton:

Photo. PA. Daily Telegraph

Notice the beachwear - heavy jackets, sweaters and hoodies.

"Visitors basked in temperatures up to 19C"

Basked? In 19 degrees?

The report is here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

What is the matter with people?

A Belgian woman and a German woman had a very serious set-to in a car park.

Really serious.

Enough to call the cops.

How serious?

I'll tell you.

One accused the other of driving slowly and inattentively in a mall car park and almost running into her.

Worse. She says the driver...wait for it...squirted her strawberry juice at her.

So she called the cops.

The alleged squirter says that her juice 'mistakenly and unintentionally slipped from her hand and fell on' the squirtee.

Now they're both in court charged with mutual assault and exchanging curses.

No, they're not ten year olds, one is 38 the other 41.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Have a spat, have a rant to get it out of your system - but don't call the cops.

In their own countries they'd probably be charged with wasting police time.

What do you reckon, that deportation would be appropriate so that we have two less people with this kind of attitude amongst us?

Gulf News has the story here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ten year old hero

Only ten years old but in my opinion a real hero.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"A man and his toddler grandson have been found dead in a house fire in western NSW, while another young boy is in hospital after bravely trying to get into the house to save them, paramedics say...Paramedics also treated a boy, believed to be aged about 10, who had tried to smash a window to get into the house and help, a NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said."

The story is here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What are the standards?

One more post on the general subject of the way the indecency laws can be abused. And on what visitors can learn about the standards expected of them.

First, a post on the forum of ExpatWoman (thanks to Trailing Spouse for sending it to me).

It says:

"today my 2 sons and my middle sons girlfriend went to MOE for the UFC signing at Virgin. After they went to the food court for pizza. My middle son went to fetch the order and as he sat down the security guard stormed over and agressively confronted him about kissing his girlfriend. He produced a leaflet and waved it in his face all the while shouting "not allowed, not allowed". Of course he had done no such thing with many witnesses to back him up. When they asked the security guard who had accused them he said " a lady over there".!!!!! Of course my son was very angry, but luckily he didnt swear!! Needless to say many other expats were around and were completely gobsmacked by the whole thing, The security guard was very agressive in his manner, but luckily another gaurd came over to defuse the situation, and he was also approached by another European to back my sons story. What a bad taste its left in our mouths. 17 years we have lived here, we know the law of the land!! What makes me so very cross is that a person can accuse you of something that you havent done, just because they can. What is this place coming to?"

It's another confirmation of what I've been ranting about for some time -any malicious person, someone in bad mood, someone in a temper, a rival, can have you arrested by simply claiming you committed an offence.

It happens, as several high-profile cases have confirmed.

And my bet is that we're going to see much more of it. Copycat stuff. People who're reading the recent high-profile cases deciding they'll do it too. As the poster said, simply because they can.

Then the second point, what tourists can learn about how they must behave.

Yesterday the Dubai Today programme on Dubai Eye radio had an extended segment on the British kissing couple case and its ramifications.

One thing that came up, as it has whenever the laws are discussed, is that visitors need to inform themselves about the way they must behave in countries they're visiting.

Very true, but visitors to Dubai get conflicting and confusing information all at the same time.

I did a quick bit of research on it, as someone coming here might.

I looked at it from a Brit's point of view, because they seem to be the ones falling foul of the law more than others.

The UK Foreign Office website says that proportionally, Britons are most likely to be arrested in the UAE than any other country in the world.

So what do they learn about Dubai before they come here?

From their media they get conflicting messages.

They see stories like these running at the same time:

"Kissing Dubai Brits to be jailed

TWO Britons convicted of kissing in public had their one-month prison sentence upheld by a Dubai court today."

"Danielle Lloyd shows off six-month bump as she embraces Jamie O'Hara on Dubai beach break

With just three months to go until the arrival of her first child, Danielle Lloyd's happiness is obvious. The glamour model wrapped her arms around her fiancé Jamie O'Hara as they embraced while preparing a barbecue in Dubai."

That's clear then.

Kissing is banned/is allowed. Unmarried couples are banned/allowed.

So they check the official Dubai Dept of Tourism & Commerce Marketing site.

Under 'Tips for Tourists' they find a caution - but only about prohibited medicines.

I couldn't find anything about unmarried couples or what is deemed indecent behaviour. I looked under 'Clothing' and found:

"Compared with certain parts of the Middle East, Dubai has a very relaxed dress code. However, care should be taken not to give offence by wearing clothing which may be considered revealing. At the pool or on the beaches, trunks, swim-suits and bikinis are quite acceptable."


What about alcohol?

"Alcohol is available in hotel and club restaurants and bars. However, restaurants outside the hotels are not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages.

Nothing there to say that people have been charged with 'consuming alcohol'.

So I moved to another site Google had given me, Dubai-Tourism.net:

"Dubai Culture

Dubai is a cosmopolitan city and visitors can dress however they like. Still, a good amount of respect for local customs is appreciated. In deference to local customs and norms it is a good idea for visitors not to wear very short, tight clothing, at least until such time as they are comfortable with the city.

I went to another site, GoDubai:

"Dubai has managed to achieve what other Arab cities have failed to do, create the right balance western influence and eastern tradition. Its culture is rooted in Islamic traditions that penetrate the Arabian peninsula and beyond, but the city’s visionary development is evident proof of an open-minded and liberal outlook."

I've also seen on travel forums similar answers to the questions. One recently had answers from Dubai residents to a young single woman who asked what she should wear. They ranged from 'cover your arms & knees' to 'shorts & T-shirt can be worn anywhere'.

What I didn't find in this search were warnings about what is deemed to be indecent public behaviour.

What does the British Foreign office say?

"Women should dress modestly when in public areas, such as shopping malls. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public. Sex outside of marriage is illegal and if any unmarried couples are brought to the attention of the UAE authorities they run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation.

Britons can find themselves facing charges relating to cultural differences, such as using bad language, rude gestures or public displays of affection. British nationals should also be aware of the UAE’s strict laws banning sex outside of marriage."

Well that's the most accurate but it conflicts with almost all the previous information I've been reading.

It's the only one I found that talks about unmarried couples - but compare that with the evidence of the Danielle Lloyd story.

The key phrase is hidden in there though. "...if any unmarried couples are brought to the attention of the UAE authorities..."

That's the reality of course. You can get away with just about anything as long as no-one calls the cops.

But then you don't need to be breaking any law to be arrested. You can just be unlucky enough to cross the path of someone in a bad mood or someone who's bored and needs to brighten up their day. That'll do it.

It needs sorting out.

For all of us living here, regardless of nationality, and for the millions of visitors.

I've quoted from these:

Kissing Dubai Brits.
Danielle Lloyd.
Expat Woman.
DTCM Tips for Tourists.
UK Travel Advisory.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Blatant hypocrisy

I'm still on about the way the law is administered, and the effect it's having on tourism.

First, a quick word on tourism.

The latest stories getting huge international publicity, which I've been on about for the past few days, are the Simon Andrews road rage and the British kissing couple cases.

In itself this publicity is obviously bad for tourism. But there's a growing ripple effect too, if the origin of visitors to this blog is any indication.

Go back to April last year, when I responded to Johann Hari's "Dark Side of Dubai" story.

A number of international news sites gave a link to my post and at the time I had hundreds of hits from their readers. Then it dropped off and I got one now and again.

Many people reading the current stories have obviously gone searching for negative stuff about Dubai because I'm suddenly getting many more visits again from those earlier links.

So all the old stories are being read again and the negativity spreads. Not good for the tourism that's such a large percentage of the economy.

Then a great example of the double standards that cause so much derision for Dubai, and confusion about what's allowed and what's illegal, at the same time as the jail-for-kissing case.

There are two major problems to the administration of the legal system, as I see it.

One I've been ranting about for a few days, that people can be found guilty on no more than another person's say-so.

The other is the absolute random, arbitrary way the law is enforced. All the decency laws are broken all over the city all the time with no charges .

Unmarried couples openly co-habit, there's sex outside marriage, revealing clothing is normal city wear, prostitution is blatant. It's not even a case of people keeping their heads down and not drawing attention to themselves.

Yet once in a blue moon someone is suddenly given jail time and deported for what thousands of others are doing unhindered.

The Daily Mail has an example, with a raft of photos of a pregnant unmarried model, Danielle Lloyd, and her fiance who are in Dubai on holiday, kissing in public view.

The headline is:

"Danielle Lloyd shows off six-month bump as she embraces Jamie O'Hara on Dubai beach"

So they're breaking the sex before marriage law, the unmarried couples living together law, the public decency law.

A couple of the comments left are asking 'how come they were not arrested?" A perfectly reasonable question.

No wonder there's confusion. No wonder Dubai's reputation is suffering.

People are being given at the same time two totally different versions of what is and is not acceptable behaviour in Dubai.

The Daily Mail story is here.

Monday, April 05, 2010

'Witnesses not called'

Sorry I'm repeating myself but I'm really incensed by this.

In yesterday's post about the appeal by the British couple against their sentence for alleged kissing I said:

At an earlier hearing there were claims that witnesses would be presented. There's been no mention of them in the radio and print reports I've come across, so I assume none appeared.

The BBC now has a quote from Ayman Najafi, one of the accused, that adds yet another very disturbing factor to the case:

"It's very harsh, based on contradictory evidence. The courts haven't called on any of our witnesses who are prepared to testify that this didn't happen."

Why would witnesses not be called?

Was the court asked to hear them?

If not why not?

And if it was, why were they not called?

Add to that the previous factors I highlighted in earlier posts; the accuser said her two year old had complained that the couple were kissing indecently, then that she had seen it herself. The discrepancy in the complaint and the validity of a two-year-old's word were not questioned. The accuser did not appear in court, her complaint was a written statement.

Maybe the accused are guilty, maybe they're not. That's what a justice system is supposed to resolve. Call witnesses, insist that the accuser is in court to give evidence, hear all the evidence, weigh the evidence - true evidence, not just one person's unsubstantiated claim - and then arrive at a decision based on that evidence.

No-one knows whether the couple in this case, and others like them, are actually guilty because none of that happened.

The other case going on is similar - I posted about it on March 29.

Briefly, back in November Simon Andrews and an 19 year old Iraqi student got into a stupid road rage situation - the usual tailgating light-flashing thing that goes on daily. They had an argument. Then the student called the police and claimed that Simon gave him the finger so he was charged with indecency.

No witnesses, one word against another, the student has never bothered to turn up in court, and isn't required to.

How does this sound? The student was mad at the traffic situation and in a rage called the police to make things as bad as possible for the other motorist.

A few hours later he'd calmed down and forgotten the whole incident.

The other motorist, Simon, however, has already been punished because his passport has been confiscated. He has to keep appearing in court to defend himsef yet the accuser doesn't have to appear even once.

If the accuser can't be bothered to appear in court to present his claim, and be questioned in an attempt to arrive at the truth, the case should be dismissed.

All cases where the accuser doesn't bother to appear should be dismissed.

One word against another, maybe he's guilty maybe he isn't. But if the evidence isn't presented, witnesses aren't sought and questioned, the accuser isn't in court, the verdict may just as well be based on the toss of a coin.

Justice should not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

BBC report here.

Simon Andrews, Gulf News.

In 7Days the Simon Andrews story says that "the case was adjourned yesterday for the defence to prepare its case." Simon Andrews, 7Days. 'Prepare the case' after all this time? That's bizzare.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

'Kissing couple' appeal rejected

The mockery of justice I posted about earlier has been upheld by the appeals court, the news being reported by media all over the world.

A British couple were appealing against a one month jail sentence followed by deportation for indecent behaviour. They say they kssed on the cheek in a friendly greeting, an Emirati woman claimed they were 'kissing & touching' indecently.

It was one person's word against another's and the accuser did not appear in court, she simply gave a written statement. That's the really disturbing aspect of the case, as it has been with others I've posted about.

On nothing more than a complaint from an individual a case is brought, the accuser doesn't even bother to attend the hearing, a guilty verdict is declared, sentence is passed.

There were discrepancies in the woman's claim which Public Prosecution didn't resolve because they couldn't reach her by phone. They went ahead with the case anyway.

At an earlier hearing there were claims that witnesses would be presented. There's been no mention of them in the radio and print reports I've come across, so I assume none appeared.

The couple can take it to one more appeal.

A BBC report is here. (It has a serious error by the way. The couple did not 'consume alcohol in an illegal place' as the report claims. They drank alcohol perfectly legally in licensed premises earlier. They were charged under the inexplicable law with 'consuming alcohol', something I've complained about in several posts. It's legal to sell it. It's also legal to consume it but you can be charged if you do!)

There's an interesting new bit of information in this BBC report - I wonder how reliable it is.

Earlier reports said the woman was out with her two children. It was 2am and I mused on how old the children were to be out in a burger joint at that time.

Today's BBC report says that she was with her two year old daughter.

The discrepancy in the accusation was that she first said her child had told her the couple were kissing, later that she had seen it herself. As I said, Public Prosecution 'couldn't reach her by phone' to clarify.

I'll repeat what I've said before. I have absolutely no problem with a law that makes it illegal to behave intimately in public. If that's the law of the land we have to obey it.

But I do have a huge argument with the way the law is administered.

It's no more than the word of one person, with that accuser not even bothering to , and not having to, attend the hearing. Write a complaint and that's it, you need do no more, you just walk away. The person you've accused is arrested, charged, found guilty, sentenced to jail and deportation. Deportation means their job, their livelihood, is gone.

Having a bad day? Don't like the look of someone? Have a business rival? Had an argument with someone?

It's the simplest thing in the world to get rid of them. Just accuse them of indecent behaviour or a rude gesture.