Speaking at a meeting with Egyptian journalists broadcast on state television last week, the Egyptian Prime Minister faced a storm of accusation to the effect that he is out of touch with the country's crisis, after his comments were televised in which he blamed rural infant sickness on mothers not washing themselves properly.
"In my work, I've gone around the countryside," he said. "There are villages in Egypt, in the twenty first century, where children get diaorrhea ... because the mothers who nurse them, out of ignorance, do not maintain the hygiene of their breasts."
Recalling a visit to the Beni Suef, a governorate south of Cairo in 2004, he described the hard conditions of life. "There's no water, there's no sewerage," he said. "The men go to the mosque ... the women go down to the fields and get raped."
I couldn’t help remembering this old Arabic proverb that jumped into my head while I was listening to these words and watching this video clip of the prime minister.
The proverb says, “Talk so I can get to know you!” I hesitated a lot before I allowed myself to pick this particular proverb as a basis for judging the man. But when I watched the clip more than once I dared, after much hesitation and trepidation, to conclude that this small clip can in fact be taken to represent a true sample of the thinking capacity of the second man in Egypt.
I would never let myself fall into rebuking someone for a defect like a stutter or a slip of a tongue, because making fun of people for defects they may have is not a manly thing to do. If this famous clip that is circulated in which the Prime Minister speaks displayed that kind of defect or anything close I would have overlooked it right away. But the problem is in the fact that behaviour here reflects the thought and the personality of Dr. Kandil – and one has to face the fact that what it shows is remarkably trivial thinking.
Honesty knows no flattery and I have previously used my articles and these columns as well a lot for sending advice and encouragement to the Prime Minister. I spoke about management by objectives, I spoke about mapping crises and about many other issues with the purpose of nothing else but that we should come to see our way to reform even if partially, so we could all survive this critical juncture till the formation of an elected government – together. But it would be naive to use painkillers for stopping the constant and accelerating loss of blood which is our human and material losses at this stage in the process of change.
Dear Sir, just how can I trust you to take the right decision in something so crucially important - whose impact will last for years to come - if you don’t manage to wrap it up successfully - like the loan of the World Bank? If your bird’s eye view can’t grasp the disconnect between “personal hygiene”, “diaorrhea in children” and something that happened to you personally on a visit to an extremely limited and a-typical geographical area, and the economic policies which you and your government are to be held accountable for?
Let me put it to you as clearly as I can! You wanted to speak about problems that are deeply rooted in Egyptian society like ignorance in general – particularly “hygienic ignorance”, together with the dilapidation of the infrastructure and the deterioration of health care. But you expressed all this in the worst possible words and you failed to articulate any kind of link that can make a good impression, reassure us that you have a real vision for the future, something we might be convinced we could count on in the way of reform.
Sir, just hand in your resignation, because this is the least you can do for the sake of preserving the trust of the people! If trust is given to the undeserving this is a sign that we are approaching the end of days! So hand in your resignation and do something that the President himself has been avoiding for so long without any apparent justification.
Claiming that the time is not right is an invalid argument! The reshuffle that took place eight months ago included ten ministers, all in one go, and most of them were in charge of the most potentially detrimental, sensitive positions in the state and no one (at that time) argued with you about how suitable the time was.
As for the approaching Parliament no one need take that as an excuse! If the new government turned out to be promising, I am quite sure that this would instantaneously begin to restore the trust Parliament placed in it – and everyone would happily concur.