The Future of Higher Education in Bahrain: tortured, abused, abandoned trussed up half-naked in a lock-up

Regarding my recent piece “The Rape of Bahrain Polytechnic”, two interesting responses were posted by “Nick A. Harr” and “Virtual Hub”. As a proponent of openness, I do not usually respond in-depth to individuals who use pseudonyms rather than give their real names when they are in no apparent danger. However, since these two responses raise pertinent questions about higher education in Bahrain, I will respond in detail in this instance.

Firstly, I shall summarize the arguments of “Nick” and “Virtual”. The full texts of their replies are on the original “Rape of Bahrain Polytechnic” thread.

“Nick” says it is “a bit simplistic to think that what happened to the senior staff has a direct relation to their involvement with the unrest last year”, and mentions the role of Ernest and Young, the finance arm of the polytechnic, and so did the audit court of Bahrain in unearthing “very clear cases of financial embezzlement done by these senior staff”, and goes on to offer details of alleged embezzlements by John Scott and others. Nick states that BP “was a huge flop”, saying it is “sadistic to blame the [Bahrain] goverment on all [BP’s] ills. He concludes that my “blaming the government in this case in particular sounds more like you approve what was going on on managerial level.”

“Virtual” takes me to task for sensationalism, and for the title of my post — “I love it when a man uses rape as an analogy. It shows how deluded and out of touch he is” — before moving on to her main argument that “the polytechnic was pillaged by the kiwis”. According to Virtual, “the [Bahrain] ministry [of Education] are only trying to regain some control from the excesses of John Scott” who “was like a used car salesman or a cult leader”. Virtual offers some further examples of alleged abuses at BP, and concludes, “I have no idea what the ministry will do but i hope they use the talented staff members and get rid of the hangers on feathering their nests. . .I will give the ministry the benefit of the doubt the kiwi mafia have left me disgusted and ashamed.”

Nick and Virtual, I have NEVER worked for Bahrain Polytechnic, but was a faculty member at the University of Bahrain 2007-8, then at Bahrain Teachers College 2009-2011, where I was Academic Head of Continuing Professional Development 2009-2010. I do not know John Scott personally, nor any other former or current senior employee of BP, I’m British, not a Kiwi, and have no interest in defending Scott or anyone else against alleged improprieties.

My concern is entirely with the quality and future of higher education in Bahrain. The University of Bahrain has in the generation since it was founded failed abysmally to respond to the higher education needs of both individual Bahraini students and the social and economic needs of Bahrain as a country. Rather, it has behaved since its foundation like an arm of state power rather than a genuine higher education institution.

This was tolerable so long as the possibility of reform at the university remained. However, the role played by the senior administration of the University of Bahrain on 13th March 2011, and its complicity in the subsequent abuses of the human rights and academic freedoms of students and faculty have meant that the UoB is no longer merely an arm of state power, but an instrument of state repression. The complicity of both the UoB, and the Ministry of Education in the violation of human rights and academic freedom has been described by the BICI, Amnesty International, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, and numerous academic professional associations, for example the Middle East Studies Association:

http://www.mesa.arizona.edu/committees/academic-freedom/intervention/letters-bahrain.html

Set side by side with the vile abuses enabled by leading figures at the UoB and MoE, the alleged corruptions of John Scott et al are in an altogether lesser league.

It is of course right that any financial mismanagement at BP or anywhere else in Bahrain is wrong and perpetrators should be fired and/or prosecuted. But what disturbs me and what made me use the word “rape” in connection with BP is the idea that institutions that are guilty of human rights abuses and an absolute violation of academic freedom should be brought in to “reform” BP.

My use of the word “rape” is to reflect the Arabic phrasal verb /ya3tady 3ala/ which has the twin meanings of “rape” in the sexual sense, and “gross violation” of rights, ethics, morals and laws. This is EXACTLY what’s happened to Bahrain higher education over the past year. It’s not even as if the UoB and the MoE are themselves innocent of the kinds of corruption of which Scott et al are being accused.

This regime’s use of sexual abuse as a form of terror is all too well documented; so long as this remains the case I reserve the right to use the word “rape” metaphorically to describe its actions elsewhere.

16 year-old Ali Al Singace last week

I never claimed that “what happened to the senior staff has a direct relation to their involvement with the unrest last year”. The “unrest” is not “last year” but on-going, and in what sense were Scott et al “involved” in unrest? Is this Nick’s line? Virtual’s? The MoE’s? It certainly isn’t mine.

What I am saying is that there is a struggle going on for the heart and soul of higher education in Bahrain. On the one side there are the hardliners from within the Bahrain regime who see higher education as a process where facts and procedures are communicated from authoritarian instructors to passive students who are expected to regurgitate these in exams. This seems higher education as a means of turning out technically competent automatons, and as a means of reproducing the social passivity of “disciplined subjects” beloved by dictatorships the world over.

On the other side there are those in Bahrain society, and the currently marginalized reforming wing of the regime itself who see higher education differently, who realize that the old model doesn’t really educate, and doesn’t meet the needs of individual Bahrainis or of Bahrain as a country. For these reformers, the young people of Bahrain are being cheated by organizations like the UoB and the MoE who pretend to be providing an education while in reality they are shoring up a dictatorial, repressive state.

Such reformers see higher education as something that should involve students  in active, responsible, relevant learning, that enables students to graduate as “empowered citizens” rather than “disciplined subjects”, not merely technically competent, but able to solve problems thinking on their feet responding to new and evolving situations critically and creatively as they develop.

This is the sort of higher education that young people need in Bahrain, the GCC, the MENA region, indeed the world over if they are to rise to the challenges of the C21st. But it is a kind of higher education which is loathed by dictatorships.

BP and BTC were an attempt to establish this approach to higher education in Bahrain. I know all too well from my experience at BTC that this was implemented in a hurried, and in some ways botched manner which provided an open door for all manner of used car and snake oil salespeople, and “men of vision” who wouldn’t be out of place in a New Religious Movement.

Implementation of the reform vision of higher education was hurried and botched firstly because the “government” of Bahrain, indeed the royal family, was fatally divided within itself between those who really wanted reform, those who pretended to want it, and those who were resolutely opposed to it from the outset. Thus reformers were forever fighting a rearguard action to protect reform, and this impacted severely on the effectiveness of reform.

Secondly, “the power of the arbitrary” is an important aspect of rule under conditions of dictatorship or semi-dictatorship. A culture is developed in which “blind eyes” are turned to abuses and nest-feathering. In some cases these are actively encouraged. The nest-feathers gain financially, the regime benefits by being able to “have one over” on the individuals concerned. Favours (such as “blind eyes”) can be called in, under the threat of the sudden and quite hypocritical “exposure of irregularities”. Even the reforming wing of the regime was never quite able to put an end to these kinds of practices, and we are seeing the consequences of this today at BP.

Lastly, the reforming wing of the regime itself was too comfortable with rule by diktat or “amiri decree”, reforms were always imposed top-down, with little or no public consultation, fundamental research, or attempt to communicate the rationale for the reforms and to get commitment to them. The neglect of these very basic principles of project management is a serious indictment of competence of the reforming wing of the regime.

Part of this was offering inordinate sums of money to provide “off the peg” education solutions from English-speaking countries with little or no attempt to adapt these to the prevailing socio-cultural realities in Bahrain. This fetishization of “the West” (a geographically incoherent term) on the part of Bahraini reformers opened the doors to foreigners who could be pushy, arrogant, and ignorant of the lives and cultures of Bahrain to the point that they could appear to be racist.

This neglect on the part of  reformers needlessly created resistance to reform, while undermining the effectiveness of reform, and strengthened the hand of reactionary and hardline elements within the regime. Yet my criticism is not of the reforms as reforms but of their implementation.

What we are seeing at Bahrain Polytechnic is the end-game where a once brave and principled attempt at reforming Bahrain’s sclerotic higher education system is finally absorbed into the apparatus of a repressive state. The failings, the very real failings, of a few people at the top of BP (conveniently most of them foreigners) are being used to deliver the final death-blow to BP as an independent higher education institution. This is indeed a rape of higher education in Bahrain.

5 thoughts on “The Future of Higher Education in Bahrain: tortured, abused, abandoned trussed up half-naked in a lock-up

  1. I think you may have summed it up: “a once brave and principled attempt at reforming Bahrain’s sclerotic higher education system is finally absorbed into the apparatus of a repressive state”.

    The person at Bahrain Polytechnic who directly dismissed students for minor FB comments and hitting the “Like” button, is now in charge.

    Whatever else they did, this former management was committed to good educational outcomes for students. Their alleged indiscretions are a separate issue.

  2. ooops, sorry for the previous comment it was by mistake!

    It is well written by you as you talked about your personal observation and previous experiences; how you see Bahrain’s education sector going on.

    However, you did not bring up a single fact showing that if whatever you mentioned is actually true or not. Coming up on the picture you posted, it doesn’t makes any sense of you posting it in here under the word rape; do you have any proof who did this rape? or you just saw this picture with the title under it and believed on it?

    that is not the argument anyway. Haven’t you seen the development of the education system in Bahrain from the last 10 years? from schools to unversities? Why don’t you compare the importance of education Bahraini government is giving to it with other western countries?

    There has been a lot of work going on to bring in experienced and professional tutors to train Bahrainis and develop the educational sector in Bahrain. If you compare Bahraini with other GCC countries, you will find Bahraini as better educated, open minded… etc.

    Bahrain Polytechnic is a part of educational development and presenting work-ready Bahraini workforce to take over the places of foreigners who we depend on. It has been running very well and until now it is. The problem in there was excessive spending with no one monitoring where the money is going. The sacking of top heads is nothing to do with last year unrest; it is just that Bahraini government got stronger to find out where the money is heading, and tried to inspect Bahrain Polytechnic. It was fully inspected by independent firms; and they found out millions of dollars are missing (other words, no one knows where it went). As a result, they were sacked; and any organization would do it or put on further trial.

    Talking about the new head from Ministry of Education (he is just an acting), I think it is too early to talk about him and his performance. Neither you, nor anyone can evaluate it until further years.

    Also, neither you nor anyone can mention performance of the Bahrain Polytechnic students; whether they are good quality or not, until the first batch graduates. So, be patient!

    Thank you!

  3. Dear Mike (and hi Jan and Tony!)

    My name is Chris Gosling and I was formerly Chief Operating Officer at BP and one of the three “top officials” supposedly sacked by the Minister of Education. I have followed this blog with interest but have felt unable to comment up to now. I did not want to make an anonymous contribution but was unable to make a public comment while my family was still in Bahrain and thus at risk of retribution from the regime. Now we are all safely back in NZ, I can finally respond to the lies that have been told. I have attached to this message a copy of a letter I have sent to the GDN (which I have no confidence will ever see the light of day!) which sets out my brief response to the Minister of Education’s statement in March. Also attached is a message I have sent to a number of my former colleagues at BP which looks at just a couple of the specific allegations (more accurately termed “lies”) that have been made. I will let these statements speak for themselves, but I do want to comment on one issue which has really concerned me in reading this blog. First of all, I salute you Mike, your analysis of the political situation in Bahrain is spot on and I congratulate you on your courage in taking on the appalling UoB and the regime. But what I find really interesting and depressing is that even with your analysis and understanding, you (and I’m sorry, you too Jan) have allowed the totally unsubstantiated lies of the regime and its hacks about John, Lorraine and myself to sow doubts in your mind – and by doing so, you play into the hands of the regime. I honestly do not understand what you mean by “the very real failings” and can only assume that you have allowed yourself to be convinced by the unsubstantiated lies of the same people who suspended, sacked, arrested and tortured people based on similar lies. I’m sorry, I don’t mean this to be a personal criticism but I have found this to be salutory lesson. We seem to be so attuned to the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” cliche (or perhaps that “management” is inherently incompetent or corrupt!) that we accept there is some basis for statements made even by those who we know are complete liars. I guess, more charitably, we find it hard to accept that another human being could simply tell absolute baseless lies. And perhaps that naiveity is something we should be pleased to retain! Anyway I hope that the following statements will make it clear that there was no fraud, there was no “corruption”. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that I’m some sort of saint or charity worker! I was well paid for my job and enjoyed a good lifestyle in Bahrain and of course we weren’t some sort “perfect” managers. But we were all committed professionals who had a vision and passion to try to build an institution which would develop capable and independent thinking young Bahraini – clearly anathema to the current regime in Bahrain. Neither I, nor to my knowledge (and I would know!) any of my colleagues were responsible for anything except operating in the best interests of Bahrain Polytechnic as we saw them. Thanks again for your commitment Mike.

    Letter to GDN:
    Dear Sir

    On 16 March 2012 you published a statement from the Minister of Education regarding Bahrain Polytechnic. The article was headed “Three Top Polytechnic Officials Sacked”.

    I was one of the three “officials” identified in this article and I absolutely reject the allegations made by the Minister in this statement.

    I categorically deny that I was sacked or forced to resign from Bahrain Polytechnic. I resigned from my position as Chief Operating Officer as I had no confidence that the Polytechnic would continue to honour the terms of my employment contract. In addition, as a founding Executive member of the Polytechnic I could not countenance the changes instituted by the Minister of Education and his instrument, the now acting Chief Executive. The terms of my resignation were set out in a letter of agreement signed by the then Chairman of the Board of Bahrain Polytechnic HE Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa and included the full payment of my contractual entitlements up to the expiry of my contract.

    The accusations by the Minister simply represent his attempt to undermine the important and progressive work being undertaken by Bahrain Polytechnic to develop the young people of Bahrain and in particular to attack the governance of the Polytechnic which was providing enlightened and forward thinking guidance to the establishment of Bahrain Polytechnic.

    It is no co-incidence that shortly after the my resignation and that of the then Chief Executive, seven of the nine members of the Board of the Polytechnic including the Chairman and highly respected Bahraini business people were replaced by the Minister.

    I absolutely deny the allegations made by the Minister regarding “huge irregularities”.

    At no time during my five years at Bahrain Polytechnic did I or, to my knowledge, any other executive obtain any payment or benefit beyond employment terms and conditions or business related reimbursements. All actions made by me and, to my knowledge, other executives were made at all times for the best interests of Bahrain Polytechnic and without any personal financial gain.

    All business decisions were made based on the best available information, in accordance with normal management practice and for the benefit and development of Bahrain Polytechnic, its students and staff. As in all operations and in particular with start up organisations, many decisions were made on limited information and procedures were fast tracked to ensure that staff, facilities and resources were in place to provide quality education for our students. However, I reiterate that at no time were decisions made other than in the perceived best interests of the Polytechnic.

    I sincerely hope that the Polytechnic may continue with its mission and that its students will enjoy the benefit of a quality education, however I strongly suspect that that is unlikely under the current Minister of Education and the leadership of the Polytechnic.

    Given the severity of the allegations against me published in your newspaper, I hope that you will have the common decency to publish this brief response.

    It should be noted that my resignation agreement included a confidentiality requirement. However, in light of the outrageous accusations made publicly by the Minister, I have advised the current Chairman of the Board that I consider that the Polytechnic has breached this agreement and I believe that I have no alternative but to publicly set out my position.

    I regret the long delay in responding on this matter, however my wife and children have only recently left Bahrain and until they did so, I did not consider it safe to make any statements on this matter.

    Email to BP Colleagues:

    Dear friends and former colleagues

    Please find attached a letter I have sent to the Gulf Daily News regarding the statement made by the Minister of Education regarding my “sacking” which was published by the GDN on 16 March this year.

    I have no great confidence that this letter will ever be published, but I have held my tongue too long and, now that Jane and children are safely out of Bahrain, I feel able to at least attempt to put the record straight regarding the outrageous lies contained in the Minister of Education’s statement. While my family was still in Bahrain we had a real fear (backed up by legal advice) that the arbitrary and capricious nature of the authorities in Bahrain might endanger their safety if I was to make any public statement. Given the extremely serious nature of the Minister’s accusations I felt that I had no option but to leave Bahrain on the very day of the publication of the Minister’s statement and I have not felt safe to return to the GCC since that date. Make no mistake, as a professional chartered accountant, these accusations against me are extremely serious.

    What I have not referred to in the letter, but which perhaps causes me the greatest sadness is the way in which some staff at the polytechnic and other members of the Bahrain community have so readily seemed to accept that there is some validity to these accusations and, in some cases, participated in circulating stories in support of them. Despite the fact that they emanate from a person and a regime which can not conceivably be seen to have any credibility at all. This is the same person who was responsible for expelling dozens of Polytechnic students for their heinous crimes – which of course were untrue – and the suspension (and in some cases imprisonment) of fellow Bahrain Polytechnic staff members for equally spurious reasons.

    And yet when this same person accuses Polytechnic executives of “huge irregularities” and says that he has sacked them, some staff and others appear to revert to a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” approach and happily exchange stories that support this line. Just a couple of these stories which I have heard that I can categorically deny are:

    1. the Polytechnic paid John Scott for copyright or some other form of payment for his photos which were used around the Polytechnic. I even heard a figure of BD30,000 mentioned! Absolutely untrue. Ironically, this wasn’t even a matter that was in the audit reports – it is a complete fiction. I can state categorically that John received no payment whatsoever for the use of his photos. The only Polytechnic payment related to these was to local Bahraini companies to print and frame them. I assume they still hang on the wall of the Polytechnic as possessions of the Polytechnic.

    2. the Polytechnic paid for Lorraine Webber’s farewell at La Fontaine. Sounded like quite a party – I’m sorry I missed it. But I know for a fact that the Polytechnic did not pay for it!

    And what of these “huge irregularities” cited by the Minister from the audit reports. The auditors had a team of 10 people here for six weeks looking in detail at everything that had been done. There is not a single case of fraud or personal gain in any of them. Yes, we cut some corners on tender board bureaucracy – staff and students would not be sitting in the relatively good quality classrooms and offices they are if we had not. Yes some decisions were made which, with the benefit of hindsight and further information, were not the best. It’s called management – you make the best possible decisions you can on the information you have and you learn from your mistakes. This applies even more so in a start up environment. There was absolutely no personal gain in any of these matters. Yes there was the odd SMALL reimbursement made without a receipt – exactly the sort of issue that any audit report of any Polytechnic in NZ or elsewhere in the world would find and comment on regularly. Turn 10 auditors loose for six weeks in any institution in the west and I suspect you would uncover a similar range of issues.

    The closest true transaction to “personal gain” was the fact that the Polytechnic paid for the printing costs for some photographic books consisting of photos taken by John Scott. These were used as giveaways at a variety of Polytechnic events – for example many of you may recall them being given to students who answered questions at orientations and so forth. Let me be clear, John was not paid any money for these at all. The concern raised by the auditors was that the polytechnic had paid for the production of the books – and they were used only for Polytechnic PR purposes. This was the closest example that 10 people over six weeks could come up with of “corruption” at the Polytechnic.

    The fact is, of course, that we were just minor casualties of the political struggle overtaking Bahrain. The Polytechnic was an initiative of the Crown Prince and governed by his aid and ally Shaikh Mohammed. As part of the ongoing campaign to undermine the Crown Prince, the Polytechnic management and Board needed to be discredited and “brought under control”. Hence the replacement of seven of the nine Board members including Shaikh Mohammed, the CE of GPIC, the former CE of BAPCO, the one international representative and so forth. Were these people complicit in all this terrible corruption!

    So why did some staff choose to believe – let alone propagate – these stories of corruption? Sadly, I guess they are prepared to play into the hands of truly unpleasant people like the Minister of Education (and he is truly unpleasant – I have sat with him while he produces page after page of facebook entries from ordinary Polytechnic students simply expressing opinions, and demand that something be done about it!) in order to support their own little personal campaigns regarding perceived injustices at the hands of Polytechnic “management” or, even worse, because they see the opportunity to obtain personal benefit from the fall of others – no matter how unjustified that fall may be.

    I make no apology if I sound bitter. I am bitter. My professional reputation – which is very precious to me – was pulled through the gutter by a corrupt and vengeful government Minister, completely without justification. I was separated from my family for five months – ever fearful that they may be blocked from leaving the country or suffer some other injustice.

    But I am also bitter that a few of my former colleagues seem to have felt happy to revel in the “fall” of myself and my colleagues and in fact to take personal advantage of that fall. I have no hope that anything I say will have an impact on them, but I hope that you will understand, and believe, what I have set out above and understand the reason why I have taken some time to set the record straight.

    To those of you who are seeking to move on from Bahrain Polytechnic I wish you well. For those who are choosing to stay on for the students, I wish you good luck and sincerely hope that the tide will turn again.

  4. My name is Chris Gosling and I was formerly Chief Operating Officer at BP and one of the three “top officials” supposedly sacked by the Minister of Education. I have followed this blog with interest but have felt unable to comment up to now. I did not want to make an anonymous contribution but was unable to make a public comment while my family was still in Bahrain and thus at risk of retribution from the regime. Now we are all safely back in NZ, I can finally respond to the lies that have been told. I have attached to this message a copy of a letter I have sent to the GDN (which I have no confidence will ever see the light of day!) which sets out my brief response to the Minister of Education’s statement in March. Also attached is a message I have sent to a number of my former colleagues at BP which looks at just a couple of the specific allegations (more accurately termed “lies”) that have been made. I will let these statements speak for themselves, but I do want to comment on one issue which has really concerned me in reading this blog. First of all, I salute you Mike, your analysis of the political situation in Bahrain is spot on and I congratulate you on your courage in taking on the appalling UoB and the regime. But what I find really interesting and depressing is that even with your analysis and understanding, you (and I’m sorry, you too Jan) have allowed the totally unsubstantiated lies of the regime and its hacks about John, Lorraine and myself to sow doubts in your mind – and by doing so, you play into the hands of the regime. I honestly do not understand what you mean by “the very real failings” and can only assume that you have allowed yourself to be convinced by the unsubstantiated lies of the same people who suspended, sacked, arrested and tortured people based on similar lies. I’m sorry, I don’t mean this to be a personal criticism but I have found this to be salutory lesson. We seem to be so attuned to the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” cliche (or perhaps that “management” is inherently incompetent or corrupt!) that we accept there is some basis for statements made even by those who we know are complete liars. I guess, more charitably, we find it hard to accept that another human being could simply tell absolute baseless lies. And perhaps that naiveity is something we should be pleased to retain! Anyway I hope that the following statements will make it clear that there was no fraud, there was no “corruption”. Let me be clear, I’m not saying that I’m some sort of saint or charity worker! I was well paid for my job and enjoyed a good lifestyle in Bahrain and of course we weren’t some sort “perfect” managers. But we were all committed professionals who had a vision and passion to try to build an institution which would develop capable and independent thinking young Bahraini – clearly anathema to the current regime in Bahrain. Neither I, nor to my knowledge (and I would know!) any of my colleagues were responsible for anything except operating in the best interests of Bahrain Polytechnic as we saw them. Thanks again for your commitment Mike.

    Letter to GDN:
    Dear Sir

    On 16 March 2012 you published a statement from the Minister of Education regarding Bahrain Polytechnic. The article was headed “Three Top Polytechnic Officials Sacked”.

    I was one of the three “officials” identified in this article and I absolutely reject the allegations made by the Minister in this statement.

    I categorically deny that I was sacked or forced to resign from Bahrain Polytechnic. I resigned from my position as Chief Operating Officer as I had no confidence that the Polytechnic would continue to honour the terms of my employment contract. In addition, as a founding Executive member of the Polytechnic I could not countenance the changes instituted by the Minister of Education and his instrument, the now acting Chief Executive. The terms of my resignation were set out in a letter of agreement signed by the then Chairman of the Board of Bahrain Polytechnic HE Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al-Khalifa and included the full payment of my contractual entitlements up to the expiry of my contract.

    The accusations by the Minister simply represent his attempt to undermine the important and progressive work being undertaken by Bahrain Polytechnic to develop the young people of Bahrain and in particular to attack the governance of the Polytechnic which was providing enlightened and forward thinking guidance to the establishment of Bahrain Polytechnic.

    It is no co-incidence that shortly after the my resignation and that of the then Chief Executive, seven of the nine members of the Board of the Polytechnic including the Chairman and highly respected Bahraini business people were replaced by the Minister.

    I absolutely deny the allegations made by the Minister regarding “huge irregularities”.

    At no time during my five years at Bahrain Polytechnic did I or, to my knowledge, any other executive obtain any payment or benefit beyond employment terms and conditions or business related reimbursements. All actions made by me and, to my knowledge, other executives were made at all times for the best interests of Bahrain Polytechnic and without any personal financial gain.

    All business decisions were made based on the best available information, in accordance with normal management practice and for the benefit and development of Bahrain Polytechnic, its students and staff. As in all operations and in particular with start up organisations, many decisions were made on limited information and procedures were fast tracked to ensure that staff, facilities and resources were in place to provide quality education for our students. However, I reiterate that at no time were decisions made other than in the perceived best interests of the Polytechnic.

    I sincerely hope that the Polytechnic may continue with its mission and that its students will enjoy the benefit of a quality education, however I strongly suspect that that is unlikely under the current Minister of Education and the leadership of the Polytechnic.

    Given the severity of the allegations against me published in your newspaper, I hope that you will have the common decency to publish this brief response.

    It should be noted that my resignation agreement included a confidentiality requirement. However, in light of the outrageous accusations made publicly by the Minister, I have advised the current Chairman of the Board that I consider that the Polytechnic has breached this agreement and I believe that I have no alternative but to publicly set out my position.

    I regret the long delay in responding on this matter, however my wife and children have only recently left Bahrain and until they did so, I did not consider it safe to make any statements on this matter.

    Email to BP Colleagues:

    Dear friends and former colleagues

    Please find attached a letter I have sent to the Gulf Daily News regarding the statement made by the Minister of Education regarding my “sacking” which was published by the GDN on 16 March this year.

    I have no great confidence that this letter will ever be published, but I have held my tongue too long and, now that Jane and children are safely out of Bahrain, I feel able to at least attempt to put the record straight regarding the outrageous lies contained in the Minister of Education’s statement. While my family was still in Bahrain we had a real fear (backed up by legal advice) that the arbitrary and capricious nature of the authorities in Bahrain might endanger their safety if I was to make any public statement. Given the extremely serious nature of the Minister’s accusations I felt that I had no option but to leave Bahrain on the very day of the publication of the Minister’s statement and I have not felt safe to return to the GCC since that date. Make no mistake, as a professional chartered accountant, these accusations against me are extremely serious.

    What I have not referred to in the letter, but which perhaps causes me the greatest sadness is the way in which some staff at the polytechnic and other members of the Bahrain community have so readily seemed to accept that there is some validity to these accusations and, in some cases, participated in circulating stories in support of them. Despite the fact that they emanate from a person and a regime which can not conceivably be seen to have any credibility at all. This is the same person who was responsible for expelling dozens of Polytechnic students for their heinous crimes – which of course were untrue – and the suspension (and in some cases imprisonment) of fellow Bahrain Polytechnic staff members for equally spurious reasons.

    And yet when this same person accuses Polytechnic executives of “huge irregularities” and says that he has sacked them, some staff and others appear to revert to a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” approach and happily exchange stories that support this line. Just a couple of these stories which I have heard that I can categorically deny are:

    1. the Polytechnic paid John Scott for copyright or some other form of payment for his photos which were used around the Polytechnic. I even heard a figure of BD30,000 mentioned! Absolutely untrue. Ironically, this wasn’t even a matter that was in the audit reports – it is a complete fiction. I can state categorically that John received no payment whatsoever for the use of his photos. The only Polytechnic payment related to these was to local Bahraini companies to print and frame them. I assume they still hang on the wall of the Polytechnic as possessions of the Polytechnic.

    2. the Polytechnic paid for Lorraine Webber’s farewell at La Fontaine. Sounded like quite a party – I’m sorry I missed it. But I know for a fact that the Polytechnic did not pay for it!

    And what of these “huge irregularities” cited by the Minister from the audit reports. The auditors had a team of 10 people here for six weeks looking in detail at everything that had been done. There is not a single case of fraud or personal gain in any of them. Yes, we cut some corners on tender board bureaucracy – staff and students would not be sitting in the relatively good quality classrooms and offices they are if we had not. Yes some decisions were made which, with the benefit of hindsight and further information, were not the best. It’s called management – you make the best possible decisions you can on the information you have and you learn from your mistakes. This applies even more so in a start up environment. There was absolutely no personal gain in any of these matters. Yes there was the odd SMALL reimbursement made without a receipt – exactly the sort of issue that any audit report of any Polytechnic in NZ or elsewhere in the world would find and comment on regularly. Turn 10 auditors loose for six weeks in any institution in the west and I suspect you would uncover a similar range of issues.

    The closest true transaction to “personal gain” was the fact that the Polytechnic paid for the printing costs for some photographic books consisting of photos taken by John Scott. These were used as giveaways at a variety of Polytechnic events – for example many of you may recall them being given to students who answered questions at orientations and so forth. Let me be clear, John was not paid any money for these at all. The concern raised by the auditors was that the polytechnic had paid for the production of the books – and they were used only for Polytechnic PR purposes. This was the closest example that 10 people over six weeks could come up with of “corruption” at the Polytechnic.

    The fact is, of course, that we were just minor casualties of the political struggle overtaking Bahrain. The Polytechnic was an initiative of the Crown Prince and governed by his aid and ally Shaikh Mohammed. As part of the ongoing campaign to undermine the Crown Prince, the Polytechnic management and Board needed to be discredited and “brought under control”. Hence the replacement of seven of the nine Board members including Shaikh Mohammed, the CE of GPIC, the former CE of BAPCO, the one international representative and so forth. Were these people complicit in all this terrible corruption!

    So why did some staff choose to believe – let alone propagate – these stories of corruption? Sadly, I guess they are prepared to play into the hands of truly unpleasant people like the Minister of Education (and he is truly unpleasant – I have sat with him while he produces page after page of facebook entries from ordinary Polytechnic students simply expressing opinions, and demand that something be done about it!) in order to support their own little personal campaigns regarding perceived injustices at the hands of Polytechnic “management” or, even worse, because they see the opportunity to obtain personal benefit from the fall of others – no matter how unjustified that fall may be.

    I make no apology if I sound bitter. I am bitter. My professional reputation – which is very precious to me – was pulled through the gutter by a corrupt and vengeful government Minister, completely without justification. I was separated from my family for five months – ever fearful that they may be blocked from leaving the country or suffer some other injustice.

    But I am also bitter that a few of my former colleagues seem to have felt happy to revel in the “fall” of myself and my colleagues and in fact to take personal advantage of that fall. I have no hope that anything I say will have an impact on them, but I hope that you will understand, and believe, what I have set out above and understand the reason why I have taken some time to set the record straight.

    To those of you who are seeking to move on from Bahrain Polytechnic I wish you well. For those who are choosing to stay on for the students, I wish you good luck and sincerely hope that the tide will turn again.

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