CAIRO: The defense and national security committee at the People’s Assembly convened Wednesday evening and criticized the government for its policy towards Sinai.
Committee members chastised the government for what it perceived to be neglect of the governorate regarding the area’s development and MPs raised questions over the possible reasons for this neglect.
Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that in the sessions, independent MP Kamal Ahmed said, “Is the non-development of Sinai up until this moment related to national security and the worries of it being reoccupied by Israel, or has the government been lax?
Muslim Brotherhood MP Essam Mukhtar also criticized the government for the severe deterioration of the relationship between the residents of Sinai and the police due to the numerous raids and arrest campaigns carried out against them.
Tagammu party leader in North Sinai Ashraf El-Hefny told Daily News Egypt that the extensive security campaigns did not readily translate into more security for the residents of Sinai.
“Despite the emergency laws which are often in use here, there are major security lapses, especially in Al-Arish. People are robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight, so what is the point of the emergency law in that case? he said.
Some MPs were more mocking in their tone, saying that the government knows nothing about Sinai except the song by acclaimed singer Shadia, “Sinai has returned to us, and Egypt is celebrating.
The MPs comments echo those coming from the residents of Sinai themselves, who have long spoken about their mistreatment at the hands of security forces and the repressive conditions in which they live.
There are some 1,000 Sinai Bedouins currently behind bars, arrested in mass raids under the emergency law. Sinai activists have spoken against the harassment of Bedouin merchants carrying wares along the Suez Canal under the pretext of fighting smuggling along the Gaza Strip and reducing the debt on Bedouin farmers.
Possibly the greatest barrier to development in Sinai is its residents’ lack of ownership for their homes and land they cultivate, El-Hefny said, adding that the government had made its choice, and that choice was to not develop Sinai.
“The infrastructure for development is ownership, which doesn’t exist for the residents of Sinai, El-Hefny said. “Also, providing services such as water and using the natural gas that goes to Israel almost for free. It is being sent from Sinai when it should be used here.
“This is all in the government’s hands and their choice is to not develop Sinai. Development is easy if the government chooses so, he added.