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Egypt’s Engineers Demand Elections
During a conference held last week at the headquarters of the Press Syndicate engineers struggling to have the judicial sequestration imposed on their own syndicate in 1995 lifted called upon other professional syndicates and human rights groups to join in their battle. Before the conference a symbolic sit-in was staged in front of the Press Syndicate, attended by members of other syndi
Friday, April 14,2006 00:00
by Mona El-Nahhas, Al-Ahram Weekly

During a conference held last week at the headquarters of the Press Syndicate engineers struggling to have the judicial sequestration imposed on their own syndicate in 1995 lifted called upon other professional syndicates and human rights groups to join in their battle.

Before the conference a symbolic sit-in was staged in front of the Press Syndicate, attended by members of other syndicates and human rights activists keen to show their solidarity with the engineers. "Lift your hands from professional syndicates," the demonstrators chanted.

The conference is due to be followed by three rallies, the first of which will take place tomorrow at the Engineers’ Syndicate.

The moves follow the questioning by Ahmed Moharram, court-appointed custodian of the Engineers’ Syndicate, of the legitimacy of the general assembly, held last February and attended by 5000 engineers. Ironically, Moharram had chaired the general assembly and was present throughout its meeting.

Minister of Irrigation Mahmoud Abu Zeid, in his capacity as the syndicate’s sole supervisor, denies being informed of any of the assembly’s recommendations calling for an end to sequestration and the holding of fresh elections.

Omar Abdella, a member of the seven-man committee formed during the assembly and charged with following up on the implementation of the recommendations, suggests that the minister refused to accept a copy of the recommendations. "The engineers then appealed to the prosecutor-general to officially hand the minister a copy of the recommendations," says Abdella. "Unfortunately, engineers working for government bodies who voted for the recommendations of the general assembly were then pressured to retract their signatures."

During last February’s assembly engineers had called upon Hanaa El-Mansi -- the head of the judicial committee charged with supervising professional syndicate elections, in which more than 300,000 engineers are entitled to vote -- to set a date for staging fresh elections within three months.

"Until now El-Mansi has done nothing," said Abdella, adding that the engineers are currently examining the possibility of prosecuting him for failing to abide by the recommendations of the assembly.

The February general assembly set 19 May as the date for the engineers’ next assembly.

The vague position adopted by the both the minister and the custodian, though, is not making the holding of the 19 May assembly any easier.

"It doesn’t matter to us. We are going to hold the assembly even if we are obliged to meet in the street. We are not going to wait for government approval," Abdella said, adding that nobody has the right to doubt the legitimacy of their general assembly.

"From now on engineers will not allow the state to interfere in the syndicate’s internal affairs," Mohamed Ali Beshr, another member of the committee, said. He described the current impasse as an example of political thuggery.

According to Beshr, a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood who held the post of the secretary- general before the Engineers’ Syndicate council was dissolved, members will continue their struggle and use all legitimate means until they restore the syndicate’s independence.

As the next step in its struggle the committee says it will publicise its plight among international human rights organisations and international and regional engineering unions.

Weekly demonstrations are also planned at the headquarters of the Engineers’ Syndicate to protest against the state’s insistence on prolonging the judicial sequestration and the on-going delay in holding fresh elections.

"The committee may also stage a general work stoppage to pressure the government to respond to their demands," said Beshr.


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