UPDATE: the members of the commission have just announced a group resignation and have dissolved the commission.
All members of the commission dealing with the revolution’s victims were kicking and screaming today about the plenary session held last Thursday, April 12th. “The purpose of the plenary was to discuss the revolution’s wounded and martyrs. Our people were waiting for the plenary to come out with something. Instead we came out with a bunch of representatives who were simply practicing politics – even the assembly’s president [Mustafa Ben Jaafar] has a lot to do with this, and holds responsibility for what happened – the simplest of issues were not dealt with,” said Kaouther Ladgham, a member of Ennahda. The morning session of last Thursday’s plenary was intended to discuss the martyrs’ dossier. Yet due to the April 9th events and the heightened tensions its caused, conversations quickly degenerated into polarized rhetoric.
The commission specially dedicated to the revolution’s wounded and martyrs meets once a week – while the “foundational” commissions meet three times a week, each Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Increased pressure was placed on the assembly this past week. The violent clashes between protesters and police forces on April 9th brought the issue back to the fore – this, along with the arrival of a delegation in defense of the wounded from Sidi Bouzid (who reached Tunis by foot), who were largely ignored by mainstream media.
The commission has largely been criticized for failing to address the issue head on and urgently enough. It’s been months since the ouster of the ZABA regime, yet most of the wounded remain untreated. Ladgham, the Ennahda representative from Tozeur, brought up the issue of psychological care as well. “Many of us are ignoring those who are suffering from psychological trauma after the revolution – including some doctors.”
Some members of the commission cited the lack of proper legal framework as the primary impediment to the commission continuing its work. Others cited the lack of administrative support on a local level. For instance, medical treatment vouchers have yet to be equally distributed in the regions.
More than anything though, the commission expressed a grave dissatisfaction with the powers allocated to it. There was an implicit threat that was present in today’s discourse of dissolving the commission if it is not given adequate capabilities in implementing its decisions.
“What is expected of us? Speedy decisions. The beginning of realizing our decisions. Generalizing our impact and making it more widespread – with the treatment cards, for example,” said Ladgham.
To a certain extent, the assembly members are helpless in facing a very intricate web of bureaucracy and corruption. Mohamed Brahmi, a member of the commission, spoke of a young Kasserine native (an underdeveloped, interior region) who went to a hospital in Soussa to receive treatment – only to be sent back to Kasserine. “The doctor told him that he must get his REM done in Kasserine, and then come back to Soussa. This is impossible – we do not have the necessary medical equipment in Kasserine,” he said.
The commission complained of being a ‘decor’ body – with no real powers and no real ability granted to it to implement any of its decisions. The commission’s president, Yamina Zoghlami, complained of not even having a space to speak with the wounded. “They come visit us yet due to the assembly’s administration, we do not even have a reception area. We stand in the halls – and of course this is perceived negatively by them [the visitors],” said Zoghlami.
However, it is most interesting that the complaints voiced at today’s commission meeting were only voiced after the increased level of pressure – and after the popularization of the issue in the media and the general public. What was the commission doing months ago? Did these issues not exist? Why the flood of excuses today, and why have the responsible parties not been questioned or even asked for help? The level of bureaucracy and the persisting inefficiencies on municipal and state levels is challenging for a centralized body such as the commission – that is undeniable. But what is inexcusable is the lack of action on the commission’s end in asserting its legitimacy and effectiveness, both within the Constituent Assembly and with the country as a whole.