Abdul Kareem El-Samarai: ‘Iraq used to be a wealthy country that had sound international standing'
During his short visit to Bangalore, Abdul Kareem El-Samarai, Iraqi Minister of Science and Technology, was keen on two things: understanding how public bodies were using technology to deliver services, and the technology and business infrastructure in the country's IT capital.
In a chat with The Hindu recently, Mr. El-Samarai stepped outside his role of technology minister and spoke on the socio-political situation in Iraq, its energy equations with the world, the recent wave of protests in the Arab world, and on the situation in Libya.
Quick to point out that there is no scope for unrest in his country, though there are issues over governance that are being sorted out — the lack of basic service delivery to the citizen and rebuilding in war-torn areas — there is political stability “for we have an elected government”. However, other nations in the neighbourhood must “slowly and surely” move towards democracy. This, he emphasises, should be led by the people, and not by “external interference or diktats”.
All that suffering
On Libya, Mr. El-Samarai pointed out that while his country supported the ‘no-fly zone' because the world saw Muammar Qaddafi was using tanks and heavy armoury against his people, he (and his government) does not support the military intervention or the NATO attacks. “We will never support what the foreign military forces are doing there. We have suffered because of it, and are still recovering from its aftermath,” he said. “I do not believe that a leader should stay for 42 years, especially when he is dealing so cruelly with his people. A large country, with a small population and natural resources in plenty, Libya was being misruled by Qaddafi. We support the voice of the people that are demanding his exit, but we do not support the meddling that is taking place there.”
His ministry, which chairs a national committee on e-governance, is a think-tank of sorts within the government, one that includes thinkers, scientists and technologists.
“My country used to be a wealthy country which had sound international standing, particularly when it came to social indicators. Unfortunately, because of the transformation era, or the war, a lot of the infrastructure has been demolished and dismantled. So we have now a situation where we are to invest all available resources to forget about this Iraq that went through such conflict.” He believes that science and technology, and research in alternative energy sectors in particular, will pave the way and lead this transformation. “It is a long [road] ahead of us.”