Just when you think that Saudi Arabia is shedding its shackles of fanaticism what with a modern minded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, you are in for a rude shock. The crown prince rounded up 159 of the kingdom’s rich tycoons and held them captive at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel the previous month on charges of corruption. But how did things take off from here?
Young generation is impatient but to what extent? The detained tycoons were given a miss of a free trial and instead coerced into giving pots of money in exchange for their freedom? This is like taking ten steps back after coming forward two steps towards liberalism. Several announcements like permitting women to drive, allowing movie theatres to resume screening of movies from next year, spear heading anti-corruption campaigns, executing budget austerity and revealing ambitious plans for diversification of economy and reducing its oil dependence are quite exciting. However, his vision seems to be blocked by his obnoxious taste for opulence.
What else can one call it when the crown prince signs deal for purchase of 440-foot luxurious yacht costing $550 million from a Russian tycoon in 2015 and a luxury chateau costing about $300 million near the French city of Versailles. Not stopping at this there are reports from the Saudi government about the non-provision of $450.3 million dollars by the crown prince for the purchase of a Leonardo da Vinci painting, one of the most expensive art items sold in an art auction in recent times.
If the crown prince really needs to show that he means what he says then the best way would be to open the prison doors and set free all people imprisoned for their creativity and free expression of liberal thoughts. Immediate pardon for Raif Badawi, a blogger advocating a liberal Saudi society would definitely set the way!