SVG PM Gonsalves Defends Qatar Amidst World Cup Criticism of Human Rights Abuses

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves
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St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, is defending Qatar amidst criticism from some western countries over its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opened on Sunday and will run for a month.

Qatar is the first Arab country to host a FIFA World Cup competition.

“Qatar’s historic achievement in this regard is truly impressive for a small, though wealthy, Arab country.  It is a mark of the growing stature and influence of the State of Qatar in the global political economy,” Gonsalves said in a statement.

He said it is, therefore, “unfortunate, and prejudicial to global peace, security, and progress, that Qatar has faced unjustified, even deranged and unhinged, criticisms as hosts of the FIFA World Cup, emanating from some non-governmental organizations and ‘tabloid’ journalists located in North Atlantic countries such as Britain, the United States of America, and Western Europe”.

Gonsalves said the bulk of the criticism, “dressed up as high principle, is laced with Islamophobia, racism, anti-Arab sentiment, hypocrisy, and profound disrespect, derived from the notion that a small Arab country like Qatar should never aspire to global influence”.

He said critics sneer at, and mock, Qatar’s small population size of three million, of which only about 400,000 are Qataris.

Gonsalves said the rest of Qatar’s population are migrants, “who by and large, enjoy the host country’s hospitality.

“The truth is that Qatar is an amazing country that is soaring to higher heights!” said Gonsalves, who has made a number of official visits to Qatar, the latest being in February.

“Indeed, the unjustified and jaundiced criticisms of Qatar as hosts of the FIFA World Cup land the critics at a place where they seem to think that the only countries to be eligible to host the World Cup   are those which have a watered-down Christian heritage or no religious core values whatsoever, and which subscribe to a universal culture of atomized individualism (as distinct from that of an uplifting social individualism), nihilism, and a globalized culture of neo-liberalism amidst all its malcontents/discontents,” Gonsalves said.

“Thus, the State of Qatar is pilloried for its restrictions on alcohol consumption; its opposition to homosexuality, and sexual permissiveness; its stance against wanton abortion; its embrace of Islamic values unconnected absolutely to any form of homicidal violence; its tightly-knit family systems; its rejection of a future decreed by the cultural tsars of western modernity with their nihilistic project and jaundiced relativism; and its promotion of Arab nationalism within an appropriate universal space.

”He mentioned a “very high” Human Development Index (HDI) assessed by the United Nations Development Programme, a nominal, annual per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$83,000, ranked outstandingly at fifth in the world.

He further mentioned Qatar’s ranking as the “World’s Safest Country” and its establishment, consolidation, and expansion of the Al Jazeera network, a global communications entity.

Gonsalves said Qatar is a highly respected member of the international community which subscribes to the fundamental tenets of the Charter of the United Nations and a multilateralism of peace, security, and progress for all humanity.

He said people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines “celebrate the amazing spectacle and sporting excellence on display in Qatar at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“It is an obligation of the world’s peoples to join in this celebration as a contribution to global friendship, peace, security, and progress. To be sure, there are limitations and weaknesses in the endeavor, but let us not make perfection the enemy of the good.  The strengths and possibilities are immense,” Gonsalves said, adding, “we are sure that Qatar will continue to be magnificent hosts of World Cup 2022!”

He said his island has friendly relations with Qatar “although we do not have any practical bilateral programs.

“Our two countries work well together on global affairs in all the relevant international fora. Qatar is a force for good in our difficult and complex world.  We consider Qatar to be a friend of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  And we thank them yet again for supporting our country’s successful candidacy for the United Nations Security Council on which St. Vincent and the Grenadines sat as a non-permanent member in 2020-2021.”

“We are friends of all, we strive for a better world. Let World Cup 2022 go on without the mountain of humbug by the hypocritical critics.  St. Vincent and the Grenadines affirms its solidarity with Qatar,” Dr. Ralph Gonsalves added.

However, according to the UK’s  Guardian newspaper, an astounding and shocking 6,500 foreign guest workers may have died in the building of the Olympic site and other construction since 2012.

“More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian can reveal.

“While death records are not categorised by occupation or place of work, it is likely many workers who have died were employed on these World Cup infrastructure projects, says Nick McGeehan, a director at FairSquare Projects, an advocacy group specialising in labour rights in the Gulf. ‘A very significant proportion of the migrant workers who have died since 2011 were only in the country because Qatar won the right to host the World Cup,’ he said.

“The findings, compiled from government sources, mean an average of 12 migrant workers from these five south Asian nations have died each week since the night in December 2010 when the streets of Doha were filled with ecstatic crowds celebrating Qatar’s victory.

“Data from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka revealed there were 5,927 deaths of migrant workers in the period 2011–2020. Separately, data from Pakistan’s embassy in Qatar reported a further 824 deaths of Pakistani workers, between 2010 and 2020.”

Mohammad Shahid Miah
Mohammad Shahid Miah, 29, from Bangladesh, died when floodwater in his room came into contact with an exposed electric cable, electrocuting him.

“The total death toll is significantly higher, as these figures do not include deaths from a number of countries which send large numbers of workers to Qatar, including the Philippines and Kenya. Deaths that occurred in the final months of 2020 are also not included.

“In the past 10 years, Qatar has embarked on an unprecedented building programme, largely in preparation for the football tournament in 2022. In addition to seven new stadiums, dozens of major projects have been completed or are underway, including a new airport, roads, public transport systems, hotels and a new city, which will host the World Cup final.”

CMC/ GUARDIAN

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