World Bulletin/News Desk
A group of reformers within Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have downplayed threats by the party leadership to discipline them for petitioning President Hassan Omer al-Bashir to reverse a government decision to lift fuel subsidies that has sparked nationwide protests.
"The memo was addressed directly to the president and not to the party, so why does the party comment on it? Why do they give themselves the right to speak on his [the president's] behalf?" NCP reformer Osama Tawfiq told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
In a memo sent to al-Bashir late Sunday, 30 NCP officials, lawmakers, retired military officers and Islamists – including former presidential adviser Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani – called for reversing the decision on subsidies and for prosecuting those responsible for protesters' deaths.
Memo signatories asserted that demonstrators had not been allowed to "peacefully express their views in accordance with the constitution."
A copy of the memo was published on al-Attabani's Facebook page and widely circulated on social media.
Mass protests engulfed Sudan following a government decision early last week to lift state subsidies on fuel and several other commodities as part of a controversial economic reform program. The government also raised taxes on a number of consumer goods.
The move sent the prices of hydrocarbons and consumer commodities skyrocketing, instantly triggering demonstrations.
While activists say more than 100 people have been killed in the protests so far, Sudanese authorities put the toll at 33, including policemen.
The ruling NCP initially claimed that al-Bashir had received no such memo, dismissing the entire episode as "a rumor."
In a subsequent statement, however, the party's secretary-general described the memo as "nonsense," threatening signatories with disciplinary action.
"They contradict themselves," Tawfiq, the NCP reformer, told AA. "One time they're saying they didn't receive the memo and then saying the memo's signatories will be held accountable."
He criticized the tone of the NCP statement as "arrogant."
"For all these reasons, we are standing up and calling for reforms," Tawfiq asserted.
He went on to say that the government's new policies were "not institutional."
He noted that the decision to lift fuel subsidies had been issued on September 22 by the Oil Ministry – one day before the Cabinet meeting – and had gone into effect immediately.
According to Tawfiq, the move effectively sidestepped parliamentary approval.
"Our comprehensive political economic reform, which we call for, [aims] to separate the party from the government," said the reformist NCP member. "The party should not be funded by the Ministry of Finance."
Tawfiq underlined the need to fight corruption and hold corrupt officials accountable.
He went on to assert that the country was passing through a critical stage, warning that such decisions could represent a stepping stone for the further partition of Sudan.
"Sudan has many different ethnicities and political views, which could be grounds for potential partition," Tawfiq said.Last Mod: 30 Eylül 2013, 16:05