Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

May God have mercy on Sultan al-Khair | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has lost a great man; he was one of the pillars of Saudi Arabia since the launch of the state-building process following the unification of Saudi Arabia by King Abdulaziz, may God have mercy on him. I am, of course, talking about recently departed Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, may God have mercy on him.

Prince Sultan was a statesman and philanthropist; he was a man with an open heart filled with love who only wanted the best for people. He was involved with and well-informed about all the details of the Saudi state, he listened to everybody equally, and was unique in his compassionate conduct, as well as his wisdom as a statesman. I had the honor of accompanying Prince Sultan – as part of a Saudi media delegation – on a number of foreign visits, and I also had the honor of conducting two interviews with him after his appointment as Crown Prince. The first interview, an extensive one, took place in January 2007, whilst the second interview occurred in June 2008. Prince Sultan took a number of positions, that he did not reveal publicly, which displayed his noble nature, open heart, as well as his strong belief in the role of the media and the importance of transparency in dealing with public opinion.

When I had the privilege of meeting Prince Sultan at his palace in Jeddah to conduct the first interview, I was informed that he was behind schedule, and that he was supposed to leave to travel to Mecca shortly and so my interview with him must not be overlong. I shook hands Prince Sultan, may God have mercy on him, and he began to talk and time began to fly by; noticing the tension in my face, he asked me “is something wrong?” So I told him that I was asked not to delay him, and he smiled and said “take your time, finish what you were saying.” Throughout this interview, he did not object to any question or query, and listened to everything attentively.

Another time, his Royal Highness [Prince Sultan], during an official trip to Russia, met with a delegation of Saudi Arabian editors-in-chief at his residence in Moscow. This was during a time when a certain story was dominating the international and Saudi media, as well as public opinion. As soon as the discussion at Prince Sultan’s majlis began, a number of harsh criticisms were put forward about the Saudi media, whilst Prince Sultan, may he rest in peace, listened attentively. I asked Prince Sultan permission to respond to these criticisms, and he said “you are welcome”. To summarize, I responded by saying that officials find it easy to criticize the media, whilst it would be better if they cooperated with the media to clarify the facts and respond to the media’s questions. I also said it was necessary for certain parties to put official spokesman in place to address issues that affect public opinion, and I put forward the example of the Saudi Interior Ministry and how it – as an authority concerned with security and protecting information – has been more open with the media than other authorities.

Prince Sultan, may he rest in peace, listened attentively, and following my interjection spoke about the necessity of communicating with the media, and praised what he heard, as well as the experience of the Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, calling on other parties to operate in the same manner as this. Addressing all the editors-in-chief, he asked “if I asked a certain party or individual to respond to something you published, would you object to this?” Everybody responded, “of course not, this is a right” and so Prince Sultan, may he rest in peace, answered “in that case, continue with your work, and whoever fails to respond to your inquiries has no right to criticize or complain!”

This was Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, may he rest in peace! When responding to the media, he would listen and discuss, and accept give and take; his sole concern was the public good, and above all, serving his religion king, and homeland. May God have mercy on him!