MUSCAT (AFP) – Omani protesters demanding a clampdown on corruption in the Gulf state maintained vigils Monday despite the sacking of two ministers and pledges to create jobs.
A sit-in at the Earth Roundabout in the industrial city of Sohar, north of Oman, entered its ninth day with activists demanding the sacking of more ministers for alleged corruption, a protester said.
Another crowd has maintained an anti-corruption sit-in outside the consultative council in Muscat, the sultanate’s equivalent of parliament but without legislative authority.
The army dispersed the vigil in Sohar on March 1 after protesters blocked the entrance to the city’s port, but the sit-in resumed shortly after.
“The peaceful sit-in continues for the ninth consecutive day,” said the protester, adding that a crowd of around 200 people at the roundabout during the day swelled in the evenings to about 2,000.
Protesters in the normally placid sultanate insist that their demands are confined to reform and a crackdown on corruption, without challenging the legitimacy of Sultan Qaboos, who has ruled Oman for four decades.
“Omani people are demonstrating peacefully only for reform, and not to topple the regime,” he said.
One protester was killed in clashes between police and demonstrators in Sohar on Sunday.
Sultan Qaboos on Saturday sacked two ministers in response to protesters’ grievances.
More cabinet members are expected to be removed, as the regime moves to contain popular unrest amid a wave of regional pro-democracy demonstrations that have swept the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia from power.
The sultan also announced the creation of 50,000 new jobs and a monthly allowance of 150 riyals ($390, 283 euros) for registered job seekers.
He ordered the formation of a ministerial committee to draw up proposals to meet calls for the consultative council to be given more powers.
Last month, Oman raised the minimum wage for nationals working in the private sector from $364 to $520.
Mass demonstrations also threaten the regimes of Bahrain and Yemen while Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is facing an armed insurrection.
Oman guards the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world’s oil shipments pass, and Muscat is a key Western ally in the region. Iran borders the waterway’s northern flank.
Meanwhile, some 200 employees at Oman Air staged a sit-in on Sunday outside the national carrier’s headquarters, demanding higher salaries and promotions, a union official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
The company promised to study the demands and respond by Tuesday, he said.