Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tunisian government closes schools and universities, Ben Ali promises jobs

 Protesters set fire to a police station in Kasserine on Monday

Tunisia's education ministry announced on Monday that all schools and universities in the country would remain closed until further notice."Following violence in universities and lycees, and while awaiting an investigation to establish who was responsible for inciting students, we have decided to stop all the lessons in all educational establishments ... from tomorrow, Tuesday, until further notice," Tunisia's TAP news agency quoted the education ministry as saying.
The same day president Zine al Abedine Ben Ali made a live television appearance in which he promised that 300.000 new extra jobs will be created.  The president also described the ongoing protest as 'terrorist acts' and vowed to deal with those involved.
'Violent incidents, sometimes bloody, which have killed civilians and caused injuries to several officers of the security forces, have been perpetrated by masked gangs who have attacked during the night, to public institutions and even assaulted citizens at home, in a terrorist act that cannot be tolerated,' Ben Ali said. .
'Incidents were committed at the instigation of parties who have not hesitated to engage our children among the students and unemployed youth. These parties, which incite violence and go out into the street, spreading hollow slogans of despair and fabricating  misleading and erroneous information, have dishonestly exploited an incident that we all regret and a state of understandable despondency occurring in Sidi Bouzid, for two weeks.'
(...) 'These incidents are the work of a small group of hostile elements who are offended by the success of Tunisia and who are are filled with resentment and grievance, because of the progress and development achieved by the country, as evidenced by the reports of institutions and international and UN organisations known for their objectivity and impartiality.These ill-intentioned elements have used the issue of unemployment, exploiting an isolated act of desperation, as happens in all societies and in many situations.
To those who are deliberately harm the interests of the country, abuse the credulity of our youth and that of our daughters and sons in schools and colleges or incite unrest and agitation, we say, quite clearly, that the law will have the last word. Yes, the law will have the last word.

We continue to be attentive to the concerns of all. We are working to address the collective and individual situations and strengthen our programmes in employment and the fight against unemployment, without compromising our efforts towards improving the level and quality of life or question the prosecution of higher wages, without interrupting a round of negotiations to another.
We decide that:
First: double the capacity of employment, create revenue streams, diversify and strengthen the areas in all specialties over the years 2011 and 2012 through a major extra effort from the state and public sector by the combined efforts of the private sector, banking, and international cooperation of all parties concerned. This is for the hiring of more unemployed than other university graduates among the unemployed in all categories and all regions.
This effort will also reduce by the end of 2012 (Yes, before the end of 2012. I commit myself), all university graduates whose duration of unemployment has exceeded two years. The total capacity of job creation during this period and will reach to 300,000 new jobs.(...)

Ahmed Najib Chebbi, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, however, contradicted the official statements that the police have been firing in self-defence. 'The demonstrations were non-violent and the youths were claiming their rights to jobs, ' he wass quoted by Al-Jazeera English. Chebbi said 27 people were killed in demonstrations on Sunday, and another 12 on Monday. The government sofar maintains that 14 people have been killed..
"The funeral processions [for those killed on Sunday] turned into demonstrations, and the police fired [at] the youths who were at these ... processions," Chebbi said.
Reacting to Ben Ali's remarks blaming the violence on "terrorists", Chebbi said that Tunisians were "claiming their civil rights, and there is no terrorist act ... no religious slogans". He accused the president of 'looking for scapegoats'. Chebbi also dismissed Ben Ali's announcement about 300,000 extra jobs. 'The people do not believe in promises,' he said. 'What does this mean? How will these jobs be created?'

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