Fujairah FNC member topped 20 other candidates in election

Gharib Al Saridi is not a vocal member in council, preferring to quietly discuss issues at his daily majlis in the mountains of Fujairah. Ill health curtailed his early membership of the council and he now feels it is time for others to take up the mantle. Ola Salem reports

Ghareeb Al Saridi after winning the FNC elections at the polling station in Fujairah Exhibition Centre. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // When Gharib Al Saridi found his name among the 130,000 residents in the electoral college in 2011, he knew he wanted to be a member of the Federal National Council.

Unlike his fellow elected council peers, Mr Al Saridi, who lives in the mountains of Fujairah, did not have a big election campaign. Even so, he was the most popular candidate in the emirate, wining more votes than any of his 20 competitors.

“It was not easy, nor was it difficult,” he said. “I and my group of close companions hold an [intimate] majlis almost daily. Around 20 people come a day. We sit and talk about life, religion and society.”

His attributed his success in part to the support of his tribe and a relative, Dr Sultan Al Moazzin, an outspoken former member of the council popularly known for his defiant nature in the council and who sought greater powers for the FNC.

“Dr Sultan Al Moazzin is a strong man, with a strong opinion,” Mr Al Saridi, 54, said. “He passed on some of his experience to me. But I am not the same. He insists on his opinion. Me, I’m an old man. I’ve seen a lot in my life. I like to consult others. I don’t like clashing with others.”

The soft-spoken former Armed Forces officer describes himself as a spiritual man with a love for nature. He believes it is always best to deal with issues diplomatically “even when I know I am right”, and away from the media spotlight.

After winning election, Mr Al Saridi looked forward to the first session, to be attended by the President, Sheikh Khalifa.

But to everyone’s shock, Mr Al Saridi suffered a heart attack and his participation was delayed by several weeks.

“I wanted to join the council [because] I thought ‘here is a way to serve people and the society’,” he said.

After he made a full recovery and claimed his seat, he was noted to be absent a few times from public sessions.

He insisted it was not down to illness, but because of his work on sustainable energy research.

On the council, Mr Al Saridi remains passive, but an attentive listener. Issues relating to retirement and pensions always grabbed his ear, he said.

“A lot of cases have come to our majlis in Fujairah,” he said.

“Being on the council has helped me to understand why the Government does certain things in such ways. Sometimes we would ask why they would do this or that. Now we understand.”

Many of the cases he has brought to council have been found to be long-standing issues in his emirate, including poor school infrastructure and poor medical services. An issue he has yet to speak up about was the vagueness of port borders with Oman, leading to the arrest of sailors.

“The two governments need to solve this,” he said.

But even so, he insists that problems are limited because the country’s rulers “have not left us needing anything”.

“All it is, is just wanting greater prosperity. The world is good, we are good, everything is good.”

While Mr Al Saridi is grateful to have been elected, he does not wish to return for a second term, preferring instead to give others the opportunity.

However, without stronger financial support to members, he fears other candidates might be sidelined by lack of funds.

The absence of transport support for members, particularly those coming from the Northern Emirates to the capital for sessions, has been a financial strain.

“The financial support is weak,” he said. “Only the rich might be the ones who end up joining the council.”