President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali made, on Monday afternoon, an address to Tunisian people which was broadcast by national “Tunisie 7” and “Tunisie 21” TV channels and by public and private radio channels.
Here is the full text of the address:
“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”
I address you today, inside the country and abroad, following the troubles and acts of vandalism that took place in some villages and cities in a number of interior regions, causing damage to public and private properties.
These violent, sometimes bloody events, which caused deaths among civilians and injuries among security officers, were perpetrated by hooded gangs that attacked, at night, public institutions and even citizens in their houses. This is an intolerable act of terrorism.
Behind these events are certain parties that have sought to involve our students and unemployed youth; that are inciting for unrest and for taking to the street, by spreading erroneous slogans of despair and concocting false news; and that have unethically exploited an event that we all regret and a state of despair that we understand, which took place in Sidi Bouzid two weeks ago.
We deeply regret the casualties and damages caused by these events, and we renew our compassion with the families of the deceased, God’s Blessing Be Upon Them, and of the injured. We share with them their pain and sorrow, and we express to them our sincere sympathy.
We also reaffirm our feeling of affection toward all our sons and daughters, without any exception or distinction. Investigations are currently under way to reveal the facts and conditions of these events and to identify those responsible for them.
these events are perpetrated by a minority of detractors who feel offended, anxious and outraged to see Tunisia achieve success, growth and progress, as testified to by all international and UN institutions and bodies known for their objectivity and impartiality.
Those ill-wishers exploited the issue of unemployment, by manipulating an isolated case of despair that can take place in all societies and in many situations.
Those mercenary detractors have sold their consciences to extremist and terrorist parties that are manipulated from abroad and do not wish any good to a country committed to work and perseverance; a country that draws its strength from the intelligence of its sons and daughters.
We have always invested in this intelligence, for we prefer to face challenges and difficulties with an educated people, rather than to seek an illusory security with an ignorant people.
Everybody is aware of the tremendous effort we are making to promote employment which we always consider as our most pressing priority. Everybody is aware of the great attention we offer to university graduates. As I have already stated, we are proud of their increasing numbers, and are striving to meet the challenge they pose.
For our educational choices are among the constant tenets of our civilisational and political project. Free and compulsory education is an irreversible principle, despite the high social and economic costs it entails. Higher education institutions are available in all regions of the country without exception, an irrevocable fact we are consolidating at each stage.
Our educational policy, much like our policies concerning the family, women, youth and children, and the State’s efforts to take care of vulnerable segments of society, to preserve the purchasing power, and to subsidise the prices of basic products, which costs the State budget over 1700 million dinars each year—Yes, 1700 million dinars—are a source of pride for us; and we are sparing no effort to further consolidate them, despite our limited financial and natural resources.
Our Programme for the current period, the 12th Development Plan and the specific programme for the promotion of interior, border and Saharan regions, all decided before those events, and the additional programmes we have adopted, are all aimed at addressing the problem of unemployment. They consolidate our ceaseless effort to achieve an equitable and balanced development for all regions and segments of society. They provide jobs and sources of income, give priority to members of needy families, and devote adequate programs for university graduates.
All these policies and programmes do match the policies adopted in the countries of the world which all suffer from employment.
For unemployment is not specific to Tunisia, and Tunisia’s situation in this field is not the worst in comparison with the other countries. Nothing is left for ill-wishers except to exploit cases of despair, to serve the purposes of rancorous parties, and to resort to hostile satellite channels.
To all those who seek to undermine the country’s interests or to mislead our youth, sons and daughters in primary and secondary schools and incite them to trouble-making and chaos, we clearly say: the law will have the final say.
We are continuously listening to the concerns of all. We are striving to address collective and individual situations. We are reinforcing our employment programmes so as to curb joblessness, while pursuing our efforts to improve living conditions and quality of life, and to pursue pay-increases without interruption from one round of negotiation to another.
We have decided the following:
First, increasing the employment potential and the creation of sources of income, diversifying their fields and enhancing them in all fields during 2011 and 2012, through a considerable additional effort by the State and the public sector, jointly with the private sector, the banking sector, international co-operation, and all the concerned parties. The aim is to provide jobs to the largest number of job-seekers who are not university graduates, and also to all jobless people in all regions and from all segments of society.
This effort will cover all university graduates who have remained unemployed for more than two years before the end of 2012 –Yes, before the end of 2012, and I commit myself to it. This will bring the total employment potential during this period up to 300,000 new jobs.
A few days ago, we gave instructions to the Prime Minister to meet with businessmen and with the Tunisian Union for Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, to prompt them to contribute to this effort, by recruiting nearly 4% of the cadres of their institutions from among university graduates, that is, nearly 50,000 new recruitments in all regions. They have favorably responded to our call, and we thank them for that. We also gave instructions to the Government so that it helps with the implementation and follow-up of this initiative.
Second, holding a national conference with the participation of representatives of constitutional councils, political parties, national organisations and the concerned civil society components, along with a number of academics and competences from all the concerned sectors, and representatives from the regions, to present their views and propose approaches, so as to further enhance employment and initiative and meet the expected job demands during the coming years. This conference will take place next month.
Third, giving a new impetus to the regional information by devoting daily airtime on national radio and TV to all governorates of the Republic, while reinforcing the network of regional radio stations and the written press in the governorates, and consolidating audiovisual production units therein, so as to consolidate this qualitative leap.
This will offer more spaces for the expression of the citizens’ concerns and ambitions, and closely reflect living realities in the regions.
Fourth, calling on the people’s representatives and members of the Chamber of Advisers, along with the central bodies in political parties, to increase their presence in their regions and their regular contacts with citizens, so as to listen to them and take care of the cases presented to them and refer them to the competent authorities so as to address them and find the adequate solutions.
In the same context, we renew our call to administrative officials at the regional and local levels, to develop the channels of contact with citizens, to listen to their concerns, and to facilitate the means to address their problems and smooth out the difficulties facing them, in co-operation with the concerned organisations and associative fabric.
Fifth, in addition to all the efforts that will be exerted to promote employment, I have decided to exonerate, over a ten-year period, any new job-generating project launched in the interior regions of development and whose managerial staff ratio exceeds 10%, from the tax on profits and from the employers’ social security contributions.
On the other hand, we call on parents and all citizens to protect their children from those agitators and trouble-makers, by offering them more care and sensitising them to the dangers of being manipulated and exploited by those extremist groups.
I take this opportunity to renew the expression of my thanks and consideration to my dear brother Muammar Gaddafi, Leader of the Libyan Revolution, for his kind initiative which has been highly appreciated by our people, which consists in facilitating the movement and activities of Tunisians in sisterly Libya and treating them like their Libyan brothers. This confirms the sincere fraternity and strong support we have always felt on the part of the Leader and the brotherly Libyan people.
These events can in no way weaken our determination,
nor can they undermine our gains. All parties should draw lessons from these events, while pursuing our progression with resolve and enthusiasm. For preserving Tunisia’s glory and invulnerability is a sacred mission entrusted to all Tunisian men and women.
Thank you for your attention.”