OMAN: Ruler reshuffles Cabinet, announces reforms as deadly protests rock sultanate
Oman's longtime ruler, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said, reshuffled his Cabinet over the weekend, changing six ministers, and ordered some social reforms amid rare deadly protests and growing unrest in the small Persian Gulf nation.
The decree, published on the website of Oman's state-run news agency ONA, said the reshuffle was done in the "public's interest," without elaborating further.
It came a day before two people were reportedly killed and 10 others wounded in clashes between demonstrators and security forces at a protest in Oman's largest industrial city Sohar on Sunday.
Omani TV editor Asma Rshid told CNN that the protesters were shot because they were setting cars and property ablaze.
"The police shot them because they burned shops and cars in Sohar," she said.
On Saturday -- the day the Cabinet reshuffle was announced -- hundreds of protesters calling for greater democracy and jobs blocked traffic at a mall and broke streetlights in Sohar, according to Reuters news agency.
Governments across the region, especially in the Gulf Arab countries, have recently rolled out packages and plans in an apparent bid to appease their populations following uprisings and anti-government protests in other Arab countries.
The absolute monarchy of Oman, where political parties are banned, is the latest country to be affected by the wave of unrest in the region. Sultan Kaboos has ruled the country since 1970, when he overthrew his father in a palace coup.
The Omani ruler's Cabinet reshuffle saw the replacement of six ministers, but all the longest-serving ministers reportedly will remain in their posts.
Aside from the Cabinet reshuffle, Qaboos also put out decreees boosting government grants for students at public universities and ordering the establishment of a consumer watchdog.
Earlier this month, Oman increased the minimum wage for nationals working in the private sector by more than 40%, to $520 a month, reportedly in an effort to improve living standards.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: The ruler of Oman, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said. Credit: Getty Images