Sheikh Nasser waves as he enters the Parliament
Call to sever ties with Damascus MPs want Syria out, walk on grilling delay

KUWAIT CITY, May 17: A total of 24 MPs have demanded the ouster of the Syrian ambassador to Kuwait and ending diplomatic ties with Damascus due to the alleged torture and killing of Syrians by their own government.

Islamist MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash, Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, Mohammed Hayef, Faisal Muslim and Falah Al-Sawagh held a press conference at the Parliament on Tuesday to ask the government to sever ties with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and expel the Syrian ambassador to Kuwait. They accused the Syrian government of committing atrocious acts against the people, including women and children.

According to the lawmakers, the Syrian government has detained around 9,000 people whose fates remain unknown. They said this government has also prevented the entry of humanitarian aid to Deraa, leading to people dying in their homes.

The organizers of the press conference also praised the Turkish prime minister for Turkey’s stand on the issue. Pictures of murdered civilians were displayed all over the conference venue as an expression of solidarity with the Syrians.

Such motions by lawmakers in Kuwait, whose parliament is the most outspoken in the Arab world, are not binding on the government, which has ignored political petitions by parliamentarians in the past.
Fifteen opposition MPs walked out of the Parliament Tuesday to protest the approval of the government’s request to delay the grilling of HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah for one year. 

This came after 37 members, including 16 ministers, voted in favor of the request, while only 10 voted against.  The government had earlier referred the grilling to the Constitutional Court, then the Parliament agreed on the postponement of deliberations on the grilling for one year, unless the court specifies a shorter period.

During the session, Parliament Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi gave the pro and anti-grilling lawmakers a chance to debate on the issue. MP Ahmad Al-Saadoun, one of the opposition members, argued that only the proponents of the grilling have the right to request for the postponement of deliberations. He said the government can refer the grilling to the Constitutional Court but it has no right to demand for delaying discussions on the issue.

Meanwhile, MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari believes the government’s request is merely a ploy to dodge the grilling. He said this gives the government the green light to continue its corrupt activities. He pointed out the Constitutional Court’s function is limited to the interpretation of articles in the Constitution, not the political interpellations, asserting a court verdict was issued in 2004 in this regard.

MP Salah Al-Mullah accused the government of violating the Constitution due to its demand for the postponement of the grilling. He urged the executive to refrain from using such tactics, especially in dealing with the grilling submitted by the National Action Bloc against Deputy Premier for Economic Affairs and State Minister for Housing and Development Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Al-Sabah.
MP Dr Waleed Al-Tabtabaei stressed the request of the government is unconstitutional, citing Article 173, which stipulates that the Constitutional Court should look into the constitutionality of laws and bylaws, not the interpellations. He said the delay must not exceed two weeks, or four weeks at the latest, through majority vote.

MP Mubarak Al-Waalan affirmed the government’s decision to refer the grilling to the court and delay discussions for one year is a clear violation of the Constitution. He is of the view that the executive would not have taken such a risky step without the support of the pro-government lawmakers. “We want the constitutional and legal experts to immediately take the necessary action to stop this malpractice and prevent the government from engaging in such acts again,” he concluded.

On the contrary, MP Khalaf Dumaitheer said the court is the only place for settling disputes between the government and Parliament; hence, there is no reason for his colleagues to worry about the request of the executive.

MP Dr Yousuf Al-Zalzalah stressed the need for the court to rule on the case to clarify all doubts, so everybody can focus on more important issues.

In the meantime, Oil Minister and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Dr Mohammad Al-Busairi recalled that the government expressed its willingness to cooperate with the Parliament at the beginning of the current legislative term. “The previous government faced seven or eight grilling requests and even some of them had been marred by constitutional doubts, the premier still agreed to stand on the podium and responded to all the queries adequately. Under the new government, we reaffirm every MP’s right to grill ministers but we will continue in this situation. The law is clear and we had to request for the postponement of the discussion because we are dealing with a series of grilling requests, not just one,” he explained.

State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Ali Al-Rashed confirmed the government is ready to face the grilling even if the court issues a decision to discuss it within a month or at the beginning of the legislative term.  He said the executive is keen on working harmoniously with the legislature, refuting allegations that it usually refers grilling requests to the Constitutional Court to dodge the interpellation. He added the grilling request is flawed so the government had to refer it to the court for clarification.

Moreover, some opposition MPs have started preparing for the submission of another grilling request against the premier.  MP Dr Faisal Al-Muslim said the Development and Reform Bloc, particularly MPs Dr Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, Mohamed Hayef and Mubarak Al-Waalan, will present the request on Sunday or earlier. He added this interpellation will focus on the alleged damage to the interests of Kuwait and neighboring countries.

In another development, the Parliament approved the public support bill in its first reading and referred it to the concerned committee to make certain amendments before presenting it for voting in its second reading.

The Parliament also approved in its first reading the proposed allowance for retired military and fire service personnel not covered by the existing pension program.

The legislature also asked the Financial Affairs Committee to study the real estate fund that the government intends to establish, while the Interior and Defense Affairs Committee was tasked to look into the government’s level of compliance with the Civil Defense Law. It also agreed on referring the Audit Bureau report on the Ministry of Social Affairs’ supervision of the Cooperative Societies Union to the government, which will in turn refer it to the Health Affairs Committee.

The Parliament also approved the request to allocate one hour of the session on Wednesday to discuss the procedures taken by the government to address the problems of Kuwaitis detained in Guantanamo Bay Prison.

OPEC member Kuwait, which sits on about 10 percent of global oil reserves, has been rocked by a series of political crises over disputes between MPs and the government.

The Gulf state has seen six cabinets resign and parliament dissolved three times since early 2006 when Sheikh Nasser, a leading member of the Al-Sabah ruling family, was appointed prime minister.

Kuwait is OPEC’s fifth largest crude producer and pumps 2.3 million barrels per day. Although it has amassed around $300 billion in surpluses due to high oil price, development has been stalled due to political deadlock.

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim - Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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