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MPs vote to pull PM grilling request ‘Interpellation contravenes Constitution’

KUWAIT CITY, April 29: The Parliament, in its regular session Tuesday, voted to withdraw the interpellation request presented by MPs Riyadh Al- Adsani, Abdulkarim Al- Kandari and Hussein Al- Quwaian against HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al- Mubarak with 39 votes in favor of the withdrawal, 10 against and three abstained.

The three parliamentarians, who presented the grilling request, refused to vote citing violation of the law. With the majority voting in favor of the cancellation of the interpellation, it has become null and void. When Parliament Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim called for deliberation on the grilling motion, the government presented a request to withdraw the interpellation from the agenda because it contravenes the Constitution.

During debate on the withdrawal of the interpellation, the prime minister reaffirmed that Kuwait is a democratic country where the Constitution mandates the use of interpellation for supervisory and corrective purposes. He said he is not scared of the interpellation as he had already faced a lot in the past, but he argued the incumbent government has been in office for less than six months only; hence, it cannot be held responsible for the deterioration of the country in relation to the issues mentioned in the grilling request. He added the government is willing to cooperate with the Parliament in addressing flaws and mistakes. He then urged the legislature to focus on finding plausible solutions to the problems of the nation in order to achieve its goals. He asserted the success of the government is also the success of the Parliament. He went on to say the interpellation clearly violates the Constitution, which stipulates that issues other than the general policy should be directed to the concerned ministers; not the prime minister. He explained he rejected the interpellation not because he is afraid of it, but he wants to protect the country’s democracy and the Constitution; so he demanded for its withdrawal from the Parliament’s agenda. He pointed out the people of Kuwait expect the executive and legislative authorities to deliver, realize their aspirations and protect their interests; not to fight over personal issues.

Meanwhile, Minister of Oil and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al- Omair justified the request of the government to withdraw the interpellation request. He stressed the interpellation is flawed and it violates Article 100 of the Constitution which states that “every member of the National Assembly may subject the premier and ministers to interpellation on issues under their jurisdiction.” He also mentioned violation against Article 80 of the parliamentary bylaw which does not allow the inclusion of issues in interpellation motions if they were already referred to the relevant committee. He argued issues related to the Al-Zour power plant and Mishref sewerage plant should no longer be part of the grilling since both projects are being implemented by the government now; while those concerning the health and education sectors were discussed in previous interpellations. He also wondered why the prime minister should be grilled on the rising prices of commodities and distribution of land, considering the Constitutional Court had already clarified that the prime minister is only answerable to issues related to the general policy of the State.

In response to this, Al-Adsani insisted that unemployment, housing crisis and corruption fall under the jurisdiction of the prime minister. He cited Article 20 of the Constitution which stipulates that the prime minister is responsible for providing a comfortable life to the citizens, but this did not happen even if the annual revenue of the country is estimated at KD 32 billion. He said MP Abdullah Al-Tamimi had earlier issued a statement that all MPs are bribe-takers, so he must explain this or he will be considered a liar. He claimed Al-Tamimi collected money twice from the prime minister and this undermines supervisory work on the Cabinet. He added all the prime minister needs to do is to deny or confirm the allegation that other lawmakers have received money from him; otherwise, Al-Tamimi does not deserve to be a member of the Parliament.

Al-Adsani’s statement enraged Al-Tamimi who, in turn, called Al-Adsani a liar. Other lawmakers had to stop Al-Tamimi as he was moving towards Al-Adsani to attack him. Commotion ensued so the Speaker appealed to everyone to calm down; asserting that differences in viewpoints should not lead to abusing each other.

On the other hand, MP Sadoun Al-Hamad, in support of the withdrawal, argued the housing issue falls under the jurisdiction of the state minister for housing affairs. He lamented the proponents of the grilling have opted to take this step rather than praising the prime minister and state minister for housing affairs since the government has started distributing housing plots. He pointed out that the fact that Al-Tamimi had denied receiving money from the premier for his own benefit is enough reason not to raise the issue.

He wondered why the proponents of the grilling remained silent when former MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei collected money for charity. “Is it because Al-Tamimi is Shia and Al-Tabtabaei is Sunni?” he retorted. In the meantime, MP Adnan Abdulsamad said the Parliament has no right to decide whether the grilling is unconstitutional or not. He suggested referring the issue to the Legal and Legislative Committee or the Constitutional Court to ensure there is no bias in the decision. The oil minister responded that all issues in the grilling request were mentioned in the previous decision of the Constitutional Court; thus, there is no need to resort to the court again.

MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari clarified the interpellation is about the position of the prime minister, not the person; and the withdrawal request violates the Constitution. After withdrawing the interpellation request from the agenda, the Parliament approved the Consumer Protection and Zakat House Bills in their second readings. Both bills were then referred to the government for implementation. On the Consumer Protection Bill, the minister of finance said the Assembly should vote on the bill immediately since the two authorities have reached an agreement on all of its aspects and it is ready for implementation.

Rapporteur of the Financial Committee MP Mohammed Al-Jabri thanked the government for its cooperation and the Assembly for approving the bill. He pointed out an important bill like this has been waiting to see the light throughout the tenure of four consecutive parliaments and only the incumbent has taken the much-awaited step. On the Zakat House Bill, the Parliament passed the bill despite the objection of the Justice, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs minister on grounds that the representatives of the house have recommended more amendments.

On another issue, the Legislative and Legal committee submitted its report regarding the request to lift the immunity of MP Faisal Al- Duwaisan on the press misdemeanor case filed by Al-Dana Company. The committee rejected the request because the case had malicious intent and the Parliament took the same decision. Al-Duwaisan explained the company claimed that his statement regarding its cooperation with Israeli partners had negatively affected the business. He denied the company’s claim; asserting his statement had no impact on the latter. He added that as an MP, he has the right to practice his supervisory role. He stressed this case is merely an attempt to intimidate the MPs. He concluded, “No company or individual can threaten the lawmakers by filing cases with malicious intent.”

By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff

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