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Kuwaiti MP Abdulkarim Al-Kundari exits the room after announcing his resignation

KUWAIT CITY, April 30: Three Kuwaiti opposition MPs resigned on Wednesday in protest at parliament’s denial of their request to question the prime minister over allegations he gave cash handouts to lawmakers. Riyadh al-Adasani, Abdulkarim al-Kandari and Hussein al-Mutairi had filed a request last week to question Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah, in a move that could have led to his dismissal. They also blamed the premier — a senior member of the ruling family — for deteriorating public services in the country and took him to task for the temporary closure of two newspapers, claiming the move was aimed at stifling freedoms.

But in a rare move, parliament voted Tuesday to accept a government request that the grilling be scrapped on the grounds that most of the issues raised were not in line with the constitution. “I am submitting my resignation from parliament in order to safeguard the constitution,” Kandari said before walking out of a parliamentary session with Adasani, who made a similar announcement. Later, Mutairi wrote on his Twitter account that he too had decided to quit. Independent MP Safa al- Hashem, the only female lawmaker, said on her Twitter account that she would consult with her constituents before deciding. Under Kuwaiti law, the 50- member parliament has 10 days to study the resignations. If it accepts them, by-elections must be held within two months.

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim said no official resignation requests have been made by any member of parliament so far. Speaking to reporters following a parliament session, the speaker said should any MP come up with such a request, then he would handle the matter as per the constitution and the assembly’s charter. “Up till now, I have not received any official resignation request. Even if this happens, I will handle it in line with the constitution and the (National Assembly) charter,” he said.

However, Al-Ghanim said he respects the desire of any member of parliament to resign. The Parliament on Wednesday approved the report of the Legal and Legislative Committee on a draft bill to amend Amiri decree number 17/1959 regarding the Foreigners Residency Law in its first and second deliberations.

During deliberations on the bill, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said Kuwait welcomes foreigners who enter the country legally; adding these people live with honor and dignity.

He asserted those who attempted to enter the country illegally should bear the consequences of their act; adding that the expatriate community in Kuwait consists of 120 different nationalities. He affirmed the government fully supports the proposal to amend the law, especially after long years of revisions and evaluations. He called for cooperation to ensure that all foreigners staying in Kuwait entered the country through legal channels.

Meanwhile, MP Adnan Abdulsamad suggested reducing jail terms for foreign inmates in the Central Prison. He pointed out there is a pending agreement to allow foreign inmates to complete jail terms in their home countries. He said, “We have reached a point where foreign inmates enjoy their time in prison where they are fed, clothed and given a place to lay their head for free. It is better to deport them to continue serving prison time in their countries.” Agreeing with his colleague, MP Saleh Ashour cited an international agreement on the deportation of foreign inmates to complete prison terms in their countries. He said these prisoners can never pay penalty fee of KD 5,000 or more because they came to this country dreaming to earn such an amount.

However, MP Yousef Al-Zalzalah stressed the inmates and penalty fees are just tip of the iceberg as the issues are bigger than what most people think. He stressed the need to control the entry of foreigners into the country through appropriate channels.

MP Abdulhamid Dashti agreed on the importance of approving the proposed amendments immediately but this should be accompanied with steps to balance the population structure. MP Askar Al-Enizi admitted he is confused due the unnecessary debates on the bill, which has been undergoing revisions for several years. He does not see the need for further deliberation on the proposal since every aspect has been discussed, so he called for immediate voting on the bill. Minister of Oil and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs MP Ali Al- Omair said the government has approved the current amendments, indicating that the submission of additional amendments means further revision will be needed.

The Assembly then moved to vote on the bill with 34 out of 43 members present voting in favor. In another development, the Parliament approved the report of the Public Utilities Committee on the Environmental Protection Bill in its first deliberation. The Parliament agreed with Al-Omair to postpone the second deliberation of the bill until the committee studies the amendments recommended by the government.

Discussion on the panel’s report about the proposed establishment of the Public Authority for Transport was postponed until the next session. Moreover, in response to the request of some MPs; the Parliament discussed the Capital Markets Authority Law to clarify the government’s policy. MP Safa Al-Hashim demanded for a purely technical law on the authority, not political; in order to protect the image of Kuwait. She accused the head of the authority of inability to manage its affairs and failure to provide information to traders as is the case in New York Stock Exchange. She also stressed the need to amend the current law due to a number of loopholes.

She said the authority has no right to impose fines on the investors and it is unacceptable to ask an investor to pay a fine of KD3 million. She warned it will be difficult to attract foreign investors if the authority is run in this manner. MP Yakoub Al-Sanei pointed out that the Kuwait stock market index has always been red for the past six years, indicating the Capital Markets Authority Law was implemented even before the issuance of its executive bylaw. “When the people behind this move were confronted, we discovered that they used the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) Law, while those accused of wrongdoing were indicted based on the authority’s law. This is unacceptable because it was done to take money from the indicted person,” he added.

MP Yusuf Al-Zalazalah claimed the authority is imposing huge fines and fees on companies and traders and the money goes to its coffers for its own interest, instead of going to the government; particularly the Ministry of Commerce. He said the executive bylaw of the authority does not reflect the contents of the law, which serves only the interests of the authority’s executive members. He also refuted the allegation that MPs are pushing for the amendment to serve their own interests, stressing every stock market in the world has regulations except that of Kuwait.

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

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