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Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah
PM trashes Barrak show-and-tell - Documents fake, says Speaker as MP ‘PROBE RALLY LYING, MENDACITY, DECEIT, FALSEHOOD’

KUWAIT CITY, June 11: The Parliament held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss allegations made by the opposition against the judicial authority and some high-ranking government officials. This came after the Popular Labor Movement — an opposition group headed by former MP Musallam Al-Barrak — organized a rally Tuesday night at the Erada Square to purportedly present documents to prove the involvement of certain influential people in corruption and other irregularities. Due to the incident, MPs Abdullah Al- Turaiji, Abdul-Hameed Dashti, Nabil Al- Fadel, Kamil Al-Awadhi and Jamal Al- Omar requested for the emergency meeting while the Assembly was discussing the proposal to amend some provisions of Law Number 7/ 2008 on the Build-Operate- Transfer (BOT) system.

The Assembly unanimously agreed on obligating the concerned authorities to prepare a lawsuit supported by documents, statements and recordings. It also presented a recommendation for the State Audit Bureau to receive citizens who could be in possession of documents related to the issue during the annual recess of the Parliament. Considering this new development is an urgent matter, the Assembly decided to allot more time for its discussion, which started with HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak confirming he received documents which allegedly prove the extortion activities of some high-ranking government officials. He said he reviewed the documents and realized they are not even worthy of investigation.

Since the minister of finance is more knowledgeable in these matters; he left further comments to him. The MPs then took turns in urging the government to clarify its stance on the accusations and identify those who gave the documents. They stressed the importance of revealing the truth at this point, for insults and accusations are being hurled against all three authorities, up to the extent that individuals like Constitutional Court Head Faisal Al-Morshid are being targeted personally.

The government had no solid response to these parliamentary requests and National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim took his place amongst the MPs, for he was one of the MPs who requested time to speak. Al-Ghanim firstly asserted that as a Speaker, he is obligated to take the neutral road on matters at hand.

Referring to the seat of the Speaker, he said “if that seat will force me to be silent in times of need, then to hell with it. I stand here as a fellow MP because the people of Kuwait are in danger.” He added he does not blame the hundreds of citizens who thronged to Erada Square, because they have been deprived of the truth while their hearts are filled with fear and anger due to what they have been hearing, such as the alleged governmental extortions and scandals.

Moreover, Al-Ghanim stated that since the government is not doing its part in keeping the public informed and in promoting transparency, he has taken it upon himself to disprove the documents. He thanked the honorable and hardworking people who have been toiling since the documents were disproved. “We can loudly say that these documents are fake,” he asserted. First, he pointed out that one of the account numbers were blacked out and replaced with a new one, which allegedly happen to be the same number in a different account with a different balance.

Second, two of the disclosed transactions were that of two different people with the same telex number, while the font styles and sizes were inconsistent all throughout the documents. According to the Speaker, the dissolution of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the United Kingdom was announced in April 2013, yet some of alleged transactions were dated after the dissolution; thereby, invalidating all documents which Musallam Al-Barrak claimed to have been verified by FSA. He lamented Al-Barrak even defined FSA to the public as the “Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the UK”, which is not true because the FSA was in charge of regulating financial services in the UK. He added this only shows Al- Barrak does not know anything and is just blindly doing what he is told to do. He concluded by challenging anyone who claims they can prove governmental extortions and other malpractices to the concerned authorities to unveil the truth. Al-Ghanim’s disclosure confirms the statement of the finance minister and state minister for cabinet affairs that the documents are just spreadsheets which contain names and numbers without signatures, stamps, seals or any form of validation; and some numbers don’t even have currency.

Meanwhile, speaking in his capacity as acting Minister of Justice, State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Al- Abdullah affirmed the government will take the necessary measures against those behind the unfounded accusations and insults. He said revealing fake bank accounts and balances is considered a violation of the Public Funds Law. The MPs also expressed anger over the attack on the judicial authority and called on the government, through the Justice Ministry, to file a case against those involved in such abuses and allegations. Some lawmakers asked the government to follow the system of other GCC countries where the authorities — legislative, executive and judiciary — have the final say and anyone who violated their instructions is sentenced to life in prison. Meanwhile, Higher Judicial Council chairman, Chief Justice Faisal Al-Marshad, noted in a statement issued today that he had apprised the office of the public prosecutor to look into “ the lying, mendacity, deceit, and falsehood” that sprung out of last night’s rally at the Erada square by an opposition group. He slammed some of the speakers at the rally for slandering the judiciary and defaming them by disparaging the work they do for the benefit of society. He decried attempts of those speakers at interjecting the nation’s judiciary in the midst of political wrangling and promised that their defamation of the judiciary would be handled to the full extent of the law by the office of the public prosecutor. He asked all those dabbling in public issues to exercise care and seek veracity of what they claim to avert any legal backlash. The lawmakers think the incessant conflict between members of the ruling family is the main cause of political and social instability.

They then appealed to the ruling family to settle their differences among themselves in the interest of the country and its people. They believe the documents and figures related to the alleged money laundering and controversial transfers that were presented during the rally were all fabricated; otherwise, the opposition would have sent them directly to the Public Prosecution. They accused the government of being weak in terms of applying the law on lawless people like the opposition.

They urged the Kuwaiti people and the youths not allow themselves to be used by the opposition to undermine the judiciary. In another development, the Parliament discussed the report of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee on the proposed amendments to the BOT Law and decree Law Number 105/1980 on the State property system. MP Ahmed Al-Mutei Al-Azmi insisted that BOT should not be changed to public-private partnership (PPP) system as proposed by some lawmakers. He also rejected the proposal to extend the period from 40 to 50 years, stressing the need to take into consideration his proposal to amend the bill. He warned if the current version of the bill is passed, the country will freely give its properties to the people and it will be at the losing end, even if the bill does not mention the market value of State-owned lands.

MP Saadoun Hammad Al-Otaibi said the current BOT Law is flawed and it has prompted foreign investors to go to other countries like Dubai. He also stressed the need to attract more iron industries as there is only one operating in the country now. MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan pointed out the people of Kuwait have been divided into two — those who support the BOT Law and those who oppose it. He said the scary part of the law is that it does not guarantee the companies will be beneficial to the citizens whose interests must be protected. He added he does not want to see Kuwait with these malls and complexes built at the expense of the citizens, many of whom are unemployed. He alleged only traders and businesspersons are benefiting from the law. MP Jamal Al-Omar claimed the BOT law does not serve its purpose because it does not encourage healthy competition amongst investors.

He pointed out some companies benefit from the law and others benefit by violating it due to the government’s failure to implement it properly. He called on Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh to apply the law on the violators of the BOT system. MP Adnan Abdulsamad stressed the current BOT system is just ink on paper, because the companies usually request for extension once the period specified for the implementation of their projects ends rather than the government taking over as per the law. This bill was supposed to be approved in its first reading but was cut short due to the emergency session and discussions in this regard will continue in the next two weeks.

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

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