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Elected government not good for Kuwait Parliament has restored language of dialogue

“FREEDOM is not absolute. Freedom is governed by agreements, international human rights, the constitution and laws. Gathering, street marches or parades are considered illegal if they are done in conflict with public order and morals. This means whoever insist to go on with unlicensed and unauthorized demonstrations or marches would not be tolerated even by the international bodies from which the Kuwait Constitution deserves most of its provisions as well as the international media which always put restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression”, says MP Abdul-Hameed Dashti on the freedom of speech and gathering in Kuwait. 

Question: The Opposition led by former MP Musallam Al-Barrak recently organized a rally at Erada Square and presented documents indicating billions of dollars of public funds had been stolen by some members of the ruling family. The opposition also attacked the judicial authority and the current parliament which they demanded its immediate dissolution. They also demanded an elected government. What is your response to these accusations and is it possible to get out of this political crisis?

Answer: The annulled 2008 Parliament was the worse parliament so far; it was a destructive parliament, its majority opposition members have no believe in freedom, they do not believe in the constitution and the parliament charter or bylaws and they do not regard language of dialogue and the laws that they themselves enacted which indicate that these people have no elements and components of reform. So, when they present these documents, it was just an attempt to continue with their method of escalating political and social tensions and crises in the country so that they reach their objective of returning to the parliament again and demand its dissolution and resignation of the government as well as their demand of an elected government in violation of the constitution.
I have no doubt that this country can find solutions to its political crisis. First of all we must know that we live in a country governed by institutions and with three major authorities - Executive, Legislative and Judiciary ruling the people. Thus, the rule of law, drawn in good intention, should prevail. The current parliament had been elected in free and fair election by the people and its legislative term will complete in 2017 and today we have an established government that has a duty to take the initiative to reconcile different factions of Kuwait people including the opposition, the three authorities and other factions through holding a national conference and this initiative can be adopted by the parliament. This reconciliation conference will help us know exactly who and what disturbs and undermines our social fabric and by doing this, I am quite sure we will eventually find a lasting solution. 
However, for the opposition to disrespect the state of institutions, to attack its authorities, and to disrespect the people’s will by insulting MPs who were elected through free and fair elections and also attacking the parliament, all these don’t show their good and sincere intentions and we can derive from this that there is no real willingness on the part of the opposition to get out of this current crisis and this raises many questions and possibility of plots to destabilize the country as earlier warned by HH the Amir as well as the executive and the legislative authorities.
Q: When the Public Prosecution arrested and detained the opposition leader, Al-Barrak, for questioning him over his attack on the judicial authority, his supporters staged demonstrations and street protests demanding his release and other people arrested in this case. The Interior ministry violently clashed with them and fired tear-gas and water canon to disperse them and video clips and photos showed many people sustained injuries, some of which were serious. Does this indicate that the government is trying to prevent peaceful demonstrations and freedom of opinion and expression which is guaranteed by the constitution.
A: Freedom is not absolute. Freedom is governed by agreements, international rights and the constitution and laws. Gathering, street marches or parades are considered illegal if they are done in conflict with public order and morals. This means whoever insist to go on with unlicensed and unauthorized demonstrations or marches would not be tolerated even by the international bodies from which the Kuwait Constitution derives most of its provisions as well as the international media which always put restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression. Therefore, gathering at the Erada Square is basically meant to be used to express opinions in peaceful and legal manners with the attendance of all mass media so that opinion, other opinions and voices reach other people of the world.
However, when this values are missed and failed and you have small and limited gathering and marches trying to inflate their size by blocking roads, burning tires and damaging police patrols, all these riot activities are punishable by law. Therefore, what happened was illegal and the arrests made in this regard were due to violation of the law and not politically motivated. Thank God that in Kuwait there are a lot of authorized places such as Diwaniyas, Erada square and the Parliament where we gather and express our opinions in line with the public order and morals. Therefore, those who were arrested for violating the law will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Q: The parliament and the government held a meeting and convinced that some people are trying to spread fear in the country and that some NGO’s are involved in these sabotages. As a result, the government has taken steps by revoking citizenships of some persons and warned NGOs not to involve in politics. What is your opinion to this government measures and are these enough to resolve this crisis?
A: There is no doubt that after the parliament had taken a summer break of the second legislative round incidents are taking place and plots are running fast against the country. Therefore, it is the Amir of Kuwait who is responsible to take action to stop these plots and then the government and the parliament must agree to take measures to ensure peace and security for Kuwait and its people and stop any thing that could undermine the state’s entity.
The agreement that took place between the government and the parliament over the security of the country was to ensure that things are than in accordance of with the Constitution and the law in the state of institutions. The Judicial authority performs its duty by handling cases referred to it on those accused of breaking the law. But the role that is played by the legislative and the executive authorities is a responsible role in accordance with the Constitution and the law which is so far good to ensure peace, and stability and confidence return to the citizens. 
Regarding the issues of citizenship and NGOs, we have to know that the law has organized the works of NGOs for specific purposes and they are not permitted to involve in polities. There are political blocs which are not recognized or registered with the government. They express their opinion and they practice politics in accordance with the rights provided them in the constitution and there is no harm is this.
When a warning was issued to the NGOs that are licensed by the Ministry of Social Affairs, it was because they involved in politics and carried out practices that violates the law and this is the right step to be taken by the government. The violating NGOs must face penalty which include revoking their licenses in accordance with the law.
With regards to citizenship, we reject any tampering with citizenship of any citizen be it by origin or naturalization. Citizen who obtained citizenship through legal means and committed a crime, he must be sent to court as a Kuwaiti citizen. The maximum punishment is death penalty and if a citizen is sentenced to death, he must be executed and buried in Sulaibikhat cemetery where bodies of citizen are burried. 
For more than two decades now Kuwaiti people are demanding the authority and the government to open or review the citizenship file, because majority of Kuwaitis believe that the Kuwaiti social structure an its demography have been tempered with as there are hundreds of thousands who have dual citizenship and counterfeit citizenship. Therefore, if the interior ministry is interrogating anybody, the security apparatuses have right to open his file and if it is discovered that this person has obtained his citizenship legally then it should not be touched, but if his citizenship was newly granted or by naturalization and within 20 years, which is the probation period of showing loyalty to the country, if he is found to be having dual citizenship and did not relinquish the other one within three months period or acquired his citizenship illegally, then the authorities have the right to revoke his citizenship.
Q: In the wake of this political instability in this country, what is your advice to the authority on how to handle this situation and manage the country effectively? 
A: No doubt that establishing state’s sovereignty and protecting its dignity and its institutions through various available possible means in accordance with the constitution and the law, is a responsibility of the political leadership led by HH the Amir who is the head of the three authorities namely the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. Therefore, it is upon these authorities to work within their powers to ensure these things happened. This is because the working class of Kuwaiti people has the right to leave in a stable country and in peace and security, in a welfare country. 
This also includes applying the law without prejudice, non-use of force against peaceful demonstrators and allow everybody to practice their right of expression of opinions in a democratic atmosphere whenever these are used in accordance with the constitution and the law in a way that do not harm the public system or the public morals in addition to strict dealing with anybody who tries to undermine this principles. 
Q: The opposition also demanded dissolution of the parliament and it is known that the last parliament which was able to complete its legislative term was the 2003 Parliament to 2006 under the speakership of Jassem Al-Khorafi. Can this parliament complete its term despite the pressure from the opposition?
A: First of all, I would emphasize that anybody who thought he can dissolve this parliament then he is dreaming because there is no any justification or reasons to dissolve this parliament that has been elected with the will of people in a fair election. This parliament has established a stable situation in cooperation with the government during which numerous laws were passed and these achievements are being shown to the Kuwaiti public and expatriates as well through media and booklets. Thus,this parliament has all elements and abilities to continue its term to 2017 where new election will be held with one person one vote system which showed its positives.
This parliament has restored a language of dialogue and abided by the constitution and parliament’s charter. This is the kind of Kuwaiti parliament that people of Kuwait want and need. It is true that since 2006 there have been unstable situation and widespread corruption and unfortunately the majority of the opposition members of the annulled parliaments were those who brought us to this unstable situation which paves way for corruption and instability to spread. Some have been trying to undermine this parliament and bring about its failure but without avail and thank God this parliament has able to complete its first round of the legislative term and by the grace of God it will complete the remaining three rounds by 2017. 
Q: furthermore, the opposition has been demanding for an elected government. There are some MPs who agree that number of MPs should be increased from 50 to 70 and appoint more MPs in the Cabinet and would answer the question of this demand? What is your response to this issue?
A: Certainly, a request has been presented to the parliament to increases the number of MPs through amending the Constitution so that their number increases to 70 instead of the current 50 and the good intention behind such amendment is to fill in the ministerial portfolios because now there is estimation that it is impossible to form 16 ministers who are almost the one third of the members of the parliament and the number of ministries may sometimes increase which leads to merges among ministries. So if there are 70 lawmakers plus say 25 ministers, more MPs can be appointed in the government so that each minister is dedicated to his ministry.
However, there some who oppose this idea and reject any attempt of tampering with the provisions of the Constitution and prefer to leave things as they are. In my opinion, it a positive thing to include a number of MPs in the government and sometime ago we find that there were at least six ministers who were also MPs and this is not bad because originally the prime minister had to select his ministers from members of the parliament and then select others somewhere else. So I support expansion in appointing MPs as ministers even to six numbers.
As for those who are calling for an elected government, I totally reject that because it is a bad suggestion, in that the formula that we had in the first annulled parliaments included groups of MPs with despotic characteristics and imagine if one of those people is elected to be a prime minister he would have been the cause of depriving the minorities of their rights. 
Kuwait has a recognized custom of choosing its prime minister from the offspring of Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah who are qualified for the throne. This family are loved and respected by all Kuwaitis to be their monarch, and this family deserve to lead this country especially at this time when most of the countries in the region are experiencing instability and insecurity.
Q: In 2012 you presented a draft bill for the establishment of National Unity Authority for to deal with sectarianism. This bill looks similar to the one approved by the government two years. Why did you present such a bill and has the one passed by the government been put into effect?
A: In January 2014 after the court issued its verdict on the veracity of my winning the parliamentary election, I also presented a draft bill to toughen the national unity law to combat discrimination and apartheid because my previous bill did not cover this part and as a man of human rights and a man concern with public affairs and as a man of law, I decided to make additions to the law to prohibit all sort of apartheid against any Kuwaiti citizens and this bill has been presented to the Legislative Committee and I hope that it will be approved and be referred to the parliament. If this law is passed, it will treat all citizens equally and achieve all their rights and privileges stated in the Constitution without any discrimination. The law also incriminate and prohibit any undermine to the national unity, constitutional rights, religious beliefs, employment rights, property rights and other things. 
Q: The Parliament has recently passed the indemnity law in the government sector, why now and what are its benefits?
A: As a result of stumbles of the successive governments, flaws, mistakes and lack of justice and equality have been created among the state employees in the public and private sector, and in these departments there are some officials who appoint unqualified staffs and grant them privileges that they don’t deserve, while the qualified staffs who work hard in accordance with the law are being forgotten and this have brought a lot of flaws and we are now facing a bitter reality and most of the members of the so-called the annulled majority opposition were behind all these messes and flaws.
Today we find many segments of the employees who do not collect any fils after they end their service though they deserve pension after they are referred to retirement,while there are some who collects indemnity of million dinars, showing the difference and inequality between these two segments. So we need to stop this flaws and give equal treatment to those who are not treated fairly so far and should be done without tampering with the privileges that some have gained and without violating with the law and to this effect we started putting up vision to be implemented after it is passed as a with law effect from first of January 2015 so that anyone who is newly employed would be informed that after 30 years of service when he/she would be referred to retirement, he would get 18,000 dinar of indemnity, that is for those receiving minimum salary of KD1,000 and maximum salary of KD1,500.
Q: There are some who accused this parliament of trying to buy or gain popularity from the Kuwait public opinion by passing all sorts of laws including the latest controversial BOT law. What is your respond to this criticism? 
A: Actually a bill has to pass through various channels before it is finally approved by the parliament. for instance. Bills have to pass through various committees especially Legal Committee before they are put forward to the parliament floor for discussion and approval. Also there is a parliament observer who scrutinizes any bill with all objectivity. 
The fact is that there are some who don’t admire the good things and achievements that this parliament is doing. The current BOT law was born dead since 2008 when it was passed. This law has driven away local and foreign investors and there are no signs of any developmental projects under this law, but now this parliament has made some serious amendment to this law which encourage investors to come back. Even upon this achievement there are some who are saying the new BOT law has sold the state’s property to individuals and this is totally incorrect because the law has set up regulations and good provisions in the law that regulate BOT projects. This parliament is working to protect the public fund, respect the constitution and will never pass any law that would waste any state property.
Abdul-Hameed Dashti was born in 1954 and holds a PhD in Law and works as a lawyer in both of Kuwait’s Court of Cassation and the Supreme Constitutional Court. He is member in Kuwait Bar Association, Arab Bar Union, International Bar Association and the Arab Organization of Human Rights. Internationally, he held the position of President of the Geneva-based former International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights. 
Dashti was elected MP for the first time in the annulled February 2012 Assembly and was re-elected to the December 2012 Assembly with 2,723 votes in the first constituency. In the 2013 Elections, Dashti could not win a seat when he came in the eleventh place. However, Dashti challenged the election results and came back to the parliament in January 2014 after the court declared him a winner in the tenth position to replace former MP Masouma Al-Mubarak in the First Constituency. 

By Abubakar A. Ibrahim 

Arab Times Staff

By: Abdul-Hameed Dashti

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