This interview with Hamoud Al- Hamdan was conducted prior to the dissolution of Parliament by an Amiri decree. Former MP Hamoud Al-Hamdan has fi led again to contest the upcoming election in the Fifth Constituency. — Editor
SOME key achievements of the Human Rights Committee in the previous Parliament include the passage of draft laws on authorizing an independent national human rights agency, child protection and domestic workers, says MP Hamoud Al-Hamdan in an interview with the Arab Times. The lawmaker disclosed that the committee also pushed for the enactment of laws on uniting the nation to fight against racial discrimination and to promote the human rights of illegal residents (Bedouns). During the interview, Al-Hamdan did not focus on human rights alone, as he also talked about various important issues such as the educational standard. He urged the legislature to ratify laws obliging the government to develop the educational sector in order to meet the requirements of the local job market.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Question: How do you evaluate the performance of the government? Is there a need to replace some ministers due to their poor performance?
Answer: The government failed to meet expectations, so we hope it will work harder to have more achievements. It should help in enacting and implementing laws quickly. Even though the current government is better than its predecessor, it has yet to realize our big ambitions.
Q: Kindly describe the performance of the Parliament compared to its predecessors and its relationship with the government?
A: The Parliament has had a lot of achievements considering the number of important bills ratified during its tenure; including the Private Sector Labor Law, Domestic Workers Law, Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Private- Public Partnership (PPP), Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Public Tenders Authority and many more. On its oversight role, the Parliament, in cooperation with State Audit Bureau, intensified efforts to monitor the performance of ministries and other government institutions. We were able to lessen corruption and rectify mistakes.
I want to add that cooperation between the two authorities is always necessary but the question is the concept of this cooperation. Personally, I understand that cooperation is a threepronged concept as it includes transparency, combating corruption and proper implementation of laws. Cooperation must be based on these values, without them there will be no real and fruitful cooperation.
Q: Whenever people start to see MPs grilling or threatening to grill ministers, they think the relationship between the two authorities is not good. Is that the case now, considering many interpellation motions were submitted just a few days before the Parliament resumes?
A: I must emphasize that grilling should not be regarded as a parliamentary weapon against the government, as it is rather a constitutional tool for lawmakers to perform their oversight role efficiently. Relations between the two authorities should be based on Article 50 of the Constitution, which stipulates the need for cooperation to better serve the country and its citizens. However, cooperation between the two authorities turned sour due to underperformance of some members of the government who faced the grilling threat.
Q: There are speculations that the current Parliament will be dissolved soon due to grilling requests submitted against several ministers. Are you still optimistic that this Parliament will complete its four-year legislative term?
A: Until now, all that is said about the dissolution are mere speculations, even though there is tension between the two authorities which shows the Parliament might be dissolved any moment from now. Dissolution of Parliament comes when the two authorities reach a deadlock and can no longer cooperate.
Q: The government decided to increase fuel prices despite the objection of MPS, do you consider this the beginning of conflicts between the two authorities?
A: The government ignored the Parliament and took a one-sided decision to increase fuel prices which negatively affected the citizens and expatriates. There are other means to generate revenues besides oil. We want the oil prices to be ‘unfixed’, meaning they should be open and determined by the law of demand and supply. This is what we agreed upon during the parliamentary Financial Committee meeting but the government ignored that as it went ahead with fixing and increasing fuel prices.
Q: As a member of the Human Rights Committee in the Parliament, kindly discuss the committee’s tasks and its achievements.
A: It is an ad hoc committee tasked to safeguard the human rights and dignity of citizens and expatriates. One of its main functions is to review related laws, especially those on prisons to ensure that human rights and dignity of inmates are respected. It also monitors the performance of government institutions and departments to guarantee compliance with human rights regulations and it works with civil society organizations to raise public awareness on human rights. The committee strengthened ties with international agencies, parliaments and human rights organizations in a bid to exchange information and experiences as well as to monitor human rights violations worldwide. The important achievements of this committee include the passage of a draft law authorizing an independent national human rights agency, in addition to laws on child protection and domestic workers. It also worked towards the passage of draft laws to foster national unity in the fight against racial discrimination and promote the human rights of illegal residents (Bedouns). It plays a key role in monitoring human rights violations in Kuwait.
Q: Do you think the Domestic Workers Law can solve the problems of domestic workers and their employers as well as the human trafficking issue?
A: I believe this law will satisfy both the employers and the employees. It stipulates establishment of a company for recruiting domestic workers and this will help stop human trafficking.
Q: In May 2016, the committee met the European Parliaments Delegation for Relationship with Arab Peninsula. What did you discuss at the meeting?
A: We tackled humanitarian and political issues but the meeting focused on Domestic Labor Law, human rights legislation, Kuwait’s humanitarian role, related international agreements, refugees and ways to provide humanitarian aid to these people. We also talked about the humanitarian role that Kuwait plays and the naming of HH highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as international humanitarian leader. During the meeting, the committee demanded for activating the European humanitarian role to match that of America and Russia in terms of protecting human rights, ensuring stability in the region and preventing foreign interference.
Q: The country is facing deficit in its general budget due to the oil price decline, as 92 percent of Kuwait’s revenues come from oil. What is the alternative for oil? Is the governmental measure to lift subsidy on some essential commodities and services a step in the right direction in terms of facing deterioration of the economy?
A: The government can solve this problem not only through rationalization of expenditures but also by finding alternative sources of income instead of relying on oil. In fact, our government has started rationalizing expenditures. Nevertheless, the most important step is to look for non-oil sources of revenues so we do not totally depend on oil.
Q: As rapporteur of the Educational Affairs Committee in the Parliament, how do you describe the educational standards in this country? Are they suitable for the current job market?
A: The educational process is moving towards the wrong direction due to lack of proper planning. Therefore, the educational output has been unable to meet the requirements of the job market. As lawmakers, we have to enact laws to oblige the government to develop the educational sector such that it covers the needs of the labor market.
Q: Is there a link between fl aws in the educational process and the budget?
A: No, budget is not the problem. The educational sector has the biggest annual budget in Kuwait with about KD 1.8 billion. The problem lies in management and planning.
Q: With only one university in this country, in addition to Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET); is there a plan to increase the number public education facilities in order to address problems in the academic sector?
A: To solve education-related problems like low academic standard and lack of admission slots, measures are being taken at the parliamentary level. The Education Affairs Committee in the previous legislature had a plan to work on passing a law regarding the establishment of government universities in many key areas, instead of branches of faculties.
Q: Finally, please elaborate on your parliamentary program for the country and its people?
A: In my opinion, every MP like me has a program but it should include ideas and visions which are in line with that of my colleagues in the same bloc. We strongly support issues related to ethics, economy, protection of public funds, infrastructure, other development projects, and alternative sources of national revenues which generate job opportunities for our youths.
Consequently, big national projects, no matter how high the costs are, will be accepted if they could bring more revenues for the country. These projects include oil derivatives production, industrial plots and residential cities. All these projects have the potential to create job opportunities for Kuwaitis who are not skilled in the petroleum sector. Such projects must be implemented for the country to enjoy revenues from non-oil sources.
On ethics or morals, we must understand that Kuwait is an Islamic and Arab country so there is enormous pressure to effect change due to the influence of modern mass media on our morals and values. We call for the preservation of our values by teaching them to our children through the ministries of Education, Information, Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. I strongly support this move as a way to address negative features of modern social media.
Biography: MP Hamoud Al-Hamdan was born in 1962 and holds a master’s degree in Islamic Sharia. He worked as a school teacher and was a member of Kuwait Teachers Society. During the July 2013 election, he won eighth place in the Fifth Constituency with 1,716 votes. He was a firsttime MP and belongs to the minority Al-Khalidi tribe. He is also affiliated to the Islamic Salafist Bloc. He served as rapporteur of the Educational Affairs Committee; member of the Economic, Financial Affairs, Women and Family committees; and was elected as chairman and rapporteur of the Human Rights and Amiri Address committees respectively.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim
Arab Times Staff