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Foreign Minister faces confidence vote; Irregularities at issue

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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 8: A total of 10 MPs signed the no-confidence motion against Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Muhammad after the National Assembly discussed the grilling motion that MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri filed against the minister during its ordinary session Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Al-Ghanim confirmed receiving the no-confidence motion. Voting on the motion has been scheduled for Feb 16, 2022.

Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Al-Nasser replies to interpellation motion by MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri

The MPs who signed the motion include Khalid Al-Otaibi, Hamdan Al-Azmi, Mubarak Al-Hajraf, Fares Al-Otaibi, Saleh Zeib Al-Mutairi, Marzouq Al-Khalifa, Ahmed Mutei Al-Azmi, Muhannad Al-Sayer, Muhammad Al-Mutair and Al-SaifiMubarak Al-Saifi. During the discussion of the grilling motion, Minister of Justice and State Minister for Nazaha (Integrity) Enhancement Jamal Al-Jalawi affirmed that the government has agreed to talk about the motion even if it is not in line with the Constitution and Assembly Decree. Al-Muwaizri and Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Muhammad were given one and a half hour each to present the motion and reply to the grilling points respectively. According to Al-Muwaizri, the report of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) unveiled the administrative and financial violations in Sheikh Nasser Al-Muhammad’s ministry.

He pointed out that all ministries were found to have committed violations, but those committed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot be compared to that of other ministries. He criticized the government’s announcement of support for Sheikh Nasser Al-Muhammad; indicating the minister may have gained the trust of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mesha’al Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the beginning, but what happened later is another issue. He cited the report of SAB that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not cooperate with the auditing team. He said this means the ministry is afraid that the truth will be revealed.

Impose He accused the ministry of wasting public funds when it did not impose the specified fines on contractors who delayed the completion of buildings for diplomatic delegations. He went on to say that SAB asked for the hospitality budget, but the ministry did not submit the related vouchers under the pretext that there are too many vouchers. He disclosed the ministry rented hotels at a total of KD 500,000 even if it owns several buildings. He also denounced the frequent travels of Sheikh Nasser Al-Muhammad, which cost a lot without any benefit. He said the ministry paid KD 12,000 to a company in South Korea, but the company did not provide any services; while KD 2.6 million was paid to a contractor for furnishing the Kuwaiti Embassy in Seoul, South Korea but the contractor did not carry out the job and he was not questioned. He revealed that a total of GBP 888,000 was transferred to the Kuwaiti ambassador in London as part of special expenditures according to a confidential document. He added a Japanese employee at the Kuwaiti Embassy in Tokyo, Japan refused to sign vouchers because they are illegal and she was punished when she decided to call the Public Prosecution in Kuwait about the issue. On the ministry’s failure to take care of Kuwaiti citizens abroad, Al-Muwaizri cited the disappearance of a Kuwaiti businessman in Romania in 2015 and the ministry did not take the necessary action to search for the businessman. He said a Kuwaiti family was forced to undergo quarantine in Australia without taking into consideration their right to privacy as the facility has open rooms and common toilets.

When the ministry did not respond to the complaint of the Kuwaiti family, they asked for help from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates which called the Australian authorities to allocate a flat for the family throughout their quarantine period. He also accused the ministry of violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Kuwait signed in 1996. He added the concerned committee at the United Nations (UN) recommended the amendment of Kuwait’s Law No. 37/2014 on the establishment of the Communications and Information Technology Regulatory Authority and Cyber Crimes Law No. 63/2015 but nothing has been done in this regard. Responding to Al-Muwaizri, Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al- Muhammad confirmed he is willing to clarify the points even if the grilling motion contravenes the Constitution and Assembly Decree. He argued that the motion does not specify incidents supported by evidence, yet he considers this an opportunity to explain gray areas.

He pointed out the lack of proof for the alleged wastage and squandering of public funds. If such allegations are true, the queries should have been forwarded to the concerned minister rather than filing a grilling motion. If Al-Muwaizri has evidence, he could refer the issue to the legal authorities; otherwise, he will be considered an accomplice as per the law on establishing Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha). The founders of the Constitution and those who created the Assembly Decree knew that it is improper to hurl accusations in a surprising manner, so they specified a period of eight days to inform the concerned minister about the grilling points for the latter to have enough time to prepare his response, the minister asserted.

He said the country has 106 diplomatic delegations around the world and it was too difficult to communicate at the height of the Coronavirus crisis, which affected the entire world. However, the ministry still managed to send letters to SAB in October 2020 and February 2021 including reports on its expenditures; along with the supporting documents that reflected the ministry’s commitment to protect public funds, he added. He disclosed the establishment of the headquarters of the Kuwaiti diplomatic delegation in Brunei was delayed due to Corona, so the contract was extended.

He said the contracts for the maintenance of air conditioning units and elevators in the main office of the ministry in 2018/2019 were approved by the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK), SAB and Financial Controllers Bureau (FCB).

On the administrative violations, he pointed out these violations were not clearly specified in the motion; yet he asked the concerned departments to revise all the administrative decisions issued in 2021. About the disappearance of Taher Al-Baghli in Romania in 2015, the minister affirmed that all citizens – from His Highness the Amir up to the youngest citizen – are concerned about the issue. He stressed that the ministry has been following up the case through continuous communication with the Romanian officials. He revealed a security delegation will travel to Romania in March to conduct a thorough investigation.

He highlighted the tremendous efforts that the ministry exerted in ensuring the return of Kuwaitis from different parts of the world within 15 days in compliance with the directives of HH the late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah despite the difficult conditions caused by the Coronavirus crisis. He also asked if protecting the political and security interests of the country is the sole responsibility of his ministry. He said Article 123 of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet shall exercise control and supervision over the interests of the State. It shall lay down the public policy of the government, shall follow its execution and shall control the operations in government departments.”

About the supposed violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he affirmed that Kuwait has always been committed to international agreements. He cited Article 70 of the Constitution: “The Amir shall conclude treaties by Decree and shall communicate them immediately, accompanied by relevant details, to the National Assembly. After ratification, sanction and publication in the Official Gazette the treaty shall have force of law. Peace treaties and treaties of alliance, treaties pertaining to State domains, to its natural wealth, to sovereignty rights, to citizens’ public or private rights, treaties relating to shipping and residence, and treaties involving the State Treasury in certain expenditure not provided in the Budget or involving an amendment to the laws of Kuwait, shall require, for their enforcement, an enactment of a law. In no circumstance shall the treaty include any secret proviso confl icting with its disclosed terms.”

He said Kuwait signed a total of 3,616 international and regional treaties, inquiring which of these treaties Al-Muwaizri was referring to and when the violation was committed. Al-Muwaizri then commented on the response of the minister, while showing a video of a party where people were seen singing and dancing in the premises of a Kuwaiti embassy. He highlighted the statement of a Kuwaiti ambassador who insulted the companions of Prophet Muhammad – Peace Be Upon Them – in public and in the presence of the ambassadors of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, adding that one of the ambassadors left the meeting in objection to such speech. He said the other ambassador was not punished even if his statement threatened national unity. He added another ambassador hired a Syrian, who was an officer at the Syrian intelligence unit, to receive correspondences – a threat to national security.

The minister told Al-Muwaizri that his ministry asked SAB to send a team to audit the budget of the diplomatic delegation in London and the ministry’s budget during the coronavirus crisis. He said a ministerial decision was issued to investigate all those involved in the video that the lawmaker presented. He concluded that such isolated incidents do not reflect the position of the ministry, asserting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs represents Kuwait. In addition, the Assembly approved two incoming letters on assigning the Public Funds Protection Committee to investigate the violations of Kuwait Credit Bank (KCB); as well as the request of MP Osama Al-Shaheen for the Legal and Legislative and Affairs Committee to refer the proposal to amend the law on establishing the Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) to the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee as a prelude to voting on the bill in the Assembly. The amendment is aimed at distributing some profits of PIFSS to the retirees, increase the minimum pension to KD 1,000 and increase the regular allowance granted to retirees. Meanwhile, the Assembly decided to postpone voting on the proposal to ease health regulations as a prelude to the return to normal life until the ordinary session slated for Wednesday. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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