KUWAIT CITY, June 20: Kuwaiti lawmakers have approved sweeping changes to the country’s sports laws likely to prolong bans imposed by international football and the Olympics.
World football’s governing body FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Kuwait in October over laws that allow government interference in sports.
Several other international federations have also blacklisted Kuwait, which risks missing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
Sports organisations have demanded Kuwait amend its laws to prevent interference, and Kuwaiti parliamentarians voted 40 to six on Sunday to repeal all sports laws approved between 2007 and 2015. Kuwaiti sports legislation from 1978 was reactivated but with amendments, including giving the government the power to dissolve sports clubs and federations, as well as Kuwait’s Olympic Committee. Sports bodies can challenge dissolutions in court under the law.
During debate, several Kuwaiti lawmakers said it would not satisfy the country’s critics. “This legislation is not a solution because it does not end the sanctions against Kuwait. Under the law, the government has bigger control over sports,” independent MP Khalaf Al- Enezi said.
This law “is a dangerous indication of the government’s interference in sports and could prolong the suspension,” MP Saleh Ashour said. Kuwait officials have blamed Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, one of the most powerful men in sport, for the Gulf state’s isolation from international competitions.
In a lawsuit launched in January, authorities accused the sheikh – a member of the FIFA executive committee, a top International Olympic Committee member and head of Asia’s Olympic body – of deliberately causing the suspensions.
Several lawmakers repeated the allegations against Sheikh Ahmad during Sunday’s debate, also laying blame on his younger brother, Sheikh Talal, the chairman of Kuwait’s Olympic Committee. “For how long will Sheikh Ahmad and Talal continue to undermine Kuwaiti sports?” asked MP Abdullah Al-Turaiji.
Speaking to Parliament, State Minister for Youth Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah denied any government interference in sports. “The suspension will end when the head of the Kuwait Olympic Committee tells international bodies that there is no complaint and there is no government interference in sports,” he said. “If the law does not achieve the lifting of the suspension, it will at least not reward federations that contributed to the imposition of sanctions,” the minister said.
The new bill stipulates financial allocations in the budget of the relevant ministry to support sports institutions in line with the rules and criteria to be defined by a ministerial decision. The institutions will conduct their activities within the general policy laid down by the concerned ministry. The bill states that a sports club is managed by a board of directors and it has a general assembly.
The statute will identify the formation, as well as domains and powers. A club member is not allowed to have the membership of another club. No board member is allowed to do an additional job in the club.
A member of the club’s general assembly is allowed to vote for only one candidate in the board of directors elections. In case of candidates receiving the same number of votes, there will be a draw lot to declare the lone winner.
No one is allowed to be a member of more than one board of directors in a club or federation, the Olympic Committee or the Public Authority for Sports. If this happens, the member is given a grace period of 10 days to choose and in case he fails to do so within this period, it will be regarded as he chose the recent post and resigned from the old one.
The bill gives the general assembly or concerned minister the authority to dissolve the board of directors of a club. This will be done through a causative decision, followed by the formation of an interim committee which will take over the board’s powers in line with the statute for a renewable period of six months. Dissolution happens if the board violates any of the provisions of this bill, the club’s statute or resolutions, memos or bylaws of the Public Authority for Sports. This decision is also taken if it is deemed beneficial to the club and its members.
Also, a sports dispute between a club and relevant federation should be referred to the Olympic Committee. After announcing the committee’s decision, each party will be given 15 days to appeal. A dispute between a sports federation and the Olympic Committee must be referred to the competent minister whose decision is final and can be challenged only in court.
Article 30 of the bill states that with-out prejudice to any more severe penalty stipulated in the Penal Code or any other law; whoever is proven to be engaging in activities under the name of a sports institution but contradict the objectives for which the latter was established, disrupts sports activities, spends money on something far from the objectives of the institution or uses its funds on financial speculations or causes financial loss to the institution, will be imprisoned for not less than a year and not more than three years and fined KD 5,000 to KD 10,000 or any of these penalties.
The Parliament, in its special session on Monday, approved the budgets and final accounts of nine government institutions for fiscal 2016/2017.
These institutions include the Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR), Public Authority for Youth and Sports (PAYS), Public Authority for Minors Affairs (PAMA), National Assembly, Kuwait Municipality, Public Authority for Printing and Publication of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, Public Authority for Direct Investment Promotion, Public Authority for Partnership Projects between the Public and Private Sectors, and Capital Markets Authority (CMA)
According to the report of the Budgets and Final Accounts Committee, the projected expenses of PAAAFR amounted to KD 95,110,000 and the revenue is KD 6,681,000; the estimated expenses of PAM amounted to KD 17,974,000 and revenue of KD 92,000;
National Assembly’s expenditures are estimated at KD 57,971,000 and revenue of KD 190,000; the projected expenditures of the Public Authority for Printing and Publication of the Holy Quran and Sunnah amounted to KD 3,068,000 and revenue is KD 9,000; the estimated expenditures of the Public Authority for Direct Investment Promotion reached KD 5,418,000 and revenue of KD 22,000; the expenditures of the Public Authority for Partnership Projects between the Public and Private Sectors are projected at KD 3,020,000 and revenue of KD 350,000; Kuwait Municipality’s expenses are estimated at KD 210,581,000 and revenue of KD 30,000,000; and CMA’s expenditures are estimated at KD 14,147,336 and revenue of KD 47,726,608
Meanwhile, PAYS’ estimated expenses for fiscal 2014/2015 reached KD 96,499,962 and revenue of KD 841,909 while its expenses for fiscal 2016/2017 are estimated at KD 94,555,000 and revenue is KD 550,000. During the discussion on the budgets and fi nal accounts of these institutions, MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan pointed out that the Assembly has been a beacon of inspiration in terms of administrative reforms.
He asserted this is a clear indication that the Assembly has been vigilant in performing its tasks, setting priorities and refuting the alleged misappropriation of public funds. He said the detractors of the Assembly claimed that the budget of the parliamentary TV channel ‘Al-Majlis’ is KD 20 million but it has been proven that the budget is only KD 2,150,000.
Chairman of the Budgets and Final Accounts Committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad affi rmed that the Assembly addressed all comments regarding its budget, stressing this is as per the statement of the State Audit Bureau not the committee. MP Khaleel Abdullah asserted questions have been raised on almost every governmental body, citing the Public Authority for Youth and Sports (PAYS) whose income is estimated at more than half a million Kuwaiti dinars while its annual budget is KD 100 million. He stressed this authority should be earning from everything it executes, indicating this issue is not exclusive to PAYS as the same goes for almost every governmental body.
He added the PAAAFR is facing the same issue, considering its estimated revenue is six percent of almost KD 100 million budget. He claimed the PAAAFR does nothing but allocate land and lower the prices of eggs, disregarding one of its vital roles — ensure food security. He asked, “What will happen if we were to experience war and the borders are closed?” He went on to say the same scenario is seen in Kuwait Municipality whose expenditure is estimated at KD 200 million but the revenue is only KD 30 million.
Responding to the comments of lawmakers, Minister of Public Works and State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Ali Al-Omair confirmed that he noted all concerns voiced out during the discussion. He argued no country is selfsufficient when it comes to food security, as the closest a nation could achieve is a healthy ratio between local produce and imported goods.
Moreover, the National Assembly approved in its first reading the report of the Education, Culture and Guidance Affairs Committee on the proposal to amend the Civil Service Law to increase the retirement age to 75 years old for preachers and Imams of mosques, bathers of dead bodies and doctors; as well as the faculty members of Kuwait University (KU), Public Authority for Applied Education and Training (PAAET) and Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR).
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff and Agencies