I was not surprised when a number of decision-makers drew my attention to the draft law which was submitted to the National Assembly to regulate charity work which also calls for imprisonment and fine for those who doubt its work.
This is not because I am a legislator, or an activist and can stop the bill, but because I was one of the most obvious critics by making a statement throwing a hint here and there and writing about the violations and abuses committed by these charity societies and had exposed the practices of some of them for the past quarter of a century. This is in addition to other colleagues, who have refused to remain silent in the face of the ‘Ali Baba’ practices.
It is very strange that in time of transparency, governance, rule of law and civil liberties, openness to the world and efforts to develop the personality of a Kuwaiti, a minister submits a draft law requiring the citizen to donate to charities, even if he sees the wrongdoings of these charities, or faces imprisonment or a heavy fine, or both, as if the charity societies prevent the citizens from criticizing their work, whoever he/she may be.
There is no doubt in the mind of any sane person that the charity work needs to be regulated by a law because the draft law that has been submitted is the most eloquent response to the current situation and the positions adopted earlier by us.
If the conditions of these charities were normal, it would not be necessary to issue such a draft law and submit it to the National Assembly in such an urgent manner.
We do not disagree with many of the articles of the draft law, but it is illogical and unfair to completely shut the door in the face of criticism of some to these charity associations, which do not differ in any word from other public benefit associations but they need to be controlled and they are open to criticism more than the others because they are most secretive in their work, and most cautious when it comes to disbursement of funds. They also are able to collect funds in violation of the instructions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.
Therefore this draft law is tailored to add a halo of quasi-holiness on their work, and I do not think these associations are more important than banks, which take care of the money of hundreds of thousands of clients, depositors and shareholders.
These banks may be disastrously affected and collapse in the face of rumors about the shortage in liquidity, however no similar draft law was tailored to prevent criticizing these banks or doubt their work and if this happens, the existing laws are enough to address any defect or infringing on their reputation.
The current penal law is overflowing with its articles and charity work. We have criticized the behavior of many charities in the past and none of them were prevented by any party from filing lawsuits against us, but to a large extent they have been silent because there is no truth in what they say or do.
The last criticism was directed at an association that helps patients for acquiring dozens of commercial sites outside the hospital buildings, and have turned them into a source of income for them but they handed over their management and profits to influential personalities who have publicly admitted to the charges.
Is the disclosure of such violations considered to be suspecting the charity work worthy of imprisonment? What about the Hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet) that says: ‘He who remains silent about truth is a dumb devil’.
Do the government and the legislator want us to be dumb devils?
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf