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Monday , January 30 2023

Senior cabinet ministers resign on stagnation

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DUBAI, Feb 16: Two senior Cabinet ministers in Kuwait submitted their resignations to the prime minister Wednesday, citing political turbulence and the impossibility of reform in the country. In a joint statement to reporters, the country’s defense and interior ministers decried their inability to achieve “the reforms and development that the Kuwaiti people deserve” and a national political atmosphere “full of quarreling.” It was not immediately clear whether the prime minister would accept their resignations. Their defiant move threatens to plunge Kuwait’s government into further chaos at a time of deepening gridlock between the Amir appointed Cabinet and elected National Assembly.

Kuwait’s rowdy parliament, a rarity in the autocratic region of Arabian Gulf sheikhdoms, has held up key social and economic reforms while hauling in ministers for questioning about matters related to corruption. Kuwait bans political parties but gives parliament power to pass and block laws, question ministers and submit no-confidence votes against senior officials.

Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali and Sheikh Ahmed Al-Mansour

Defense Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber al-Ali Al Sabah and Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmed Mansour al-Ahmed Al Sabah, also members of Kuwait’s royal family, criticized the lengthy and frequent interrogations as an “abuse” of the constitutional powers granted to lawmakers. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Muhammad survived the no-confidence motion filed against him, as 23 MPs voted against the motion and 21 voted in favor during the special session of the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Some MPs after the renewal of confidence in the Foreign Minister

MP Hassan Jawhar delivered a speech as representative of the supporters of the no-confidence motion, while MP Hesham Al-Saleh represented the other side. MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri, who grilled the minister last week, was given 15 minutes to deliver his speech and then he requested for emptying the Assembly Hall in order to present a video which he declared confidential. Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim issued an order to evacuate the hall.

The open session then resumed for the MPs to vote on the motion. In his speech, Jawhar pointed out that Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al- Muhammad did not give a clear reply to the first item of the grilling motion. He said this item is very important, because it concerns public funds and the future of Kuwait.

He added that in the last 10 years, around KD55 billion was taken from the Public Reserve Fund and a large percentage of the amount went to public expenditures. He disclosed that many corruption cases were filed in courts and Kuwait Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha), while several others are included in the reports of the State Audit Bureau (SAB).

On the second item of the grilling motion – administrative violations uncovered in Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), Jawhar asserted the fund has contributed to strengthening Kuwait’s relationship with most countries; but this is no longer the case as it is being used to serve personal interests. He stressed the need to stop dragging Kuwait into international political blackmail.

Commenting on the media campaign claiming that grilling is a political execution tool against ministers especially those belonging to the ruling family, Jawhar said this is not true as all the ministers who were grilled and lost parliamentary confidence were appointed to high positions. On the contrary, the real political execution targeted opposition figures like former MPs Musallam Al-Barrak and Bader Al-Dahoum. MPs are not targeting ministers who belong to the Al-Sabah Family.

Since the beginning of the legislative practice until the 2016 Assembly; a total of 43 MPs representing all sects, classes and blocs submitted 115 grilling motions and only 40 percent of these motions were against ministers from the Al- Sabah Family. Fifteen of the 43 MPs who filed grilling motions were later appointed as ministers like the late Ahmed Al-Babee and Ahmed Al- Melaifi, he added. Jawhar argued the citizens did not vote for the MPs to defend the government, which works against the interests of citizens as manifested in its absence from most of the special parliamentary sessions.

Meanwhile, Al-Saleh said the grilling motion violated Article 134 of the Assembly Decree, which specified a period of eight days for the concerned minister to respond to the grilling points. He explained this article is aimed at giving the concerned minister enough time to prepare his response to the grilling points. He accused Al-Muwaizri of mentioning issues excluded from the grilling during the latter’s presentation. Commenting on the incident at the Kuwaiti Embassy in South Korea and the letter that a Japanese – who works at the embassy – sent to the Public Prosecution in Kuwait, he revealed the issue was raised in 2009 but the letter was sent only in 2015 and Sheikh Ahmad Al-Muhammad was not in charge of the ministry then. He wondered how Sheikh Ahmad Al-Muhammad can reply to an issue which was raised many years before assuming office.

Al-Saleh presented a video of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah awarding a medal to the minister, indicating this is the first time that a minister receives such an award during his term. Two hour after the awarding, Al-Muwaizri called for rejecting the appointment of the minister. This means the grilling motion is based on personal disputes. The grilling motion had many fl aws, such the failure to distinguish between the comments of SAB and violations. The bureau’s comments mean there are unclear issues, while violations mean something wrong happened. The reports of SAB about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not include any violations as the bureau merely sought clarifi- cations about the transfer of KD301 million, considering the budget of the ministry is only KD240 million.

This happened because funds are usually transferred through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs even if the money belongs to other institutions like the Ministry of Health or charities, the lawmaker clarified. On the Syrian worker at a Kuwaiti embassy, Al-Saleh pointed out that he had earlier forwarded queries on this issue to the minister who confirmed the termination of the Syrian worker.

He explained the video showing the Syrian worker was taken during the wedding of the daughter of Kuwaiti writer Ahmed Al-Sarraf and the event was held some years ago in his house. In a relevant development, Al- Ghanim issued a press statement after the session; during which he revealed that he asked Al-Muwaizri if the video clip he considered confidential contains anything offensive to individuals or violation of public morals. He also urged Al-Muwaizri to sign a pledge to be responsible for any offending or immoral content and bear responsibility in case the video is forged, but the MP refused to sign. He then asked Al-Muwaizri to show the video to the Assembly Office before presenting it to the MPs.

The Assembly Office members agreed that such videos must be shown to them first and then the office will decide, Al-Ghanim added while stressing that the Assembly Office consists of MPs who represent various political blocs. Al-Ghanim made the statement on his way to Cairo, Egypt to attend the 32nd conference of the Arab Inter- Parliamentary Union and Fourth Arabic Parliament and Speakers of Arab Parliaments Conference on Feb 16- 20, 2022. Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Muhammad Al-Rajhi, Assembly Observer MP Osama Al-Shaheen, Assembly Secretary General Adel Al-Lugani and Egyptian Ambassador to Kuwait Osama Shaltout sent off Al-Ghanim and his accompanying delegation at Kuwait International Airport.

Al-Ghanim will deliver a speech in the 32nd Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference entitled ‘Arab Solidarity, as well as the Arabic Parliament and Speakers of Arab Parliaments Conference entitled ‘Parliamentary vision for stability, security and enhancement of Arab status quo’. The accompanying delegation will attend other events and workshops on the sideline of the 32nd conference; as well as meetings of the economic, financial affairs, women, children, political affairs and parliamentary relations committees.

The delegation consists of Deputy Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al- Shuhoumi, Assembly Secretary Farz Al-Daihani, Undersecretary of Inter- Parliamentary Union MP Obaid Al- Wasmi, secretary of the union MP Hamad Al-Matar, treasurer of the union MP Salman Al Azmi, member of the union MP Musaed Al-Ardi, representatives of Kuwait’s National Assembly to the Arab Parliament MPs Khalid Al-Otaibi, Abdullah Al-Turaiji, Nasser Al-Dousaari, Muhammad Al-Hewaila and Mubarak Al-Ajmi. In another development, MP Abdullah Al-Mudaf filed a grilling motion against Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Ali Al-Musa.

The grilling points are as follows: Failure to combat corruption at the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR), Indifference in dealing with the reports of monitoring institutions and fact-finding committees, Indecisiveness in referring officials suspected of involvement in corruption to the concerned authorities, Abusing powers granted to the minister and senior officials at PAAAFR. Al-Ghanim confirmed receiving the grilling motion. He also informed His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid and the concerned minister adding that the grilling motion will be included in the agenda of the next session.

Lastly, 22 MPs issued a statement condemning the abusive act of Indian authorities against around Indian Muslims whose population is estimated at 200 million. It has been reported that the Indian authorities prohibited Indian Muslim women from wearing Hijab. They called on international organizations to take action against such act as it is a violation of human rights. They also urged the Muslim organizations and Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to adopt a strong position against this violation and support the Muslim minority in India. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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