KUWAIT CITY, Jan 21: A total of 10 lawmakers have submitted a no-confidence motion against Minister of Social Affairs Dr Ghadeer Aseeri. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim made the announcement after deliberations on the grilling motion of MP Adel Al-Damkhi against the minister during Tuesday’s ordinary session. Lawmakers who signed the no-confidence motion against Aseeri included Mohammad Hayef, Riyad Al-Adsani, Mohammad Al-Mutair, Abdullah Al-Kandari, Khaled Al-Otabi, Abdullah Al-Enezi, Abdulkareem Al-Kandari, Abdulwahab Al-Babtain, Nayef Al-Merdas and Thamer Al-Suwait.
Article 101 of the Constitution stipulates that: “(1) Every Minister is accountable to the National Assembly for the affairs of his ministry. If the Assembly passes a vote of no confidence against a Minister, he is considered to have resigned his office as from the date of the vote of no confidence and shall immediately submit his formal resignation. The question of confidence in a Minister may not be raised except upon his request or upon a demand signed by 10 members, following a debate on an interpellation addressed to him. The Assembly may not make its decision upon such a request before the lapse of seven days from the presentation thereof. “(2) Withdrawal of confidence from a Minister is by a majority vote of the members constituting the Assembly excluding Ministers.
Ministers do not participate in the vote of confidence.” According to Al-Ghanim, the Assembly will discuss the noconfidence motion against Asseri in an ordinary session slated for Feb 4, 2020. Al-Damkhi started the presentation of his grilling motion by pointing out that it is constitutional as the implementation of reforms starts with the selection of suitable ministers. He said the grilling points include the minister’s actions after taking oath; such as offending the MPs by accusing them of spreading rumors for electoral gains. He went on to explain that the works cited in the grilling motion are part of the duties of the minister as her job includes implementing the general policy of the State. He said the minister ignored the constitutional rule on cooperation between authorities when she offended the MPs who represent the legislative authority.
Responding to those who objected to the grilling and urged him not to waste time on it as there are more pressing issues like public money and budget deficit, Al-Damkhi asserted there are 48 MPs and he does not have to do everything. To those who described the grilling as sectarian and pointed out that he previously supported the grilling of former Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and State Minister for Economic Affairs Hind Al-Sabeeh, as well as threatened to grill her if she repeated the appointments at Al-Salaam Committee; Al-Damkhi stressed that even the incumbent social affairs minister does not claim to have adopted the sectarian ideology yet she often attacks political Islam – whether Shiites or Sunnis. To those who accused him of punishing the minister for her tweet nine years ago in which she stated that those who object previously fought for suspending the appointment of Sa’ad Al-Otaibi and Turki Al-Azmi as undersecretaries because of very old tweets, he said: “We do not grill a minister due to a previous tweet.”
Al-Damkhi went on to surprise those present by saying that Aseeri retired early as per her request to care for a disabled family member, so she was referred for retirement and received her full salary. He said he finds it strange that she retired because she did not do her job in the first place, in addition to the fact that she is now capable of taking care of the disabled family member while occupying a ministerial post.
He asked if she informed HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah about this fact. He considers this a violation, so Aseeri should be referred to the Public Authority for Anti-Corruption or the Public Prosecution. He wondered how Aseeri could be in charge of the Public Authority for Handicapped Affairs (PAHA) if she violated the law on its establishment. He disclosed the prosecution is currently looking into the case of former Deputy Director General of PAHA Essam Al-Haidar – Aseeri’s uncle who was accused of allowing 11 companies to supply equipment for the handicapped to PAHA without consulting the Fatwa and Legislation Department.
He added Al-Haidar was appointed as consultant at the Ministry of Social Affairs after his dismissal from PAHA, but Minister Al-Sabeeh – the then minister – objected asking how he could be a consultant while he is involved in a lawsuit. He described this situation as the best example of confl ict of interests, indicating that 24 members of Aseeri’s family are handicapped. Meanwhile, Aseeri said before the grilling that many constitutional experts, MPs and citizens have agreed the grilling is unconstitutional as it is based on issues or incidents which happened before she took the oath. However, she confirmed readiness to stand on the grilling podium to defend her dignity and reputation that were negatively affected by the grilling motion.
In response to Al-Damkhi, Aseeri started by thanking the lawmaker for doing one of his constitutional tasks while affirming her support for the MPs’ rights according to the Constitution and laws. She revealed she was hoping that the grilling focused on her performance but she found out it was based on one issue which was skillfully expanded to cover almost three pages. She also described the grilling as something that evoked the memory of the ‘Holy Inquisition’. She pointed out it was an opportunity for her to introduce herself to those who did not know her and those who had a negative impression about her because of the grilling. She said she is the daughter of Kuwaiti parents who worked in the field of education, adding she obtained her master’s degree from America and doctorate from the School of Law in Wales, United Kingdom.
She confirmed that she is ready to leave her post as minister once she feels she is not capable of doing her job. She asserted that as Minister of Social Affairs, she is responsible for the weakest category in society including the disabled, divorcees and widows women; in addition to monitoring charities. She said she would have been happy if she was grilled with the aim of improving services and implementing laws to ensure a comfortable life for the aforementioned category. She then presented a video clip of constitutional experts including Professor Muhammad Al-Fili, Dr Ibrahim Al-Homoud and Dr Muhammad Al-Muqate’e who agreed that the grilling is unconstitutional.
She said she was afraid of participating in violating the Constitution by facing the grilling. She pointed out the letter on the grilling consisted of vague phrases, so she sent a request to Al-Damkhi to clarify such points but she received the answer only two days before the grilling. She added Al-Damkhi mentioned issues which were not included in the letter about the grilling and the clarification she received.
She refuted allegations that she denied the tweets attributed to her and that she described such allegations as rumors. She explained that when she said “rumors” in a press statement published by Al- Rai daily on Jan 19, 2020; she was referring to claims that she intends to resign, not the tweets attributed to her. Responding to Al-Damkhi’s statement that she offended all Kuwaitis when she offended the MPs, she asserted this is not right because no one can say that offending Aseeri is tantamount to offending HH the Prime Minister who chose her and HH the Amir who approved the premier’s choice.
She argued her personal opinions are part of her rights according to Article 36 of the Constitution which states: “Freedom of opinion and of scientific research is guaranteed. Every person has the right to express and propagate his opinion verbally, in writing, or otherwise, in accordance with the conditions and procedures specified by law.” She also asserted her right to adopt a doctrine, citing Article 35 which states: “Freedom of belief is absolute. The State protects the freedom of practicing religion in accordance with established customs, provided that it does not conflict with public policy or morals.”
She clarified that she did not recant her previous statements as she merely disabled her Twitter account and restricted her Instagram account to friends and relatives as it consists of private matters not related to her current position as minister. She stressed that she never felt embarrassed about her thousands of tweets and comments on different topics in many fields including politics, society and even sports. She hopes there is no mix up in terms of the supposed reason behind suspending her social media account such as fear of some tweets and the real reason which is preserving the solidarity of the government.
By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff