Kuwait’s Prime Minister Unscathed After Rigorous Grilling

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KUWAIT CITY, Nov 28: HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has survived the grilling motion that MP Mehalhal Al-Mudhaf had filed against him. No non-cooperation nor no-confidence motion was filed against the HH the Prime Minister. This came after the National Assembly discussed the motion during its ordinary session on Tuesday. The discussion started with the presentation of Al-Mudhaf on the three points of the grilling motion. He said “The people must know that we have already passed the era of corruption, yet we live in the era of loss.”

The lawmaker then asked HH the Prime Minister if he was aware of the historical background of the Amiri Speech delivered by HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in June 2022, which marked the end of the corruption era to launch a new one. He added that since 2012, Kuwait has been witnessing the lack of vision of consequent governments, restricting freedom and using citizenship as political punishment until it reached the climax in 2020 when former HH Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid requested for postponement of deliberations on grilling motions for one and half year.

He said HH the Prime Minister did not form a team to work on an integrated political reform to push for parliament-government cooperation, considering the people reacted well to the Amiri speech when they rushed in long lines to vote for their representatives. He pointed out: “We dismissed a prime minister when he violated the Constitution and the same action will be taken against Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf for the same reason.”

He went on to say that the speech of the government delivered by Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf during the inaugural session of the second round of the 17th parliamentary term was devoid of procedures to implement political reform. He clarified that there is a big difference between the programs of government for 2022 and 2023, indicating most of the political reform steps included in the 2020 program disappeared from the 2023 program. He stated that Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf did not attend the session on Jan 12, 2023 despite having majority support; then he decided to resign and disrupt parliamentary work for more than two months, and another two months he spent on the formation of the new government.

He pointed out the course adopted by Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf is similar to that of his predecessor; including procrastination in dealing with public demands, while prices keep on increasing and inflation is getting higher. He added the premier could increase the minimum pension amount for retirees through the issuance of a decision, which would have been faster than waiting for the issuance of legislation. He said Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf increased the ministers’ salaries and distributed many plots without the issuance of legislation; but when it comes to the citizens’ interest, nothing can be achieved without legislation. He asserted that since 2014, the strategic salary alternative has been discussed; but the government has yet to submit any bill in this regard.

He pointed out the government is adamant in its claim that salaries and subsidies eat up a large percentage of the State budget. He inquired if the government intends to impose tax in order to get back whatever will be spent on the expected salary increment. He highlighted the squandering of public funds in various ways like using the Amiri aircraft for personal trips, while the new chairman of the Board of Directors of Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) was appointed according to the whim of Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf in spite of the warnings of relevant ministers against such action. On the basic services like health, education, housing, and infrastructure; Al-Mudhaf asked what the government has provided to the citizens. He said the law on establishing new residential areas was ratified and published in the Kuwait Gazette more than three months ago, yet the executive regulations have not been issued until now. He added most citizens resort to private clinics due to the deteriorating service in public hospitals. “Since 2018, we have been hearing about solutions for maintaining the roads, but nothing has been achieved to date. If the public works ministers failed, the prime minister must be held accountable because he appointed them,” he stressed.

On the confusing decisions, he stressed that Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf formed the worst government in the history of Kuwait, citing the appointment of the deputy prime minister and state minister for National Assembly and Cabinet Affairs although the latter was accused of buying votes in the last election. He was quick to clarify it is true that the minister’s case was dismissed later, but it does not change the fact that he was appointed at a time when the accusation has yet to be cleared. He thinks Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf found no other MP to appoint as a minister because most of the MPs declined since they no longer trusted him. He pointed out the current ministers are very fragile and weak, up to the extent that they resigned even before facing grilling motions like the ministers of finance, education, and public works. He also highlighted the contradictory statements of ministers on the same issue like Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Oil Saad Al-Barrak who said there was no negotiation with Iran regarding Durrah offshore oilfield before the demarcation of maritime borders, while the foreign affairs minister stressed that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia own all the natural resources in the zone; hence, Iran has nothing to do with the issue. He added the defense minister replied to a parliamentary inquiry, disclosing military secrets when he said the country has no defense forces to deal with encroachers. Under such circumstances, the minister must be dismissed for betrayal. Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf was on personal vacation for almost one and a half months while such things were happening, he added.

On the confusion over the filling up of vacant senior positions vacancies, Al-Mudhaf pointed out that the number of vacancies increased to 500; then the government filled some of these positions with officials who were part of the previous era and some of them were ministers who supported the unconstitutional request of the former prime minister to postpone deliberations on grilling motions for one and half year. He said the government program has no measures combating corruption, while the term of the chairman of the Government Performance Follow-up Agency was renewed even if he had no achievements. He added Kuwait’s rank in the international index on democracy even if the country has a constitution and parliament, but the problem is that it has no fair election system, no political freedom, or no organized political action. He concluded that the premier position must not be a place for members of the Sabah family to learn how to lead.

On not responding to parliamentary queries under the pretext that they are unconstitutional, Al -Mudhaf cited the Constitutional Court’s ruling to explain Article 99 of the Constitution; which stressed the importance of such queries for the MPs to obtain the information or to highlight shortcomings and get the attention of the concerned ministers. He added the court specified the conditions that the answer should not reveal State secrets or that of the judicial authority. He cited examples of the prime ministers since the first government who responded to most of the queries until 2012 when former HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak did not respond to parliamentary queries.

On the other hand, Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf affirmed that he respects the Constitution and the right of the MPs to grill him and the ministers. He also stressed that he is committed to the Amiri directives, pointing out that these directives have been included in the program of the government. He repeatedly emphasized that the government is only five months old, yet it has achieved a lot in the interest of citizens in cooperation with the Parliament. He said he agreed to discuss the grilling motion without using his right to postpone it or refer it to the Constitutional Court or Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee, stating he does not want to discuss the grilling in a close session. He also cited the National Assembly Law, which specifies the conditions for grilling the prime minister — that the points should be related to the general strategy of the government, not the executive issues concerning ministers. He said Al-Mudhaf should have chosen the right time to file his grilling motion. He quoted Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun as saying it was his first time to witness such strong coordination between the executive and legislative authorities. He added the lawmaker had comments on the government program, which he should have forwarded to the Council of Ministers in writing; but he decided to put them in a grilling motion. He said the MPs, except Al-Mudhaf, praised the performance of the government, adding that Al-Mudhaf announced from the beginning that he would not cooperate with the government because of its program. He explained that he could have issued a decree of necessity to pass the State budget when there was no Parliament, but he decided to wait to discuss this with the latter. He denied the accusation of Al-Mudhaf that the government has not submitted any bill to execute the directives included in the Amiri speech. He pointed out the government submitted a bill on reforming constituencies, adding that the law on the establishment of the Higher Elections Commission was ratified due to the parliament government cooperation. He went on to say that even if the government is new, it has had remarkable achievements in the interest of citizens. He asserted the government and the Parliament ratified important laws like increasing the minimum pension amount and developing the Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) by granting it three large plots for investment in the interest of retirees. He said decisions were issued to postpone the collection of loan installments from the owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and those who obtained loans from Kuwait Credit Bank for one year, in addition to increasing the cost of living allowance for citizens before the end of 2023. Talking in support of the grilling motion, MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri addressed Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf pointing out there are many problems in ministries that require his interference. He added it is not acceptable that a consultant controls the Ministry of Education. Deputy National Assembly Speaker MP Muhammad Al-Mutair, who spoke in support of HH the Prime Minister, argued it is inappropriate to grill the latter after the issuance of the Amnesty Decree. If ever the premier is asked on the podium, he will be praised and rewarded; not grilled, the lawmaker asserted. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Ahmed Al-Saadoun called for voting on the appointment of the new chairman of the State Audit Bureau — Essam Al-Roumi — as per Article 34 of law number 30/1964 on the establishment of the bureau.

In addition, the Assembly approved the following incoming letters in its ordinary session on Tuesday:
■ Request of MP Mehalhal Al-Mudhaf to assign the Human Resources Development Committee to investigate the manipulation of procedures for hiring national workers in private companies to waive off obligating the private sector to recruit a certain number of national workers;
■ Request of the Business Environment Improvement Committee to assign it to conduct a study on the consequences of the decision of the Ministry of Interior to suspend the issuance of family visa for expatriates working in the private sector;
■ Request of a number of MPs to assign the Public Funds Protection Committee to follow up the cases of Kuwait Army Fund and overseas military offices, as well as to conduct field investigations in and outside Kuwait if necessary.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh
Al-Seyassah/Arab Times Staff

This news has been read 1699 times!

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