Laws should expand, not curtail freedoms

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KUWAIT CITY, Aug 23: A number of MPs have criticized the bill on toughening penalties for anyone who offends senior officials and lawmakers that the Information Ministry intends to submit soon. MP Bader Sayyar Al-Shemmari said the government must be made fully aware that the lawmakers will not accept the ‘gag’ policy, as they are against the ratification of laws aimed at curtailing citizens’ freedom. He then pointed out that a lawmaker who is fed up with the criticisms of citizens is not capable of representing the nation.

MP Jenan Bu Shehri warned that the bill, once passed, will end the political career of Minister of Information, Endowments and Islamic Affairs Muhammad Baddah Al-Mutairi. She argued the bill could distort democratic principles; indicating that laws should expand freedoms, instead of limiting them. MP Mehalhal Al-Mudhaf stressed that the bill violates the Constitution, and it does not differentiate between organizing freedoms and criminalizing free speech. He thinks those who made the bill are not keen on working towards what is good for Kuwait.

MP Osama Al-Zaid said the bill contradicts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 36 of the Constitution which states: “Freedom of opinion and scientific research is guaranteed. Subject to the conditions and stipulations specified by Law, every person shall have the right to express his opinion by speaking or writing or otherwise.” He then unveiled his plan to nullify laws that curtail freedoms and send people to prison for expressing their opinion.

MPs Hamad Al-Elyan, Soud Al-Asfour and Shuaib Shaaban voiced objection to the bill; stressing they will never vote for it. On the other hand, MP Dawoud Ma’arafihas asked Minister of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy and acting Minister of Education Jassem Al-Ostad to provide him with the list of private universities, which send students for overseas scholarship at the expense of the State, including the annual cost for every university in the last five years.

He requested for more details like the number of students granted scholarships by every private university in the last five years, number of national and expatriate academic and administrative staff in every private university, percentage of Kuwaiti staff as per the State’s policy in this regard, criteria for promoting the Kuwaiti and expatriate staff in private colleges and institutes, number of graduates in every private college and institute in each of the last five years, their nationalities and specializations, and number of such graduates employed in private academic institutions.

MP Khalid Al-Otaibi forwarded queries to Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Salem Al- Sabah about the latter’s decision to appoint eight deputy ministers in January 2023. He wants to know the rationale behind appointing these deputy ministers among the recently promoted ambassadors and delegated ministers, instead of appointing the more competent and experienced officials. He argued this has prevented the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from utilizing the experience of such officials.

He also inquired about criteria for appointing the minister’s deputies, as well as filling up vacant senior and supervisory positions, if the ambassadors transferred to the headquarters of the ministry are treated equally with their colleagues who were appointed deputies of the minister in terms of financial and career privileges, why the ambassadors assigned overseas are not classified as senior officials, measures taken to rectify this error considering the regulation of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on equalizing the ambassador post to that of the undersecretary, amount of indemnity, allowances and benefits granted to ambassadors and diplomats based on the years in service. MP Jenan Bu Shehri forwarded queries to Minister of Public Works Amani Bugamaz regarding the limited tenders offered to foreign companies for the comprehensive maintenance of roads.

She asked about the procedures for floating limited tenders to foreign companies, if these companies have agents in Kuwait, if the relevant regulations prevent a winning foreign company from buying materials and equipment, as well as hiring laborers, technicians and engineers residing in Kuwait. If yes, she requested for copies of supporting documents and minutes of the minister’s meetings with the ambassadors of countries where the foreign companies are based. She also asked why Limac was among the competing companies despite its delayed completion of Terminal Two at the new Kuwait International Airport.

Regarding drowning of a three-year-old child in a swimming pool in Salmiya in July 2023 and the failure of West Salmiya Health Clinic to revive the child, Bu Shehri asked Minister of Health Ahmed Abdulwahab Al-Awadhi if investigations were conducted to determine if a medical error was committed, if all the paramedics hold the required certificates, if the director of the Emergency Department is not a specialist in the field, if clinics are fully prepared to receive emergency cases, if there is a protocol specifying who is responsible for cardio pulmonary and resuscitation procedures, if the required equipment and medicines are available, and if the deaths and medical errors are recorded and discussed in meetings.

If yes, she demanded for copies of the minutes of these meetings. MP Fayez Al-Jomhour asked Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister for Cabinet and National Assembly Affairs Essa Al-Kandari about the number of public sector employees who were delegated or transferred from one ministry or public institution to another as per the exceptional decisions issued since 2018 till date, if any of the public institutions is exempted from the regulations on the delegation or transfer of employees, if the Council of Ministers received complaints regarding the delegation decisions, number of vacant senior positions and the plan to fill them up.

He also asked Minister of Commerce and Industry and State Minister for Youth Affairs Muhammad Othman Al- Aiban about the number of public fund embezzlement cases filed by the ministry in the last three years, details of each case, number of cases filed by individuals against the ministry and vice versa, amount of stolen money compared to the recovered amount, and if final court decisions were issued against any of the employees and senior officials at the ministry and its subsidiaries in the last five years. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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