This post has been read 8033 times!
KUWAIT CITY, Nov 2: The Kuwaiti government on Wednesday denied the veracity of reports suggesting Cabinet ministers giving unfair advantages to some lawmakers, citing ongoing efforts to clamp down on any form of nepotism. His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah has given his backing to an “open door” policy that allows for equal privileges among Kuwaiti nationals, according to government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem.
The National Assembly on Wednesday approved the bill on amending National Assembly Law number 12/1963, particularly articles 97 and 98; with a total of 54 attendees voting in favor of the bill in the first and second readings, while one voted against it. The proposed Article 97 amendment states that every MP has the right to submit bills, which must be well written and specific; while the signatories should not exceed five MPs. The Assembly Speaker shall refer bills to the concerned committees to ensure they are within the legal framework and then copies will be distributed to the MPs.
The concerned committee is allowed to meet with the proponent of the bill to listen to his views before submitting its report. Rejected bills cannot be resubmitted within the same year. The revised Article 98 mandates the Assembly speaker to discuss governmental bills with the MPs before referring them to the concerned committees unless the government requests for immediate deliberation or if the speaker or the MPs decide that the bills are urgent.
In such case, the speaker shall refer the bills to the concerned committees and inform the Assembly in the next session along with distribution of copies of the bills to the MPs. Most of the MPs affirmed support for the proposed amendments which, they believe, will lead to achievements as they will save time and effort; while putting an end to the accumulation of bills in the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee. They also pointed out that the proposal does not prohibit revision of bills to guarantee constitutionality and legality, indicating this is the task of the concerned committee.
On the other hand, the MPs who voiced objection to the bill argued that the best solution to the accumulation of bills in the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee is the appointment of experts in the committee. Chairman of the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee MP Muhannad Al-Sayer pointed out that the committee worked on most of the bills in the past when the number of bills was low and the population of the country was small. He went on to say that the committee completed reports on 180 out of 507 bills in the first parliamentary term and 80 out of 600 in the second term. He added the committee must scrutinize almost 2,000 pages in order to write a two-page memorandum for every report; asserting it is better to provide these committees with competent employees, instead of amending the law.
MP Abdulkareem Al-Kandari believes the bill, once approved, will lead to the completion of 50 percent of the accumulated bills; thereby, adding more achievements for the legislature. He explained that the National Assembly Law regulates the work of committees, citing Article 101 of the law stating these committees can refer bills to the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee to affirm constitutionality and legality.
MP Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi affirmed the committees consist of experienced and competent national workers. MP Osama Al-Zaid said the bill is in line with the reform policy adopted by the legislative and executive authorities. He believes that allowing the committees to do their work will greatly contribute to the improvement of laws. MP Ahmed Lari asserted this is the first time for the Assembly to discuss a suggestion on the appointment of additional Kuwaiti legal consultants for the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee.
MP Abdullah Al-Mudhaf affirmed his support for the bill, adding that Article 55 of the Assembly Law was not implemented due to the pile up of bills in the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee. MP Jenan Bu Shehri, the only one who voted against the proposal, stressed the need for the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee to discuss the bills; indicating the committee’s Technical Office is against the proposal.
MP Hassan Jowhar pointed out that 35 bills have been submitted so far to amend the National Assembly Law, which means the whole law must be revised to be in line with the latest developments. He claimed the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee disrupted legislative achievements.
MP Hamdan Al-Azmi expressed support for the proposal, while calling for further amendments to abolish the Parliamentary Priorities Committee and prevent the government from voting on proposals. He stressed the need to deliberate on proposals to amend the one-man one-vote system, Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Law, and putting citizenship cases under the judiciary.
MP Mubarak Al-Tasha clarified the proposal does not stop the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee from playing its important role. He pointed out this committee is in charge of bills not covered by other committees like the judicial regulations, Public Prosecution, Administrative Court and Attorney General.
MP Muhammad Hayef praised the bill; adding that he has been a member of the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee for years, so he witnessed the accumulation of bills.
Moreover, the agenda of the session included the MPs’ response to the Amiri speech during the inaugural session of the Assembly. Most of the MPs consider the speech a roadmap for strengthening cooperation between the executive and legislative authorities. They also stressed the need to focus on the ratification of laws deemed beneficial for citizens, while urging the government to present its work program soon as per Article 98 of the Constitution. They said this program should be feasible and it should have clear objectives; in addition to addressing problems in education, health, employment and housing and improving the citizens’ standard of living.
MP Jenan Bu Shehri wondered why the Amiri speech was discussed at a time the government has yet to present its work program. She added the Conflict of Interest Bill should be the priority of the three authorities in order to mark the beginning of a new era. She also praised the request of the government to speed up the discussion of important bills, asserting this is a step in the right direction. She urged the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee to expedite the completion of the relevant reports in order to include vital bills in the agenda of the next session. She added some contracting companies were suspended for three years due to the dire consequences of the heavy rains, but the suspension has been lifted; hence, the need to reopen this file.
MP Ahmed Lari criticized the delayed submission of the government’s work program; which should focus on important issues like improving the citizens’ standard of living, ensuring the educational outputs match the needs of the local labor market, encourage youths to work in the private sector, and completion of the digital government project.
MP Khalil Al-Saleh emphasized the need to help Kuwaitis studying abroad to cope with the rising cost of living, diversify the sources of national income, and urge the government to quickly allocate land for the implementation of housing projects as one way of addressing the housing problem. He wondered why the disbursement of rent allowance to citizens is suspended once they obtain plots even if they have yet to construct their homes and the infrastructure work has not been completed.
MP Adel Al Damkhi underscored the importance of combating corruption and applying the law on everyone, asserting all those involved in corruption and embezzlement of public funds must be punished regardless of their status. He said the companies responsible for the heavy rains crisis have not been punished despite the recommendations of the parliamentary fact-finding committee in this regard. He added a large amount of public money was used on the armament deal. MP Khalil Abul urged his compatriots to fully support the leadership in order to maintain national unity and for everyone to be ready to face regional and international challenges. He claimed some countries are trying to destabilize the Kuwaiti society.
MP Khalid Al-Tamar called for amendment of the one-man-one-vote system as it has divided the society; as well as the law on disqualifying parliamentary election candidates convicted of offending God, Prophets (Peace Be Upon Them) and Amiri entity, claiming this law was ratified in order to eliminate political opponents. MP Alia Al-Khalid praised the Amiri speech which she considers a guide for the coming era, stressing that the administrative system of the government must be upgraded soon and the latter should hire competent individuals. MP Osama Al-Shaheen said the Islamic Law (Sharia) must be implemented as per the Constitution; indicating this law is necessary in addressing several issues like those related to banking, insurance, penalties and others. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff and Agencies