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Speaker weighs in on Amnesty bill

‘Amnesty is requested, not imposed’

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 17: Citizens consider the low level of arguments over the Amnesty bill deplorable, because everyone has the right to express his point of view, defend it and invite others to adopt it; but no one has the right to offend others, says National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim.

In a press conference, Al-Ghanim disclosed some MPs are trying to instigate disputes in a bid to create fake heroes fighting fake battles. He pointed out there have been complaints about the decision of the Legislative Affairs Committee to combine three drafts on the general amnesty.

He clarified this is the decision that the MPs took inside the session hall, affirming the Assembly is allowed to discuss and vote on bills as one or individually.

Personally, Al-Ghanim thinks these draft laws are unconstitutional but he remains committed to the National Assembly Decree. He said some MPs objected to the decision of the committee to add the fourth draft law to the report after its submission to the Assembly. He explained that according to the decree, the committee is free to withdraw, amend or add draft laws to the report as long as the report is not included in the agenda for the upcoming session.

He confirmed this is what the committee has done. He added the decree stipulates that once the report is included in the agenda; the committee cannot withdraw or amend it without the permission of the Assembly, not the permission of the Speaker.

He called on those who asked him to return the report to the committee and to amend the decree in order to shift the authority to grant the aforementioned permission from the Assembly to the Speaker. He was quick to assert that in case such amendment is submitted for voting, he will vote against it. He wonders why some MPs rejected the issuance of a report on the fourth amnesty draft law within a short period, considering they requested for expediting discussion on the proposal.

He reaffirmed his position on the issue — amnesty is requested, not imposed. He thinks the amnesty bills will not obtain the required majority for ratification; adding that even if the bills are passed through a low majority the government will reject them.

He continued to say that although most of the MPs will support the bills, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah can dissolve the Assembly stressing nothing will be passed forcefully. He believes the best way is for HH the Amir to grant amnesty, pointing out it is not difficult to offer an apology to the Amir just like what a number of convicts did earlier.

He urged the convicts in exile to come back and follow in the steps of their colleagues as this is better for them, instead of asking for help from the MPs up to the extent of pleading. He added the priority in the upcoming session is to discuss the social security and retirees bills, clarifying the amnesty bills will be discussed within the specified time.

He then congratulated Barrak Al-Shetan for his appointment as Finance Minister, Muhammad Bushehri as Minister of Electricity and Water, and Mariam Al-Aqeel as Social Affairs Minister. On the other hand, Rapporteur of the committee MP Muhammad Al-Dallal asserted there is a big difference between the storming of the Assembly building and Abdally cell cases; hence, the draft bills on granting amnesty to those convicted in these cases should not be combined in one report. He said this decision was taken deliberately in a bid to hinder the enforcement of the Amnesty Law despite the fact that the law is in line with Article 75 of the Constitution.

Article 75 states that “the Amir may, by decree, grant a pardon or commute a sentence. However, general amnesty shall not be granted except by a law and then only in respect of offenses committed prior to the proposal of the amnesty.” Al-Dallal clarified he has no intention to prevent any of his colleagues from submitting draft laws and supporting issues they deem right, but they should do so without affecting the progress of other bills.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the factfinding committee tasked to investigate violations such as illegal appointments in the oil sector MP Dr Bader Al-Mullah announced in a press statement that the committee decided to hold two meetings – March 12 and March 15. He revealed the committee will invite the Supreme Petroleum Council to the meeting slated for March 15; but since HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid is the chairman of the council, the date of the meeting might change according to the commitments of the premier. He confirmed that after the two meetings, the committee will submit a very important report which will define the path of the oil sector.

In addition, MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subai’e said the committee’s report will include information supported by evidence, stressing the report will be submitted within the specified time. He disclosed some senior officials at the Ministry of Oil are angry with Minister Khalid Al-Fadel who appears to have no control over senior ministry officials.

He said any grilling motion which will be submitted against the minister is aimed at protecting the prime minister or influential figures in the oil sector. In case he decides to submit a grilling motion, it will be against the prime minister as the latter is responsible for choosing ministers and he is the chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council, the lawmaker added.

Talking about the committee tasked to investigate alleged violations in the appointment of public sector employees, Al-Subai’e revealed the committee has reached an agreement with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to suspend the recruitment of expatriates in Kuwaiti embassies abroad; unless no one among the Kuwaiti applicants or children of Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis is qualified for the vacant post.

He also disclosed that the commit tee discovered irregularities committed by the Ministry of Education such as transferring teachers from one specialization to the other.

He added the committee will meet the representatives of other ministries, such as Health and Awqaf, to follow up the appointments issue. On transferring Mariam Al-Aqeel from the Ministry of Finance to Social Affairs Ministry, he stressed this does not mean the minister is now far from responsibility. He pointed out the minister will be given one and half month in order to observe her performance in terms of addressing important issues like the disabled file and subsidy granted to Kuwaiti women.

By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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