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Ten file no confidence in Defense Minister

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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 18: Ten MPs signed a no-confidence motion against Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali towards the end of the ordinary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday. The Assembly then decided to postpone voting on the no-confidence motion until Jan 26, 2022. During Tuesday’s session, the Assembly witnessed a minor incident when Secretary General Adel Al-Lugani fell down while reading the incoming letters. Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim adjourned the session for 15 minutes to pave way for providing medical care to Al-Lugani. Al-Ghanim then resumed the session, disclosing that Al-Lugani was rushed to the hospital and his condition is stable.

Defence Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali

He called for postponing other items in the agenda until Wednesday, and then the Assembly proceeded with the grilling motion of the defense minister. Al-Azmi was given one and half hour to present the five points of the grilling motion. He started with the decision to allow Kuwaiti women to join the Kuwait Army. He wondered why the minister stressed that his decision cannot be withdrawn, only to say later that he is waiting for the opinion of the Legal Advice and Legislation Department. He cited the opinion of religious institutions and most outstanding scholars that it is totally forbidden for women to engage in combat missions. He argued that allowing women to join the Army exposes them to the danger of being prisoners of war (POWs). He added the nature of women is not for military tasks such as carrying weapons and facing the enemies.

Assaults He also mentioned the statistics released in July 2021, stating the US Army recorded 135 sexual assaults in 11 years. He showed the tweet of former US President Donald Trump who said there have been 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military compared to only 238 convictions. He added 175 officers in the US Navy were involved in gang rape within the institution, but some victims are afraid to report such cases.

He went on to say that a decision was taken to allow abortion for female soldiers who got pregnant while in an illicit relationship. He presented as well a report, stating that almost one third of the female soldiers in the British Army were victims of rape or bullying by their superiors. He said another study showed that more than half of the female soldiers in the German Army are victims of sexual assault. He showed the results of surveys conducted by Kuwait Center for Gulf and Peninsula Researches, indicating the number of Kuwaiti women who objected to the entry of women into the Army is higher than men – 73 percent of the male participants compared to 81 percent of their female counterparts. Giving a breakdown of the results per governorate; Al- Azmi disclosed that 90 percent of female participants in Jahra are against the decision, 77 percent in Hawally, 73 percent in Farwaniya, 74 percent in the Capital, 73 in Ahmadi and 79 percent in Mubarak Al-Kabeer.

He stressed these results clearly indicate that Kuwait is a conservative society. On the second point of the grilling motion, Al-Azmi pointed out the minister does not know anything about the reports of the State Audit Bureau (SAB) on the Eurofighter armament deal. He said the fact-finding committee formed as per the decision of the late Minister Sheikh Naser Sabah Al-Ahmad has yet to complete its report despite the passage of three years since its formation. He mentioned one of the violations in the deal by comparing the prices of the Eurofighter aircraft to that of the deals settled by other GCC countries. He disclosed the Kuwaiti deal is valued at $9 billion for 28 aircraft, while Saudi Arabia purchased 72 aircraft of the same model for the same price. Qatar purchased 24 Eurofighters for GBP5 billion and Oman purchased the same number for $2.24 billion.

He asserted the Kuwaiti deal was settled without the approval of SAB and the amount of commission has been shrouded in controversy. He asked why the minister did not reveal the facts, adding that the manufacturer received Euro 520 million even before the payment was due. He said the minister did not investigate the Purchase Tenders Committee for violating the regulations in this regard. He added pilots have not been trained to fly the Eurofighter aircraft although the deal was settled three years ago.

He said the minister ignored the recommendation of SAB to conduct comprehensive feasibility studies on the disposal of old aircraft and the purchase of new ones. He asserted the minister denied the information about selling F-18 aircraft to Malaysia but the Malaysian defense minister revealed the truth when he confirmed that the sold F-18 aircraft is in good condition. He asked Sheikh Jaber Al-Ali to specify the date for the fact-finding committee to submit its report on the deal. On the minister’s lack of cooperation of with SAB, Al-Azmi revealed that almost 95 percent of SAB’s comments have remained unanswered till date. He said the Assembly approved the KD 3 billion budget of the ministry in 2016 for armament development deals, emphasizing that the MPs want to know how the ministry spent such amount.

Al-Azmi stated that the minister did not reply to 51 out of 156 parliamentary queries. He pointed out the minister responded to the queries of MP Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi about the three missiles launched from Iraq and landed in Kuwait. He said the minister denied the incident until the Iraqi side confirmed it. He continued saying that the minister replied to the queries of MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri about referring officers for early retirement by merely asserting the issue is a top secret and then he gave an irrelevant answer.

The minister replied to the queries of MPs Hassan Jawhar and Al-SaifiMubarak Al-Saifiabout the Kuwait Army Fund by urging them to get the answers from the court or from the accused. Al-Azmi added the Ministry of Defense violated the circular issued by the Ministry of Finance on the need for every ministry and public institution to specify the plots, land and real estate they own inside Kuwait or abroad. He said the minister presented the annual report stating that the ministry does not own any of the aforementioned properties. He said Sheikh Abdullah Jaber owns chalets established on the properties of the Department of Weapons and Ammunition at the Ministry of Defense.

Regarding the issue of violating the policy on the replacement of expatriate workers with nationals; Al-Azmi said the number of expatriate workers reached 3,976 compared to 2,600 Kuwaitis. He revealed 286 expatriates are working in the offices of the minister and assistant undersecretaries. He added an expatriate consultant is receiving a salary of KD 4,200 and a trainer is receiving KD 4,100. He claimed many expatriates occupy certain positions even if they do not hold the required academic certificates; such as computer technician, ship engineering technician, computer programmer and aircraft engineering technician.

In response, Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali acknowledged the constitutional right of MPs to file grilling motions against ministers. However, he cited the decision of the Constitutional Court that a minister cannot be grilled on anything which happened during the term of his predecessors. He said the grilling motion against him was filed only a couple of hours after he took the constitutional oath. He clarified this does not mean he is not ready to discuss the grilling motion and disprove the points therein. On the decision to allow women to enter the Army, he explained that women will provide medical services like nursing duties and administrative jobs at the ministry. He affirmed that the decision has nothing to do with fighting or carrying weapons. He said the aim of the decision is to grant working women the same allowances and salaries given to their male colleagues. He added 34 Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have allowed women to join the Army and they were even given military tasks. He recalled the heroic role of Kuwaiti women during the Iraqi invasion, when they joined the military resistance and some of them became martyrs. He emphasized that women have worked at the military hospital for years and no one objected simply because this does not violate the Islamic Sharia and the Constitution of Kuwait.

He added the opinion of scholars cited by Al-Azmi talked about actual combat, which is not included in the decision to allow women to occupy medical and technical positions. He said women are already working in the maintenance and repair of patriot missiles, as well as at the Information Technology Department in the ministry. He pointed out that women will not be allowed or forced to work for days, as they will go to work and leave every day just like those working in the civilian institutions. He went on to say that the decision excludes compulsory orders for women to join the Army as it is all up to them. He disclosed that the defense minister in 1988 – the late Sheikh Salim Al-Sabah – was the first to take such a decision when he allowed women to volunteer in the Army. He said another decision was issued in 1994 on allowing women to join the Army, adding that the trainers completed training courses in the UAE under the tutelage of female instructors and then they returned to Kuwait to work. He asked Al-Azmi to point out the violations against Islamic Sharia and Constitution. Regarding the Eurofighter deal, the minister revealed the contract was signed in 2016 according to the memorandum of understanding between Kuwait and Italy. He added that according to the comments of SAB, the issue was referred to the Public Prosecution and a factfinding committee was formed to investigate it. He clarified the training of pilots was not cancelled; but suspended due to the Covid-19 crisis, confirming that the training resumed later. He stressed that if Kuwait sold any aircraft to Malaysia; such a step requires the approval of the Higher Council for Defense, monitoring institutions and manufacturer. By Saeed Mahmoud Saleh Arab Times Staff

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