By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The National Assembly and the government were locked in a confrontation on Tuesday over a draft law to purchase billions of dinars of bank loans owed by Kuwaiti citizens, with the Assembly session witnessing chaotic scenes reminiscent of past crises. As MPs rejected a request by the government to delay debating the loans draft law, the only two ministers attending the session walked out, sparking angry reactions by lawmakers and a jam-packed gallery with citizens who came to back their representatives.
MP Mubarak Al-Hajraf immediately filed to grill Finance Minister Abdulwahab Al-Rushaid over alleged mismanagement and failure to protect public funds, while 44 lawmakers issued a joint statement in which they blasted the government, charging it has started behaving like previous governments.
This is the first clash between the Assembly and the government headed by HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah following the Sept 29 general elections. Both the authorities have been at peace since the election and a majority of MPs have described the government and its head as reformists.
It was a session full of tension, as expected. The attendance of only two Cabinet members, Oil Minister Bader Al-Mulla and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs and Minister of State for Housing Ammar Al-Ajmi, both elected MPs, upset a majority of the lawmakers, who considered this as a rejection by the government to debate the purchasing of loans.
Before leaving the chamber, Ajmi pleaded with the Assembly to delay the debate of draft laws that are costly for the budget and send them back to the Assembly’s financial committee, where alternatives can be debated. Ajmi insisted that the government had cooperated with the assembly and accepted a number of populist decisions, and denied that the government is against the interests of the Kuwaiti people.
Deputy Speaker MP Mohammad Al-Mutair lashed out at the two ministers and advised them to resign from the Cabinet. After the two ministers left, Assembly Speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun adjourned the session. It was not known if the session will be held later or if the government will attend. Several MPs directed their criticism at the prime minister and called on him to resign or accept legislation that improve the standard of living of Kuwaiti people.
In their joint statement, the 44 lawmakers, including Saadoun, accused the government of the same practices of previous governments, which eventually led to the dissolution of the Assembly. They expressed their total rejection of what the government did on Tuesday, adding they will deal with this “unconstitutional behavior” in accordance with “our constitutional powers”. But MP Obaid Al-Wasmi, who did not sign the statement, called on the 44 MPs to grill the prime minister because he is the one responsible for the actions of the government.
In his grilling, MP Hajraf charged the finance minister of failing to protect losses worth hundreds of millions of dinars incurred by public funds and mismanagement of Kuwaiti investments abroad worth over $700 billion. He also accused the minister of misleading the Assembly with false and inaccurate information.
Several MPs immediately declared their support for the grilling. Saadoun said the government was informed of the grilling, which will be listed on the agenda of the next Assembly session after two weeks. The grilling debate could lead to filing a no-confidence motion, which if it succeeds, will lead to the minister’s dismissal.
MP Hasan Jowhar said the prime minister has a last chance to attend Wednesday’s session and cooperate with the National Assembly in a professional way, or else he will face the same fate of previous governments. MP Abdulwahab Al-Essa said the government is cowardly, because it should have faced the Assembly, adding many MPs are against the loans law because it does not serve needy Kuwaitis.