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Lockdown eased; Harbi resists MPs’ calls to end school year

Pressure mounts over alleged corruption, money laundering

Kuwaiti police officers man a checkpoint at the entrance leading to the Hawally district of Kuwait City on May 29, 2020, after the district was put on lockdown to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. (Photo by YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP)

By B Izzak
KUWAIT: Authorities yesterday began implementing the first of a five-stage plan to return to normal life by mid-September by easing the lockdown on most areas in the country, while keeping over a million expatriates under total isolation. Barring the predominantly expat areas of Hawally, Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, Farwaniya, Khaitan and Mahboula, which are placed under total isolation, other areas will enjoy a 12-hour easing of the curfew every day.
Authorities however said that shopping at cooperative societies and supermarkets will continue by prior booking through the same online sites. The same applies to isolated areas. The interior ministry explained that people in isolated areas can move freely within those areas but are not allowed to leave them without a valid permit from the government.
The current phase will last for three weeks and health authorities will assess progress before moving to the next phase. The ministry of Islamic Affairs said it will start cleaning and sterilizing mosques and taking all necessary health precautions before reopening them later this week.
Meanwhile, scrapping the school year as has been repeatedly demanded by MPs has become a political issue, with MP Faisal Al-Kandari vowing to file to grill Education Minister Saud Al-Harbi for not ending the school year because of the coronavirus. Harbi said on Kuwait Television Saturday night that the final decision on the school year will be taken on July 15 after evaluating all the developments on the coronavirus crisis.
Harbi said the ministry prioritizes the safety of students and staff but also takes into account the huge negative repercussions of a hasty decision in this regard. He pointed out that ending the year and giving students marks based on their performance in the first semester would harm nearly 60,000 students, mainly those who failed to attend first semester exams for medical or other reasons and those who performed badly and were counting on the second semester to improve their scores.
The statement was strongly criticized by a number of lawmakers, who want the academic year prematurely ended over health concerns. Kandari said his grilling will center only on the minister’s insistence not to end the school year, thus endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of students.
MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said yesterday that he will demand forming a parliamentary panel to investigate a former senior official and a number of former ministers over suspected corruption and money laundering operations worth billions of dollars that included funding North Korea’s nuclear program and corruption related to Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
The lawmaker urged HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah to prove that his government fights corruption. Kandari said his move depends on a report published by the New York Times about a network involving Chinese and North Koreans running money laundering operations to finance North Korean nuclear activities, in which the name of Kuwait was mentioned. He said that the image of Kuwait and its financial institutions is at stake because of a number of international scandals.
The government however has said that it has referred the case to the public prosecution for investigation, but MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said the government action was incomplete and he will provide full details during a planned grilling of the finance minister. Former MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari claimed on Twitter that forming a parliamentary investigation panel is an attempt to “cover up” the case and involve suspicious maneuvering. He said that the entire case is with the prime minister and wondered why no MP has demanded to hand it over to the Assembly.
Meanwhile, the elder son of the former senior official categorically denied allegations that he was involved in any money laundering operations and profiteering, saying he is ready to be investigated by the Assembly and the public prosecution. He welcomed in a statement the government decision to send the entire case to the public prosecution. He said he issued the statement after he and some of his relatives were being targeted by foreign reports and social media posts about his alleged involvement in money laundering and corruption.

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