MPs insist membership of Tabtabaei, Harbash still valid

Lawmaker ridicules proposal to purchase debts of Kuwaitis

MP Waleed Al-Tabtabai and MP Jamaan Al-Harbash

KUWAIT: Thirteen lawmakers yesterday stressed in a statement that the memberships of opposition Islamist MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash is still valid and legal despite a landmark ruling by the constitutional court last month. The new statement is likely to complicate the situation over the two lawmakers’ membership ahead of a crucial debate on the issue next week. Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem has said the Assembly will debate on Jan 8 the implications of the court verdict that ruled that article 16 of the Assembly’s internal charter is unconstitutional.

The entire episode began in summer when the court of cassation jailed Tabtabaei and Harbash for 42 months for storming the Assembly building during a protest in Nov 2011. The ruling was deemed as grounds for scrapping the membership of the two lawmakers for being convicted and jailed in a crime. But the Assembly voted in October to maintain their membership on the basis of article 16 of its internal charter. Hardly two months later, however, the constitutional court issued its verdict declaring article 16 as unconstitutional, stirring controversy in the house and among legal experts.

Yesterday’s statement signed by 13 opposition members insisted that as the vote retaining the membership of Tabtabaei and Harbash was taken by the Assembly before the court ruling, the verdict does not apply to the vote and accordingly the membership stays. The statement said that the signatories “insist that the membership of the two lawmakers is still valid and effective”. They said the court cannot interfere in the actions of parliament based on the separation of authorities. They also urged members of the Assembly to defend all articles of the constitution, especially the immunity of MPs and their right to exercise their duties.
But pro-government MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl blasted the statement as “shameful” and “disgusting” for challenging the judiciary. He said the statement does not represent him and warned he will oppose the statement inside the Assembly. Fadhl said he will not allow the 13 lawmakers to continue challenging and undermining the judiciary. Any decision in the Assembly requires the support of around 33 MPs because the government ministers are expected to vote in favor of the court ruling.

In another development, Fadhl ridiculed a proposal urging the government to purchase bank debts of Kuwaiti citizens. He added experts are laughing at the proposal. Fadhl is a member of the legal and legislative committee which is scheduled to review if the proposal is legal. Nine lawmakers have submitted a letter calling on the committee to quickly review the proposal. If approved, it will go to the financial and economic affairs committee to study the details and cost of the proposal. The initiative calls on the government to purchase all consumer and installment loans owed by Kuwaiti citizens to help them meet the rising cost of living.

By B Izzak

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