By B Izzak
KUWAIT: Ten opposition lawmakers yesterday filed a no-confidence motion against Defense Minister Sheikh Hamad Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah following a grilling in which he denied allegations of not acting on a series of violations and for taking a decision to admit women in the military. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said after the grilling debate that he received the no-confidence motion and that voting on the motion will take place on Jan 26.
To vote him out of office, the opposition needs the support of 24 MPs, which is the simple majority of elected lawmakers excluding ministers who cannot vote on no-confidence motions. If 24 MPs support the motion, the minister will be automatically dismissed.
The griller, opposition MP Hamdan Al-Azemi, accused the minister of ignoring legal and religious considerations when he took a decision a few months ago to allow Kuwaiti women to join military service, highlighting several fatwas or Islamic edicts that ban women from joining armed forces.
Azemi said based on a poll by an institution accredited by the government and Kuwait University, around 81 percent of Kuwaiti women refused to join the military and as many as 89 percent of women in Jahra, a tribal area, rejected the decision.
The minister said 34 Islamic countries are accepting women in the military and some of them allow women to carry arms. He however said he has decided to suspend the decision until the ministry of Islamic affairs issues a fatwa regarding the issue. He said based on the fatwa, he will take the decision whether to go ahead or scrap the decision.
MP Azemi also charged that the minister has failed to handle the issue of the multibillion-dollar deal to purchase 28 Eurofighter warplanes, alleging that commissions in the deal were reported at over €450 million, adding that the minister authorized the sale of fighter jets to Malaysia. The lawmaker said the ministry has failed to respond to 95 percent of remarks made by the Audit Bureau regarding violations.
He also said the Assembly does not know much about the arms budget of KD 6.2 billion approved by the house that later agreed to add KD 3 billion to it, claiming that violations in the budget could be greater than suspected violations in the army fund, the Caracal deal and the Malaysian fund issue. Azemi accused the minister of failing to replace expatriate employees, saying there are close to 4,000 expat employees against just 2,600 Kuwaitis in the ministry.
The defense minister said the grilling contains several constitutional violations, and insisted that he continued to fight corruption and has sent all issues related to the Eurofighter issue to the public prosecution, the anti-Corruption agency and to an investigation committee. He said he had sent the arms budget statement to the Assembly in September and the delay happened before he took office. The minister said the Cabinet did not approve the reported commissions of €485 million in the Eurofighter deal. The Assembly is scheduled to meet today to discuss regular issues.