Opposition MPs stage sit-in for jailed lawmakers

KUWAIT: Opposition MPs – one of them holding a portrait of jailed MP Jamaan Al-Harbash – stage a sit-in at the National Assembly yesterday. – Photo by Fouad Al-Shaikh

KUWAIT: About 15 opposition MPs yesterday staged a sit-in at the National Assembly in support of calls to release two jailed opposition lawmakers and activists on charges of storming the National Assembly. During the Assembly session, the lawmakers placed the pictures of MPs Waleed Al-Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash on their seats to press for calls to release them after almost two and a half months in jail.

After the session was adjourned prematurely, the lawmakers moved their protest to the members’ hall in the main building and sat there for some time. The protesters included MPs Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei, Riyadh Al-Adasani, Mohammad Hayef and others. The lawmakers have been demanding that Harbash and Tabtabaei should be released because they are sitting MPs and enjoy parliamentary immunity, and that their sentence is not final. The two lawmakers were convicted among 67 opposition MPs and activists for storming the National Assembly building in 2011 following a street demonstration against corruption.

Meanwhile, the Assembly yesterday was adjourned prematurely for a lack of quorum, and as a result, could not vote on a draft law setting the number of stateless people or bedoons who could be naturalized this year, and another legislation to allow bedoons to join the Kuwaiti army. After a brief debate, acting speaker Essa Al-Kandari adjourned the session as he did not have the required number to vote on the bills, although 14 MPs submitted a motion for not ending the session before a vote.

Some opposition MPs charged that the lack of quorum was deliberate and orchestrated by the government to prevent the vote. About 110,000 bedoons live in Kuwait, some of whom are deprived of basic human rights of employment and even marriage. A number of MPs even doubted that the new legislation is sufficient to guarantee that bedoons will be employed in the army. Others demanded that the law should guarantee that bedoons secure jobs everywhere and not only in the army.

In other business, the Assembly voted unanimously to ask the government to refer a report on suspected graft in the interior ministry hospitality spending to the public prosecution for investigation. MP Adasani said that the interior ministry’s hospitality spending increased from a mere KD 2 million to KD 23 million, a sevenfold rise, and the amount is larger than the same spending by all other ministries. He said that the investigation reports by the interior ministry itself and the budgets committee of the Assembly indicate suspicions of graft and forgery.

MP Ali Al-Deqbasi said that ordinary people are sent to jail for traffic offenses, so why shouldn’t they be punished for major embezzlements. The Assembly also delayed voting on an agreement for opening an office of NATO in Kuwait until the foreign minister is available to answer questions. MP Saleh Ashour asked why should there be a NATO office in the country when Kuwait is not a member of NATO. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said that MPs did not obtain answers to the issues of sovereignty and compensation from the foreign relations panel.

The Assembly also completed the debate on the housing problem, with lawmakers accusing both the government and the Assembly of being unconcerned to resolve the problem. State Minister for Housing Jenan Boushehri said the number of applications for government housing dropped from 110,000 last year to 96,000 currently, but she said that the path is still too long to resolve the problem.

By B Izzak

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