Lawmaker warns of Qatar-like blockade, calls for readiness

Opposition MPs clash with govt – Five arrested over offending video

Hamdan Al-Azemi

KUWAIT: Opposition lawmaker Hamdan Al-Azemi yesterday said that Kuwait could face a Qatar-like blockade and called on the government to take precautionary measures to face any eventuality. “Isn’t possible for Kuwait to face the same scenario like Qatar?” questioned Azemi during the debate of the Amiri address made at the opening of the current National Assembly term on Oct 24.

In early June this year, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed economic and political sanctions on the Gulf state, coupled with a blockade by air, sea and land, accusing it of backing radical Islamist groups. Qatar has denied the charges. HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has been leading efforts to mediate a settlement. The efforts have succeeded in containing the rift from escalating, but a resolution to the crisis appears to be far away.

“I expect Kuwait to come under siege like what happened with Qatar. What has the government prepared for such a possibility?” Azemi asked. He however did not elaborate on his prediction and did not specify which countries could impose a blockade on Kuwait. “What preparations has the Kuwaiti government made to face any risks amid the highly volatile situation in the region? I call on the government to prepare, learn and benefit from the Gulf crisis before it’s too late,” the lawmaker warned. He added that nothing has been prepared because “our ports are in a dire situation and we have a fleet of passenger planes that we don’t actually own”.

MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said that there are attempts to form a committee to “alter” future grillings against ministers, adding that such attempts will be totally rejected. He called on the Assembly speaker to be neutral and not to be with the government, “as he was in the previous Assembly”. Adasani claimed that there are disputes between sheikhs, merchants and MPs, adding that processing illegal transactions is the root cause of corruption in the country and that any minister who accepts such transactions is effectively taking part in corruption. The lawmaker said the country is not posting any actual deficit because oil revenues are over KD 15 billion and insisted that embezzlements are the main problem in the country.

Islamist opposition MP Mohammad Al-Dallal warned the government that any attempt to weaken the grilling tool of the Assembly “will have a very heavy price”, adding that reform cannot be done by stripping the Assembly of its legislative and monitoring powers. Dallal charged that certain quarters in the government are trying to reduce the powers enjoyed by MPs by amending the internal charter, warning that this will result in a confrontation with the lawmakers and voters.

MP Yousef Al-Fadhalah strongly lashed out at Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem, charging that he is part of the problem and should be called the head of the government. The lawmaker claimed that the prime minister has conceded his powers to Ghanem and that ministers are afraid to object to him, because they will face the same fate of Jamal Al-Harbi, the former health minister, who was not retained in the new Cabinet.

A number of opposition MPs also called for debating a letter from MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, who are in jail after being convicted along with 65 opposition activists of storming the Assembly. The lawmakers said that Harbash and Tabtabaei should not be in jail because they enjoy parliamentary immunity. But the government refused, saying that if the Assembly debates the issue, it will ask for the letter to be sent to the constitutional court. The Assembly will continue today the debate of the Amiri address and is expected to debate a number of draft laws.

Separately, authorities arrested five suspects accused of posting a video on social media considered offensive to HH the Crown Prince, the interior ministry said yesterday. The accused were government employees with positions at “important institutions within the state”, the ministry said.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 26/12/2017