Outrage as speaker ends session after heated row

MPs threaten to grill youth minister – Dispute over ‘alien’ panel head

KUWAIT: MP Safaa Al-Hashem speaks during a parliament session at the National Assembly yesterday. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem yesterday adjourned the Assembly session following a heated argument between pro-government MP Hamad Al-Harashani and opposition lawmaker Jamaan Al-Harbash that involved other MPs. The argument began after Harbash criticized the previous Assembly as a rubberstamp house that triggered a strong response from Harashani, a member in the previous house.

Ghanem immediately adjourned the session for the day, but a number of opposition MPs said what happened in the session was orchestrated by the government to prevent the Assembly from studying and approving a draft law that could have helped lift an international suspension on Kuwaiti sports. At least two lawmakers, Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei and Abdulwahab Al-Babtain threatened they will file to grill Minister of Information and Youth Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah over the issue. Babtain said he is likely to file his grilling next week.

During the session, 10 opposition lawmakers filed a motion calling on the Assembly’s sports and youth panel to study and approve a draft law on sports and bring it to the session to allow the Assembly to vote on it. But it could not do so because the session was adjourned due to the arguments. Kuwait national football team has until today to be included in the qualifying rounds for the Asia Cup 2019, provided the sports laws are amended to be compatible with international sports charters.
“What happened today was a comedy play through which the government wanted to prevent a vote on the motion” submitted by 10 MPs regarding the sports draft law, Subaei said after the session. He threatened that lawmakers will use their constitutional tools, a clear reference to grilling. Babtain said that they tried all they could to lift the sports suspension, but some quarters are clearly obstructing these efforts.

He held head of the sports and youth committee MP Saadoun Hammad partly responsible for the problem, adding that it appears that the sports issue is dominating the political scene. He questioned if the argument in the Assembly was a sufficient reason to adjourn the entire session. Babtain said he is convinced that the sides in the conflict want the problem to remain unresolved for some unknown reason and “we will not accept this”. The lawmaker said he has been preparing material to grill the information and youth minister and will complete the grilling next week, without saying when he is likely to submit it, adding the grilling will center around his role in the sports suspension.

Before adjourning the session, the debate focused on arguments over claims by MP Safa Al-Hashem that she was elected unanimously as head of the negative phenomena committee (alien practices committee), amid strong protests by other members. Hashem said she chaired the first meeting of the panel, being the oldest member, but Islamist MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, a member of the committee, said he was older than her and he should have chaired the meeting. Several lawmakers called for the Assembly office to resolve the problem.

Also, Health Minister Jamal Al-Harbi told the session that he has referred the case of the death of former MP Falah Al-Sawwagh to the public prosecution after he found there was a clear medical error in his surgery. The Assembly extended for another month for the investigation committee to report on the case.

By B Izzak

This article was published on 10/01/2017