Merger of manpower bodies to proceed – Registration for by-elections opens

KUWAIT: Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel speaks during a session of the National Assembly yesterday. — KUNA

KUWAIT: For the second week running, opposition lawmakers yesterday walked out in protest against a decision to declare a grilling filed against the prime minister as not in line with the constitution. Six MPs left the session as the Assembly began voting on a decision by its legal and legislative committee saying the grilling was unconstitutional, insisting the whole process was a flagrant violation of the constitution and the country’s laws.

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem said 41 MPs and ministers voted in favor of the committee’s decision, 16 voted against while three refused to vote and three others had already left the chamber. The speaker then declared that the grilling has been removed from the agenda of the Assembly. The grilling was filed by MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri in November, holding HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah responsible for the devastation caused by heavy rains that lashed the country.

MP Khaled Al-Shatti, head of the legal committee, told the Assembly that the panel had invited Muwaizri twice to its meetings but he declined to attend. He added that the committee polled the opinions of several constitutional experts and the Assembly’s legal advisors, and the overwhelming majority of them said the grilling was unconstitutional.

But opposition MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said the entire process violated the constitution and Assembly laws and no one has the power to stop lawmakers from grilling the prime minister or ministers. Kandari said the committee had only invited experts whose opinions were well known of opposing the grilling and failed to invite experts who had a different opinion.

MP Riyadh Al-Adasani said the prime minister must accept the grilling, adding that the participation of Cabinet ministers in the voting over this issue constitutes a flagrant breach of the constitution. The lawmaker described what is happening as catastrophic, saying it is illegal to even consider voting on an issue like this and accused the legal committee of “executing” grillings against Cabinet ministers.
But MP Safa Al-Hashem said that all should obey the wish of HH the Amir to not make grillings tools of destruction, adding that the country should remain united at this time when regional tensions are rising rapidly. MP Muwaizri reiterated his claims that he was not responsible for the signing of several contracts when he was housing minister in 2012 and accused the current housing minister of providing false information. Following the voting, opposition MP Abdulwahab Al-Babtain also said that the whole process was unconstitutional and any attempt to stop MPs from grilling the prime minister or other Cabinet ministers is illegal.

In other business, the Assembly rejected a report by its health and labor committee which said the merger between the Public Manpower Authority and the Manpower and Government Reconstruction Program, which tries to convince Kuwaitis to join the private sector, was illegal. But the Assembly rejected the report, which means the merger will continue. During the debate, MPs said the merger will discourage Kuwaiti citizens from joining the private sector.

Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel hailed the merger as a step in the right direction and based on reports by the Audit Bureau. The integration is in line with technical reports by the Audit Bureau recommending the merger as well as on the basis of the “sustainable development document”, she said, noting that some government authorities have similar jurisdictions and must be combined. The manpower program is not a government apparatus or establishment – it is rather a sector within the Civil Service Commission, and this is what necessitated placing it under the umbrella of manpower authority, Aqeel explained.

Meanwhile, the interior ministry announced yesterday that registration of National Assembly by-election candidates for the second and third electoral districts will open from today until Feb 16. In a press release, it said application forms are available at the elections affairs department. Registration is open in accordance with article 23 of law 35 of 1962 that deals with the election of National Assembly members. Citizens are invited to participate in the elections in the second and third electoral districts as published by the interior ministry in the official gazette (Kuwait Today) no. 1430. The statement said the requirements include the applicant to be a Kuwaiti citizen over the age of 30, be fluent in Arabic, have a clean criminal record and be in good standing with the law.

By B Izzak