14 MPs to boycott government oath in Assembly

Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah

KUWAIT: New Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah yesterday said that his statement on revising increased medical charges on expatriates was “blown out of proportion”, insisting that he did not say anything about scrapping the decision. The minister said in a statement that his statement on Sunday was circulated in a wrong way and showed him as if he said he would consider scrapping the decision, which went into effect on Oct 1.

Sheikh Basel said he specifically mentioned that the decision to hike health charges on expatriates will be reassessed based on a statement made by the former health minister that the decision will be reevaluated three months after implementation.

A number of MPs had threatened to grill the minister if he studied the possibility of scrapping the increase in charges on expatriates, saying that the decision has already reduced the number of expatriate patients visiting health facilities, making way for Kuwaitis to secure better health services. The decision sharply raised the cost of medical services at public hospitals and clinics, in some cases several-fold. There were calls by some Kuwaitis to suspend the decision because many expatriates are unable to afford medical treatment now.

In another development, 14 opposition lawmakers said yesterday they will boycott the new ministers’ oath taking in the National Assembly in protest against the jailing of three MPs with connection to the 2011 storming of the Assembly building. The lawmakers, all of them from the opposition, will boycott the period when the prime minister and the ministers will start taking the oath in the Assembly to become members, in accordance with the Kuwaiti law.

The new Cabinet was sworn in by the Amir last week, but under the law, they must take the oath in the Assembly too. The opposition lawmakers are expected to join the session after the government completes taking the oath. The opposition lawmakers are upset that three of their colleagues and dozens of opposition activists have been handed harsh jail terms and were sent to jail even before the sentences became final.

Meanwhile, MPs Jamaan Al-Harbash and Waleed Al-Tabtabaei, who gave themselves up to authorities, issued a joint statement yesterday in which they held the speaker and MPs responsible for their imprisonment. They said that jailing them is against the constitution and that putting them behind bars before a final court ruling is a very serious precedence.

Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem accused sides he did not name of trying to make personal gains from the court ruling and trying to disrupt the proceedings of the Assembly, warning that he will not tolerate them and will take stern action. Ghanem charged they are trying to keep Kuwait indulged in crises without any moral obligations. He said he will not allow any chaos inside the Assembly, adding that he will take action against these elements. The speaker also said that the Assembly will resume its sessions today after a long halt since the opening session on Oct 24. Sessions may be extended to Thursday in order to compensate for the missed sessions.

By B Izzak