7 MPs sign motion to debate tax on expat remittances

KUWAIT: A special session demanded by 22 lawmakers to discuss a draft law for granting amnesty to some political prisoners was not held yesterday because the government boycotted the meeting although 29 MPs showed up. The government said it decided to boycott the meeting because it was not consulted ahead of the session which is a prerequisite for cooperation and coordination with the National Assembly.

Several MPs vented anger on the government, describing its action as a humiliation to the National Assembly and called for non-cooperation with the government. The special session was demanded by mostly opposition lawmakers to debate a bill that stipulates pardoning dozens of opposition activists and ex-MPs who were handed jail terms for taking part in storming the National Assembly building in November 2011 following a protest against corruption.
Most of those who have been condemned to prison terms have been living outside the country since last summer and have repeatedly said that entering the National Assembly building did not amount to a crime especially that the action did not cause any damage. The session was not held because the Kuwaiti law stipulates that the presence of at least one Cabinet minister is essential for the Assembly session to be legal.

MP Mohammad Al-Mutair, who collected the signatures and submitted the motion, said the government’s boycott of the session is an insult to the Kuwaiti people and its institutions. He said the Kuwaiti people will never forget the “heroes” who defended the state establishments and public funds and committed no crime but they were punished by jail terms and forcing them to live abroad.

He said that the government should have attended and expressed its opinion regarding the important issue. MP Hamdan Al-Azemi called on lawmakers to stop their cooperation with the government over its boycott, saying that MPs should boycott sessions or walk out from Assembly meetings including the meetings of committees and the debate to pass the budgets. MP Osama Al-Shaheen also criticized the government for not attending the session, saying that it is incorrect that the government’s attendance is essential for holding Assembly sessions.

KUWAIT: Deputy Speaker Essa Al-Kandari calls off a special National Assembly session which failed to convene yesterday due to lack of quorum. — KUNA

Meanwhile, seven MPs have signed on a motion to debate urgently on May 14 a draft law for imposing a five-percent tax on remittances of expatriates. MP Khalil Al-Saleh who collected the signatures said several other MPs support the bill. The government, the Central Bank and the Assembly legal and legislative committee had all rejected the proposal saying it will have adverse consequences on the Kuwaiti economy and expats as well, besides promoting a black market for transferring money. But the Assembly’s financial and economic affairs panel brushed aside all the rejections and decided to approve the bill and sent it to the Assembly for debate. It was not immediately known if the Assembly will agree to discuss the bill tomorrow and if it has enough support to pass.

By B Izzak