KUWAIT: HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah speaks during a grilling session at the National Assembly yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By B Izzak
KUWAIT: Ten opposition lawmakers yesterday signed a non-cooperation motion against HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah following a 10-hour marathon grilling over alleged violations and failure to handle the coronavirus. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told MPs voting on the motion will take place on Sept 30. This means the Assembly term will not end tomorrow as scheduled.
According to the constitution, if the Assembly supports the motion next week – a remote possibility – the issue will be referred to HH the Amir, who will decide whether to dismiss the prime minister or dissolve the Assembly. The MPs who signed the motion are Mohammad Hayef, Mohammad Al-Mutair, Abdullah Fahhad, Nayef Al-Merdas, Riyadh Al-Adasani, Thamer Al-Suwait, Abdulkarim Al-Kandari, Hamdan Al-Azemi, Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei and Bader Al-Mulla.

During the debate of the grilling, the prime minister praised his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying Kuwait has booked enough vaccines for the deadly pandemic when they become available. Responding to accusations about the government’s failure to handle the coronavirus crisis, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled, the first Kuwaiti prime minister to face a grilling in public, insisted that Kuwaiti authorities took a large number of bold decisions that averted a food crisis and the spread of the disease.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled said the government only spent KD 500 million on the coronavirus, denying that it spent KD 1 billion. He reiterated that the ideal population structure of Kuwait is 70 percent citizens and 30 percent expats, exactly the opposite of the existing demographics, but acknowledged that a long time is required to achieve the target.

MP Kandari began the grilling by accusing the prime minister of failing to devise policies to tackle problems faced by the country in almost all aspects of life. He said the prime minister should have resigned following the uncovering of a state security spying case.
This case should have resulted in the resignation of the whole government, the lawmaker said. Another leak was related to the Malaysian sovereign fund scandal. Kandari charged that spying on people by the secret service police is in contradiction of democracy and accused the government of attempting to turn the country into a police state.

The lawmaker charged that the government failed in handling the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that the government committed a number of mistakes, adding that in the beginning the government demanded a PCR test from expats, but the decision was cancelled after Egypt protested. He said the government’s incoherent policy in fighting the coronavirus had resulted in a rapid rise in the number of cases, which has now passed 100,000 cases.

Kandari claimed that the government spent a lot of money on containing the coronavirus and some of its projects have been rejected by the Audit Bureau. The lawmaker also accused the prime minister of failing to introduce a policy for controlling the population structure, which is heavily in favor of expatriates.

He accused the prime minister of not succeeding in curbing corruption and in managing the financial policy following the crash in oil prices and questioned how he plans to meet a huge KD 14 billion budget deficit this fiscal year.

MP Subaei accused the prime minister, in the PM’s capacity as head of the Supreme Petroleum Council, of not adopting a prudent oil policy and failing to force top oil executives to employ Kuwaitis in the oil sector. He said some oil sector executives squandered billions of dinars in failed contracts and no one held them to account.
He said major oil companies have been hiring employees through manpower companies that provide foreign staff, adding that these companies have supplied 50,000 expats while there are unemployed Kuwaitis waiting for a job. He insisted that MPs will never accept the imposition of taxes and hiking of prices while the government continues to squander millions of dinars.

Subaie accused the government of abusing the basic rights of Kuwaiti citizens by revoking the citizenship of a number of people to oppress and terrorize them and challenged that the process was against the law. Subaie was rushed to the Assembly clinic during the grilling after feeling some pain.

The prime minister denied the accusations and said his government has recorded many achievements despite its short life of 10 months, and faced many challenges. He said the government has been tackling the coronavirus crisis since January and it faced major obstacles, mainly the presence of three million expats and security challenges.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled added that the country has recorded around 100,000 cases and 584 deaths, both of which are very low compared to cases worldwide. The premier said the government countered exceptional conditions during the coronavirus crisis and was forced to take hard decisions including stopping prayers in mosques, suspending schools and imposing lockdowns and isolations.

Hospital beds for coronavirus treatment increased from 168 at the onset of the outbreak to 3,211 beds, while intensive care units rose from 235 to 925. Facemask stocks were also increased from 25,000 to 9 million. The premier said all countries in the world have been affected.

Sheikh Sabah however admitted that agencies committed mistakes like all agencies in the world, but these were quickly rectified. He said major companies worldwide sustained heavy losses and that some 20 percent of small and medium companies in the world are subjected to closures, according to reports. He also addressed the Malaysian sovereign fund leaks.