Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair
Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair

KUWAIT: Resistance against Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair appears to be gaining momentum with more MPs and trade unions criticizing the minister’s decision to shuffle the top executives of the oil sector but he insists this is an integral part of his authority.

The latest standoff in the vital oil sector was triggered by the minister’s decision to swap the positions of the chief executive officers of Kuwait Oil Co (KOC) Hashem Hashem and Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co (KUFPEC) Sheikh Nawaf Saud Al-Sabah, both subsidiaries of Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC). The decision was rejected outright by the CEO of KPC Nezar Al-Adasani who told the minister that such a decision was not within his authority and refused to implement it.

Several MPs and trade unions have criticized the minister’s decision including MP Ahmad Al-Qhudhaibi and Khalil Al-Saleh who vowed to grill the minister.

MP Abdullah Al-Tameemi said yesterday that the council of ministers will unlikely allow Omair’s decisions to go through because they violate the law. The lawmaker advised the minister to seek the approval of the KPC board and to compromise with the oil sector. The lawmaker refused that the oil sector, which contributes 95 percent of the country’s revenues, should fall hostage to political rivalry.

The trade unions of KUFPEC and Kuwait Petrochemicals Industries Co (PIC) strongly rejected the minister’s decision with PIC union insisting it is an attempt by the minister to control the oil sector. The union said in a statement that the minister is ignoring laws and the authorities of the Supreme Petroleum Council and KPC board.

But the minister insisted on his Twitter account that the decision is within his authority and powers and said that he intends to continue with his reformist decisions. The minister also published legal opinion from the government legal department which said that he can change the oil companies’ CEOs.

MP Faisal Al-Kundari said the minister’s decision is legal and within the constitutional powers of the minister, adding that he totally backs the minister in his decisions. Kundari also criticized KPC chief Adasani’s letter to the minister in which he rejected to implement the decision, saying that this represents a challenge to the state’s authority.

Abdaly cell

In another issue, reporter of the assembly human rights panel MP Askar Al-Enezi said the committee will launch a transparent investigation into complaints by members of the so-called Abdaly cell or the Iran-linked terror cell. But Enezi rejected accusations made in the assembly session on Wednesday that members of the cell were tortured by police and the investigation was not neutral.

He was referring to a speech by leading Shiite MP Adnan Abdulsamad who said that no one should rush judgments on the cell members until after a final court ruling had been issued. Abdulsamd’s speech triggered heated arguments between Sunni and Shiite MPs. Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti meanwhile criticized lawmakers who interrupted the speech of Abdulsamad in the assembly, saying the actions are unacceptable.

The criminal court meanwhile heard yesterday defense witnesses in the case involving 25 Kuwaiti Shiites and one Iranian. Two Kuwaitis and the Iranian are still at large. The court set the next hearing for November 26 for defense lawyers to make their arguments.

By B Izzak