The National Assembly session on Wednesday was the opposite of Tuesday’s session in terms of the absence of heated discussions and the number of achievements.
The session started with deliberations on incoming letters, including that of MP Muhammad Al-Dallal who asked the Assembly to assign the State Audit Bureau (SAB) to scrutinize and review all documents related to the Airbus deal due to suspicions of bribery and illegal commissions.
He suggested the bureau should submit its report on the deal to the Assembly within two months. A number of MPs including Safa’a Al-Hashem and Omar Al-Tabtabaei signed the letter, confirming their support for Al-Dallal’s recommendation
Al-Dallal pointed out that Kuwait should not be content with just the foreign judiciary in London investigating the issue as it concerns some Kuwaiti public institutions like Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) and the Ministry of Defense.
Commenting on the issue, MP Ali Al-Daqbasi asserted the government has the authority to punish those proven to be involved in irregularities. Corruption will continue if its heads are not cut.
The least that the government can do is to suspend officials suspected of involvement, he added. MP Salah Khursheed said it seems KAC — the national carrier of Kuwait — is subject to a systematic process aimed at destroying the carrier in the interest of some private sector airlines. “Strangely, some airlines are making huge profits despite the fact that they were established just three or four years ago while KAC continues to incur losses,” Khursheed asserted.
MP Khalil Abul emphasized the need for Kuwait to conduct its own investigation, away from the British courts that might be affected by politics especially the dispute between Britain and the European Union. He inquired: “Where was SAB while the deal was progressing?” Deputy Speaker Essa Al- Kandari reiterated that Kuwait or any Kuwaiti institution, company and individual were not mentioned in the British investigations or British court decisions.
He showed a video clip and his press statement on this issue, considering the deal started during his tenure as minister of communications and KAC is a subsidiary of the ministry. MP Abdulla Al-Kandari said it is true that Kuwait was not mentioned except in the investigations conducted in France but he is afraid other names will be revealed in the future. After the discussion, the MPs voted on assigning SAB to submit a report on the deal within two months and to discuss the report in a special session.
The Assembly also approved the proposed formation of a parliamentary committee to study the issue and submit its report within three months. The committee consists of MPs Saleh Ashour, Khalil Al-Saleh and Dr Bader Al-Mullah. On the other hand, Minister of Finance Barrak Al-Shetian affirmed the government is keen on combating corruption; disclosing that he instructed the Financial Controllers Bureau to conduct investigations on the deal.
Meanwhile, the Assembly discussed the reports of the Legislative Affairs Committee. Committee Chairman MP Khalid Al-Shatti presented the report on the proposed amendment of the Penal Code. He pointed out the bill allows a retrial if new pieces of evidence are found, even if a final court verdict was issued declaring the defendant guilty.
He cited two examples: First if a defendant is convicted based on testimony but the witness is proven to have committed perjury, the testimony will be canceled. Second, if a man is sentenced to life imprisonment or death for murder but the victim is found to be alive. He added this procedure has been adopted by several countries in the Gulf and other parts of the world; affirming the ministries of Justice and Interior, as well as the Public Prosecution, have not objected to the implementation of the bill. The Assembly approved the bill in its first reading while the second reading is slated for the next session, after some minor revisions.
The Assembly then discussed the proposal to allow private law offices to notarize documents and launch online notarization, which used to be exclusive to the Notarization Department at the Ministry of Justice. Legislative Affairs Committee Chairman MP Khalid Al-Shatti pointed out this bill, once approved, will ease procedures for commercial companies and individuals. He added the committee received similar bills from MPs and the government.
Responding to the queries of his colleagues about the bill, Al-Shatti affirmed that the license for providing notary service will be controlled by laying down strict conditions. He clarified the service will be provided only to citizens and Kuwaiti legal offices in the private sector. The Assembly passed the bill in its first reading with 42 MPs and ministers voting in favor. Moreover, the Assembly tackled the Legislative Affairs Committee’s report on the bill organizing judiciary work.
Rapporteur of the committee MP Muhammad Al-Dallal presented a brief on the bill which allows an individual found guilty by the court to request a review of the decision in case the judge commits a grave error or due to fraud or conflict of interests. He confirmed the Ministry of Justice and Supreme Judiciary Council endorsed the bill, indicating the only point of contention is the amount that the concerned person should pay to the court in order to revise the verdict.
He disclosed the ministry said the fee should be KD 1,000 while the committee suggested KD 200. He explained the bill is aimed at developing the justice system and protecting the dignity of judges. If proven that the judge committed a grave error, the fee is refunded to the defendant and the State pays the specified compensation, he added. MP Abdullah Al-Kandari affirmed this is currently implemented in many countries as judges can also make mistakes. The Assembly unanimously approved the bill in its first reading, as all those present at the time of voting — a total of 38 — voted in favor.
The Assembly then proceeded to discuss the report of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee on the proposal to form a committee or establish an institution affiliated to the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK). Committee Chairperson MP Safa’a Al-Hashem disclosed the bill regulates decisions issued by religious boards in Islamic banks. She added there was only one Islamic bank in the country before — Kuwait Finance House (KFH), but there are three local Islamic banks, in addition to Al- Rajhi Bank now; hence, the need to ratify the bill. She said the suggested entity will evaluate disputes between clients and the banks, instead of resorting to the Fatwa and Legislation Department at the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.