Tuesday, December 14, 2010
KUWAIT: Three Kuwaiti Parliament members submitted a request Monday to question the Gulf state’s prime minister over a police crackdown of an opposition gathering last week.
The three lawmakers, Musallam al-Barrak, Jamaan al-Harbash and Saleh al-Mulla who represent the main opposition blocs in the Kuwaiti assembly, want to question Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah about possible violations of Kuwait’s Constitution and public freedoms in connection with the incident.
The motion is likely to spark a new political crisis in the country.
Kuwait also shut down the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera television station, accusing it of meddling in Kuwait’s domestic affairs and breaking a reporting ban, according to the state news agency KUNA.
The channel said it was shut down in part because it disregarded warnings from the Information Ministry not to air a program showing Barrak.
Kuwait’s Parliament, the most outspoken in a region mostly governed by ruling families, has triggered numerous Cabinet resignations or reshuffles through questioning and no-confidence motions, which have also resulted in delays to economic reforms.
Several people, including lawmakers, were hurt Wednesday when Kuwaiti police intervened to disperse an opposition gathering. Al-Jazeera showed riot police using batons to push back a group of opposition members.
Al-Jazeera said Barrak took part in one of its programs by telephone last week. The channel said it had responded to warnings from the ministry by inviting the government to participate in another show, an offer that was turned down.
The ministry said the closure was “a ministerial decision due to the channel’s coverage of the recent events in Kuwait and its interference in domestic affairs,” according to KUNA.
This was “despite warnings sent by the ministry to all media not to publish or broadcast any news on recent events,” KUNA said, without giving more details.
The lawmakers represent the Development and Reform Bloc, an Islamist group, the liberal National Action Bloc and the opposition Popular Action bloc. Political parties are banned in Kuwait, so Parliament is made up of individuals who form loose blocs.
Barrak told reporters Monday that there was broader support for questioning the premier than in previous instances, with three parliamentary blocs and a large number of independent lawmakers backing the move.
The questioning would take place during the December 28 session of the assembly, Parliament Speaker Jassem al-Kharafi told KUNA, if the prime minister agrees to it.
Last year, Sheikh Nasser, a senior member of the ruling family and a nephew of the ruler, agreed to be questioned by Parliament, which was a first for a head of government in the Gulf state. He survived the questioning.
The country’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and his predecessors have in the past reshuffled governments or dissolved Parliament after lawmakers made similar requests that could pave the way for votes of no-confidence.
Frequent Cabinet reshuffles, resignations and Parliament dissolutions have delayed economic reform bills, including the creation of a markets watchdog.
The Cabinet had to pass a $5 billion stimulus package as a by-law last year while Parliament was dissolved.