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29-02-2012 - Kuwait Times

Sparks fly as Kuwaiti MPs vote to recognise Syrian council

Sectarian clashes dominated parts of yesterday's National Assembly's tension-packed session in which MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal to recognise the Syrian National Council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

Forty-four MPs including all Cabinet ministers in the session backed the proposal, five voted against it, one abstained while three MPs refused to vote. Most of those who opposed the motion were Shiite MPs.

Pro-Syrian Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti protested at the proposal, saying that it did not serve Kuwaiti interests while a majority of other MPs called for supporting the Syrian people against the massacres of the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

That led to strong exchanges between opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak on the one hand and Dashti and another Shiite MP Hussein Al-Qallaf on the other after Barrak strongly blasted the Syrian regime as a "butcher regime that has been slaughtering its own people".

The clash forced deputy speaker Khaled Al-Sultan to adjourn the session for 15 minutes.

The Assembly also decided to debate the Syrian issue today after the government called for the delay in order to allow the foreign minister to be present in the session.

The Assembly later rejected a proposal signed by nine MPs, mostly Shiites, calling to set up an investigation committee to probe allegations that Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani paid millions of dinars to some MPs and writers.

State Minister for National Assembly Affairs Shuaib Al-Muwaizri strongly criticized involving GCC partner Qatar in such unfounded allegations, while liberal MP Mohammad Al-Saqer said the baseless allegations were made by a "yellow newspaper" in Kuwait without naming it. The report was published by Al-Shahed newspaper.

The Assembly also passed a proposal to debate six draft laws on supporting national labour, early retirement, establishing a medical city and amending the trials and public tenders laws on the sessions of March 13, 14 and 15. The government demanded that committees must work on the draft laws before debating them. The Assembly will today debate the issue of Syria and then elect the parliamentary caucus.

Meanwhile, several Kuwaiti youth groups, which led unprecedented pro-democracy protests, have merged into a single movement to intensify their campaign of reforms, an activist said yesterday.

"All youth organisations have dissolved themselves ... and together formed a political group named the Democratic Civil Movement (DCM) open for all youth," one of the founders of the new group, Yahya Al-Dakheel, said.

"The aim of DCM is to press for fundamental democratic reforms to achieve a full parliamentary system in Kuwait" where the prime minister will be elected from outside the Al-Sabah ruling family, he said.

Other objectives include reforming the election law to transform Kuwait into a single electoral constituency with legalising political parties, he added.

DCM has the backing of at least five members of the new 50-seat parliament where the opposition controls a comfortable majority. Encouraged by the Arab Spring, Kuwaiti youth groups led street rallies throughout last year and played a key role in forcing the resignation of Sheikh Nasser in November.

The new movement plans to hold elections within the next two weeks for the main office bearers, besides its 15-member political bureau, Dakheel said.


Other sources on GCC civil society and human rights