Govt forms fact-finding committee - Oil minister forced to submit probe report

KUWAIT: The government yesterday decided to suspend work at all ministries, state institutions, universities and public and private schools today as a precautionary measure. The step was taken in line with forecasts by local and global meteorologists that the country will witness unstable weather conditions in the coming hours.

Forecasts indicate heavy downpours and active winds with high speed, the Cabinet said on its Twitter account yesterday. It added the precautionary move was taken to ensure the safety of both citizens and expatriates. The Cabinet appealed to all people to be cautious and follow instructions and guidelines issued by official bodies and Kuwait TV in this matter. It prayed to Allah to protect the country and people from any risks. For its part, the Civil Service Commission announced today will be a day off, in line with the Cabinet's decision.

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Earlier yesterday, Minister of Public Works Hussam Al-Roumi told the National Assembly that the government has launched a fact-finding investigation into the heavy rains that lashed the country during the past two weeks. The committee, which has independent representatives, has been given complete authority to carry out its investigation on the results of flooding that caused severe devastation in several areas of the country.

The announcement came during a special debate called by MPs over what they allege is a government failure to face the heavy rains and their impact. But the debate could not be completed as the Assembly could not extend the duration of the session because of a lack of quorum. MPs are calling for the establishment of an investigation committee into the issue, as several MPs rejected the idea of assigning the probe to the public works committee. Several MPs strongly lashed out at the government. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari said the country did not sink because of rain but as a result of corruption.

Representatives of the meteorological and the fire departments briefed MPs ahead of the debate on the previous rains and about forecasts predicting heavy rains in the early hours of today, that is expected to continue until Friday. A number of MPs called on the government to declare today and tomorrow as public holidays.

Minister of State for Housing Jenan Bushehri told the Assembly that the damage to Sabah Al-Ahmad area, which was almost submerged by floods, will be referred to the public prosecution. Lawmakers are demanding that any investigation should tackle suspicions over public works and road maintenance contracts. MP Hamdan Al-Azemi said the heavy rains prove that the government has miserably failed and although more rains are expected, the government has made little preparations. He said what happened are catastrophes for which the prime minister is responsible. Opposition MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri filed on Monday to grill the prime minister over the government's failure to face the rains. The grilling is expected to be debated after two weeks.

In another development, MPs clashed with Oil Minister Bakheet Al-Rsheedi over the results of an investigation into allegations made against him and top oil executives during his grilling in May. After the grilling, the government formed an independent committee to study the allegations, and it has completed the probe. MPs demanded the report of the committee, but the minister said it has been referred to a judicial committee formed to study the report and demanded delaying sending the report to them.

But lawmakers strongly rejected this, saying that large parts of the report have already been published in the local media and thus MPs must see it. After Rasheedi insisted on refusing to give the report, the Assembly voted on a resolution asking the minister to submit the report to the Assembly on Sunday. During the session, three opposition MPs - Mohammad Al-Dallal, Adel Al-Damkhi and Mohammad Hayef - resigned from the legal and legislative committee and three members were elected to replace them.

Shiite MP Saleh Ashour criticized their action, saying that the resignation came after pro-government Shiite MP Khaled Al-Shatti was elected head of the committee. Hayef also traded jabs with MP Safa Al-Hashem, the only female member in the house, over merging the women's panel with the human rights committee.

By B Izzak