The National Assembly

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Lawmakers yesterday warned they will grill HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah if the government does not provide a durable and fair solution to the issue of thousands of stateless people after another young bedoon tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. The interior ministry said in a statement that it rescued a young bedoon after a fire broke out at a house in Sulaibiya, adding the man was receiving treatment at the intensive care unit in hospital. It did not say the man set fire on himself.

But a number of lawmakers said the man was trying to commit suicide because of the horrific living conditions of more than 100,000 bedoons, accusing the government of refusing to find a fair solution for their plight. MP Marzouq Al-Khalifa, who was elected rapporteur of the committee for bedoons in the Assembly, said the number of suicide cases among bedoons has increased in the past few months, but the government is only forming panels.

Khalifa yesterday submitted a draft law offering bedoons civil rights prepared by the Lawyers Association. He called on the government to cooperate with the Assembly to approve the law. Five lawmakers submitted a motion calling on the legal and legislative committee to speed up its debate of the draft law.

Khalifa and MP Bader Al-Dahoum warned they will grill the prime minister if the government does not cooperate on the issue. MP Saleh Al-Mutairi said a young bedoon committing suicide is a crime against the country, adding MPs will submit legislation to resolve their plight. MP Abdulkarim Al-Kandari called on the Assembly's human rights panel to investigate suicide cases of bedoons and review if the interior ministry statements on the cases were corrrect.

Meanwhile, a number of MPs yesterday demanded a brief debate on the coronavirus vaccination during the National Assembly's next session on Jan 5 to illustrate "precautions and concerns" on the safety of the vaccine. Kuwait last week launched its vaccination program, which gave priority to frontline workers and people aged 65 years and above. The health ministry plans to offer the vaccine to the entire population, including expatriates.

The request for debate submitted by five MPs states that despite assurances made by the prime minister and top officials that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and has no side effects, a number of international experts and doctors have raised concerns that it has some negative effects in the medium and long term.

Over 130,000 people have already registered for vaccination at the health ministry's special website. Kuwait received its first shipment of the vaccine this month and will receive similar shipments every month for a year, according to Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah.

In other parliamentary news, the Assembly office in its first meeting decided to form a committee to investigate the events that took place during the Assembly's inaugural session on Dec 15. The committee is headed by deputy speaker Ahmad Al-Shuhoumi and includes MPs Farz Al-Mutairi, Osama Al-Shaheen and Hesham Al-Saleh. Shuhoumi said the committee will be highly transparent and called on MPs who have any complaints or views on the issue to provide them to the committee within two weeks.

But opposition MPs were quick to reject the move. MP Dahoum charged that the move is an attempt to "hide facts", adding that the Assembly must debate the issue and refer the "assailants" to the public prosecution. He said he has sent a letter to the Assembly detailing what happened during the session to be debated in the next session. MP Kandari said the Assembly office has no authority to investigate the issue because it has not been assigned by the Assembly.

Opposition MPs have demanded a full investigation into what happened during the session, including allowing dozens of supporters of Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem to attend the session in violation of Assembly rules. The lawmakers also charge that those supporters insulted MPs during the session and outside the chamber. Opposition MPs also want a criminal investigation into allegedly fake ballot papers during the election of the speaker.