Kuwaiti interior minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al-Sabah attended a meeting of the National Assembly's (parliament’s) interior and defense committee that has been probing allegations that he ordered the release of two Iranian drug dealers. The minister had failed to attend three previous meetings. Sheikh Jaber, who has increasingly come under fire, left the meeting without issuing any statement. Rapporteur of the panel MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri said it was decided to summon two senior interior ministry officers for the investigation next week referring its findings to the Assembly.
Opposition MP Musallam Al-Barrak alleged in the previous Assembly term that the interior minister released the two Iranian drug dealers deliberately, hinting at some high-level mediation. Barrak said that the two men were arrested and directly sent to the deportation center instead of referring them to the public prosecution to press charges. Later, the two men were freed at instructions of the minister. During the debate, Sheikh Jaber acknowledged he ordered their release but cited social reasons as they have a Kuwaiti sister.
Sheikh Jaber has come under fire in recent weeks after two officers were ordered in jail for three days for "disobeying orders" after they caught red-handed a Kuwaiti woman and a Jordanian man in a comprising position in a car in Salwa. Opposition MPs charged that senior officials had attempted to interfere in the legal proceedings to pressurise the two officers not to lodge a complaint against the couple. The ministry denied the allegations.
Islamist MPs meanwhile continued to target education and higher education minister Modhi Al-Humoud, with MP Mohammad Hayef warning he would grill her if she continued to "politicise" appointments in senior positions. Islamists have accused the liberal minister of favouring people from her own political camp in new appointments in the two ministries. MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei even charged that the minister intends not to renew Kuwaiti University rector Abdullah Al-Fuhaid for a new term because she plans to appoint a political ally in his place.
But the minister responded strongly saying that appointments to senior positions are entirely based on qualifications and competence and not on political considerations. Liberal MP Saleh Al-Mulla also defended the minister, saying that the pressure by Islamists is a tactic to promote their own people.
September 28, 2010
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The Kuwaiti political scene appears to be slowly heading towards increased tensions and potential confrontation between the government and parliament.
The summer recess has led to pre-summer tensions generally going quite, but it now appears there are two potentially serious areas where the government could clash with parliament. The more serious one involved the interior minister, who is a senior member of the ruling family. If the panel’s recommendations to the Assembly (parliament) rule that the minister acted inappropriately in releasing the alleged drug-dealers, then this is likely going to led to a grilling in parliament. This has in the past led to the government resigning or the parliament getting dissolved to avoid “humiliating” the minister by subjecting him to a grilling.
The threat to grill the education minister is also serious. Although the current situation does not necessarily mean that there will be a parliamentary grilling of either minister, the situation appears to be heading in this direction. If this does indeed happen, it is likely that a spiral of accusations and counter-accusations between the parliament and government will start, ending a period of relative calm. This can ultimately lead to a dissolution of parliament, as it has in the past, putting the government’s plans for economic reform at risk.