Kuwaitï¿½s Previous Parliament Reinstated, Shell And K-Dow Probes Continue
Kuwait's constitutional court ruled on 20 June that Februaryï¿½s general election was illegal, and it reinstated the previous pro-government parliament. Kuwait's Amir had earlier suspended parliament for one month, heading off the planned questioning of the Interior Minister by the opposition, which was scheduled for 19 June, and possible government collapse. The courtï¿½s move also halts the proposed grilling of Minister of Oil Hani Husain. But parliamentï¿½s finance committeeï¿½s investigations into Shellï¿½s service contract with Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), and Petrochemical Industry Companyï¿½s (PICï¿½s) cancelled deal with Dow Chemical can continue, Nick Wilson writes.
ï¿½The court declared that the Amirï¿½s decree that called for the 2012 election was unconstitutional and ordered reinstating the previous assembly,ï¿½ state-run KUNA
news agency reported. The Amir of Kuwait Shaikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah issued the decree in December, dissolving parliament following a strike by oil workers and street protests calling for reforms and the firing of the Amirï¿½s relative, former Prime Minister Shaikh Nasir Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Senior opposition MP Musallam al-Barrak called the verdict ï¿½a coup against the constitution.ï¿½ By 21 June more than half of the current parliamentï¿½s MPs had resigned in protest.
Before the ruling the Amir had already suspended parliament ï¿½ effective from 18 June ï¿½ to blunt parliamentï¿½s attacks on his government. Opposition lawmakers, who hold a majority of seats, had called another of the Amirï¿½s relatives, Interior Minister Shaikh Ahmad al-Hamud al-Sabah, for questioning on 19 June about Kuwaitï¿½s citizenship law and stateless residents, the Bedoon. He wanted a two-week postponement, which had to be requested in person, but was unable to do so as he was out of the country. Grillings have forced the resignation of two ministers in less than a month as parliament tries to gain control over the cabinet.
Rola Dashti, a member of the previous parliament before the February elections, tells MEES: ï¿½Parliament promised the Amir that it would give the new government six months of stability ï¿½ no grillings. Instead there have been more than eight grillings and votes of no confidence. There was no cohesion between the current government and [the now disqualified] parliament.ï¿½ She says it had passed controversial laws despite the government saying they are not appropriate or not a priority.
Dr Dashti was on the parliamentary finance committee that last year started the investigation into Shellï¿½s $800mn consultancy deal with state-owned upstream firm KOC to help develop northern Jurassic gas fields (MEES, 8 August 2011). The investigation, which continued under the following parliament, includes whether Shell has operational or management control over the planned 1bn cfd sour gas project in Umm Niga and Sabriyah gas fields, and if KOC followed its own procedures. She says: ï¿½The investigation was definitely heading to the public prosecutor for indictments of KOC employees and officials outside KOC ï¿½ it was a contract with two parties and the whole contract has problems.ï¿½ Dr Dashti would not confirm whether this also includes Shell executives. The last parliament ï¿½ which was aggressively anti-government and whose speaker had said it was going to restrict crude production based on reserves and bring the Supreme Petroleum Council under control of parliament and the cabinet ï¿½ had continued the probe and was expected to target senior managers. A parallel government probe has already referred its findings to the public prosecutor (MEES, 14 May).
Parliament and the government had also launched separate probes into the cancellation of a $17.4bn joint petrochemicals venture, K-Dow (MEES, 4 June) with Dow Chemical. An international court ruled that PIC has to pay $2.16bn in damages to Dow. In addition some MPs wanted to question the oil minister over his role in the deal. When parliaments change, the incoming one normally continues the work of the previous parliamentary committees, and ministerial investigations are unaffected by the change.
Parliamentary pressure has forced the cancellation or delay of several ï¿½mega-projectsï¿½ including planned refineries, power plants and K-Dow, with MPs arguing that the tenders to bid for the projects were not transparent and invited corruption.
© Copyright MEES 2012.