Assembly delays grillings of oil, finance ministers - Dispute over legality of Khrainej's last-minute vote
By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The National Assembly yesterday comfortably postponed the debate of the grilling of Oil Minister Hani Hussein for four months but needed some last-minute work to do the same for Finance Minister Mustafa Al-Shamali. The postponements came two weeks after the Assembly agreed to a government request to delay grillings against the ministers of communications and interior until the next Assembly term starting late October and after several MPs protested that it might be unconstitutional to delay grillings indefinitely. Thirty-nine MPs approved the postponement for the oil minister, 19 opposed while four lawmakers abstained.
But the finance minister narrowly escaped from being grilled yesterday after only 32 MPs voted in favour of the delay, just one vote short of the required number of 33 votes. While Speaker Ali Al-Rashed was calculating the outcome of the voting and was ready to announce the result, deputy speaker Mubarak Al-Khrainej entered the chamber and voted in favour of the postponement, thus completing the required legal number.
But a number of MPs protested against allowing Khrainej to cast his vote after voting had finished. Rashed then adjourned the session. When he came back, he said his legal advisers gave two conflicting views - one saying Khrainej's participation was legal and the other insisting it was illegal. As a result, Rashed asked MPs to vote on the issue on whether to count Khrainej's vote or not and the Assembly agreed to count it, delaying the finance minister's grilling.
The two MPs who filed to grill the oil minister Saadoun Hammad and Nawaf Al-Fuzai strongly rejected attempts to delay the debate of the grilling, saying it contained issues that cannot wait. The grilling is based on allegations that the minister is responsible for the huge fine Kuwait must pay to US giant Dow Chemical, allegations of a partnership with an Israeli company, in addition to alleged financial and administrative violations.
Hammad charged that what he had warned of happened regarding the Dow issue as the International Arbitration Court raised the compensation to Dow Chemical from the original $2.16 billion to $2.48 billion, after adding $318 million in costs and interest. He said that Kuwait is paying a daily interest of $250,000 to the penalty until it pays the compensation. The Arbitration Court had ordered Kuwait to pay the compensation in May last year, almost four years after the Cabinet scrapped the $17.4 billion joint venture between Kuwait's Petrochemicals Industries Co (PIC) and Dow Chemical.
Regarding the Israeli partnership, Hammad charged that Kuwait Petroleum International, which has huge holdings in Europe, has become a partner with an Israeli company in an energy investment in Europe after the original shareholder sold its stake to the Israeli company. Hammad claimed Kuwait knew of the change but did nothing to leave the investment. The lawmaker warned that a number of suspected violations are taking place in several overseas oil projects Kuwait is taking part in and he mentioned the oil complex in Vietnam where Kuwait is at risk of paying a fine worth $3 billion. MP Fuzai claimed that the Dow joint venture was a losing project based on the opinion of the consultant and that Dow Chemical wanted the venture to cover up some of its losses at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. No new date has been set for the debate of the two grillings.
© Kuwait Times 2013
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