Closed door parliament session over ‘tape issue’ – MP: Tape a distraction

Marzouq Al-Ghanem

Marzouq Al-Ghanem

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanem yesterday made a brief statement regarding the “tape issue” after concluding a closed-door session. In a statement to journalists after the session, Ghanem said he will not reveal any details about the debates during the session in compliance with the public prosecutor’s decision to prohibit public debates about the matter.

The speaker hoped Kuwait would be spared “seditions and any act that might destabilize the homeland,” stressing on the necessity of “closing the chapter of irrational political activities and preoccupying people with pointless political wrangling aimed at distracting constitutional institutions from proceeding with tasks and finalizing files that concern citizens.”

Ghanem said any dissolution of the National Assembly “is in safe hands – the hands of His Highness the Amir – and this is the sentiment shared by a majority of the MPs who are not scared of rumors buzzing about dissolving the parliament.” He also indicated that proposed modifications of the Capital Market Authority would be examined by the relevant parliamentary committees.

“Everything shown at the closed door session regarding ‘the video recording’ will be turned over to the office of the state prosecution,” said Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, according a statement Ghanem read yesterday. He indicated in his statement that the National Assembly held the closed door meeting requested by the government during which a number of lawmakers and the prime minister discussed the issue of the tape.

He said MPs and the prime minister were informed at this meeting of the emergence of the videotape which was shown and was deemed poor in the quality of the sound and picture. The sound was particularly inaudible on the alleged master copy. “After the showing, attendees of the closed-door session were apprised of the findings of independent outside sources who concluded categorically that this so-called master tape recording was defective in sound and picture,” said the speaker, noting that other tapes were also examined that were handed in by the same person who provided the master tape, identified as a member of the ruling family. These tapes were also discovered to be of very poor quality.

Ghanem explained in the statement he read to the Assembly that the prime minister moreover reviewed at the closed door meeting “all independent reports acquired from specialized sources that confirmed the fact that all the video and audio recordings had been tampered with in one way or another.”

Following the showing of the tapes at the closed-door session, the prime minister opened the field for any questions the lawmakers attending the meeting might have wanted to ask him about. Sheikh Jaber stressed that everything concerning the tapes would be turned over to the office of the state prosecutor. The parliament also rejected a proposal to form an investigative panel into the videotape with a landslide majority of 50 members against seven, Ghanem said.

The recording or set of recordings are said to incriminate a number of high-placed public figures and reveal a plot to overthrow the regime and to challenge the rights and competencies of HH the Amir. The attorney general on Thursday ordered a news blackout on the controversial videotape, saying the investigation should be confidential. Last week, the Amiri Diwan appealed for calm and urged the public “to avoid debating the issue and leave it to the public prosecution to take the necessary measures.”

Without discussing the details of the tape, some MPs weighed in on the issue, suggesting it had to do with larger political concerns in Kuwait. Islamist MP Hamdan Al-Azemi said the issue of the videotape is a reflection of “an internal struggle between senior members of the Al-Sabah ruling family.” “The infighting is for governance and money… We cannot accept what is happening and most of the problems are orchestrated … My message to the government (is) the Kuwaiti people are tired and there must be a solution,” Azemi told reporters outside parliament.

Since 2006, Kuwait has been rocked by a series of political disputes between the Sabah-controlled government and MPs, and between members of the ruling family. About a dozen governments have been formed and parliament has been dissolved on six occasions. Since parliamentary elections last July, when pro-government candidates won a majority after an opposition boycott, Kuwait’s political scene has been relatively calm.

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