Manama: Kuwaitis have to learn how to disagree without allowing their differences to turn into quarrels, hostilities or conflicts, the Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said on Sunday.
“In fact, differences of opinion are a grace and an indication of good health and vitality and positive interaction between the sons of any free society. Nobody should be wary or worried about it as we Kuwaitis are patriotic and keen on serving our nation and upholding its values and protecting its achievements,” Shaikh Sabah told the new lawmakers and government ministers as he opened the 14th parliament in the country’s history.
Kuwait has been rocked by sharp divisions between those who supported the parliamentary elections on December 1 and those who opposed it and boycotted it to protest against the amendment of the 2006 electoral law that slashed the number of candidates a voter can elect from four to one.
The opposition, arguing the amendment would reduce its influence and would usher in a rubber-stamp parliament, has been pushing for the boycott of the elections and now for the abolition of the legislative house on the grounds that it was not genuinely representative of the nation. Several rallies and protests have been staged in Kuwait City, including on the eve and morning of the inauguration, as part of the street pressure tactics favoured by the opposition since it helped oust the government in November 2011.
However, the Emir in his speech said that actions should invariably avoid causing chaos and undermining security and stability and insisted that as the head of state, he was the guarantor of the constitution.
“We reaffirm our faith in honest democracy and our firm commitment to the constitution. I have said that I am the protector of the Constitution and I will not tolerate attempts to undermine it or to abuse it,” he said. “Our belief is that the constitution is — after God — the basic guarantee for homeland security and stability. I have also often said that all Kuwaitis were my children regardless of how different their interpretations and opinions are. I stand at an equal distance from all and I do stress my full trust that everyone in the end is keen on Kuwait’s interests. There is no winner or loser when Kuwait triumphs,” he said.
Shaikh Sabah said that Kuwait needed to be fully ready to weather the ominous storm of numerous formidable tasks and crucial challenges looming large in the region.
“They also include the nation-building of a democratic, free, prosperous, secure and stable Kuwait where equality and dignity prevail,” he said. “The success of the parliament and the government has now become an imperative,” he said.
Addressing the government formed last week, Shaikh Sabah said that the first steps would be to identify, acknowledge and diagnose failures to be able to fix them.
“The government has to have realistic and valid plans that can be implemented. Ambitions should not be higher than possibilities and priorities should be at the top of the agenda.”
The Emir said that public services should be upgraded and the law should be fully applied, especially in fighting corruption and abuses.
The new lawmakers have to improve the performance of the parliament and enhance its positive role in fostering national development, Shaikh Sabah said.
“The parliament should be cleaned from the impurities that hinder the performance of its vital role and positive in enacting laws and objectively monitoring. The parliament should be distanced from all forms of sectarianism and tribal and factional and parochial interests. It should also work on improving the standard of debates, overcoming the aseptic controversies that waste time, effort and energy, and respecting the limits between the branches of the state.”
Shaikh Sabah said that the media should assume an efficient role on fostering national unity and shunning divisions between the various segments of the society.
Addressing young people, the Emir said that they were the dynamic energy that moves and uplifts society. “You are the foundation of the country’s security and stability and you are the pillars of its forthcoming progress and we will not withhold efforts or funds to help you assume your responsibilities,” he said.
“You need to be better aware and more mature in forming your convictions and positions and in choosing the path that will serve your interests and those of your country and families. Be aware that every issue has ample room for more than one opinion or understanding and that that freedom of expression and the right to be different are basic tools in any democratic system,” he said.