Kuwait takes firm steps for protests
KUWAIT CITY - The Associated Press
Protesters scuffle with riot police at a demonstration near the parliament. REUTERS photo
Kuwait’s ruler ordered authorities on Nov.17 to tighten security measures in the Gulf nation and conduct possible arrests after parliament was stormed by an anti-government mob angered by high-level corruption allegations.
The rifts in oil-rich Kuwait began years before the Arab Spring protests, but opposition factions could be further emboldened by the push for reforms around the region. Critics of Kuwait’s ruling family claim it turns a blind eye to allegations of widespread corruption and uses security forces to crush dissenting voices. Dozens of protesters surged over police barricades on Nov.16 and briefly entered the parliament chamber amid attempts by opposition lawmakers to bring the prime minister for questioning over claims that government officials transferred state funds to accounts outside the country. Kuwait’s key affairs are run by the ruling family, but it has one of the region’s most politically active parliaments.
Government spokesman Ali Fahad al-Rashid, speaking after an emergency government meeting, quoted the emir as denouncing the parliament protest as threatening the country’s “security and stability” and calling for “stricter measures to confront this chaotic behavior.” Al-Rashid said the Interior Ministry and other security forces were ordered to take “all necessary measures to combat any actions that might beset the country’s security.” The steps could include legal action against the protesters who entered parliament and possible crackdowns on opposition media for “any instigation,” according to the official Kuwait News Agency. The Interior Ministry said five members of the security services were injured during the scuffles in parliament. The ministry did not elaborate, and there was no word on whether protesters were injured or detained. In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner praised Kuwait for its “political freedom and cooperation.” He said it has “a vibrant civil society and an open press environment. So, we would just ask that any peaceful protests be respected.” Opposition parliament members have sought to question Prime Minister Sheik Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah over the money transfer allegations. Last month, Kuwait’s foreign minister resigned as the scandal grew.On Nov.16, pro-government lawmakers managed to vote down a request for the questioning, but opposition groups filed another motion to force another debate later this month.