Bahrain Parliament – NoIssues to Discuss ?

Two news reports, which we published one week apart, give us some interesting, and somewhat amusing, food for thought.

On 21 Feb, we reported that “Bahrain’s Shura Council is indefinitely suspending its sessions on the grounds that it has nothing to discuss”.

Now, is that not strange? That for the first time since it was established in 1993, it has cancelled its meetings “due to a lack of issues, to debate”?

Is there really a shortage of concerns which need to be addressed by the government? Or is there a lack of willingness to face problems?

On unemployment, on lifting of subsidies, on educational reforms, on economic development, and on a myriad other topics, aren’t there any discussions needed in the upper house of the parliament?

Needless to say, as soon as the news of the suspension came out, it immediately evoked criticism and sarcasm from many readers, and also from some members of the parliament.

As in many countries, Bahrain’s Parliament – called National Assembly – is also bicameral, and the lower house ‘Chamber of Deputies’ usually refers bills or draft-laws to the upper house, the Consultative Council, referred to as ‘Shura Council’ .

So now – when the Shura Council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh said that due to a lack of topics being referred to, by MPs, there was no point in a meeting the following Sunday (28 Feb) – it immediately attracted denunciation and sparked unpleasant comments from several quarters. His announcement came  a week after his call to MPs to work hard in bringing  critical issues to the forefront.

The suspension, based on the claim that “not enough subjects to discuss were referred by the Council of Representatives,” is – according to some – an “indirect accusation” of laziness on the MPs.

But MPs like Adel Al Assoomy and Khalid Al Shaer slammed the suspension decision and demanded that the Parliament Chairman Ahmed Al Mulla “take immediate action against this mockery.”

They argued that “Shura Council members have (in fact) been delaying key law proposals submitted to them”! And that the suspension does not reflect well on the parliament.

It is definitely not heartening to see the differences between the two houses, now and then. These differences need to be ironed out, so that the National Assembly will project the authority and dignity that is truly becoming of a supreme government body.

In many countries around the world, the two houses of bicameral parliaments usually stand divided on many key legal issues, and debate for weeks, before a law is finally approved.

But, on a positive note, it actually reflects the power of democratic values – where the issue at hand is thoroughly discussed by all concerned.

In Bahrain, both houses, or chambers, of the National Assembly has 40 members each, and each house needs a quorum of at least 21 MPs for a business session to be fruitful.

It has been learnt, however, I must sadly say, that on some occasions the weekly parliament meeting has ended prematurely at lunch — because not enough MPs returned to the chamber in the afternoon.

This is not a positive sign.

It should not be forgotten that the MPs and their serious commitment to the responsibilities entrusted to them is what forms the strength of a nation, and the true character of a homeland.