Five of the FNC’s boldest moments

Questioning members of the Government, and the pressure of knowing all session minutes are readily available to the public, have led to some strong moments for members inside the council chambers.

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Questioning members of the Government, and the pressure of knowing all session minutes are readily available to the public, have led to some strong moments for members inside the council chambers. During marathon sessions held in the capital, FNC members have utilised their power to make a number of aggressive calls and stands, heating up discussions and putting ministers in the hot seat. Here’s the five boldest moments:

Appointing the first female deputy speaker

One record the council has been proud of has been the participation of women in politics.

Following presidential amendments to laws governing the work of the FNC in 2005, women were allowed into the council starting from 2006, when the first elections were held.

Despite a concern over whether women would win votes, one woman, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, was voted to the council. In 2011 she was reappointed by the leadership. During the first FNC sessions she was voted deputy speaker, making her the first woman to hold that position in a GCC national assembly.

Refusing to pass the closing accounts of 2010

In 2011, members of the FNC refused to debate the 2010 end-of-year closing account bill in protest against numerous instances of alleged misspending and rule breaches that were repeated year after year, with no clear mechanism to help auditors to keep ministries and other entities from making the errors. They claimed there was misuse of the budget.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State for FNC Affairs, told the council that this was not their constitutional right and they had to proceed by reviewing and passing the closing bill.

The council members insisted they had the right, but a compromise was reached when the report was sent back to the council’s back bench to be reviewed before another public hearing.

Calling for a Human Rights Committee

Following the European Parliament’s October 2012 resolution criticising the UAE’s human-rights record, taking the UAE to task over civil liberties, conditions for migrant workers, the status of women, the death penalty, human trafficking, press freedom and gender equality, the FNC lobbied for a new human-rights committee in the council.

Pressure from UAE citizens also pushed FNC members to act, believing such reports tainted the country’s image.

In December 2012, the Government gave council the right to form such a committee. The FNC decided the committee would act as an intermediary between the European Union and the UAE Government, to help to protect human rights in the country.

Since the committee's formation, however, work has been slow. So far only a work plan has been drawn up, and a proposal for a law on women's rights reviewed.

Giving unprecedented power for child removal

During discussions of the country's first Child Rights law, formerly known as Wadeema's law after an eight-year-old was tortured to death by her father and his girlfriend, council members insisted that childcare specialists be given full rights to remove children from their homes if they were found to be in imminent danger, despite concerns that this would be unconstitutional.

Members agreed that a child’s well-being was a matter that could not be bargained over when lawyers in the council objected to the clause, saying it would be an invasion into people’s private lives.

Calling for the removal of the utilities head

After a four-hour debate in November 2012 with the Minister of Energy, Mohammed Al Hamili, two members urged the minister to sack Mohammed Saleh, director general of the Federal Water and Electricity Authority, shocking members of the Government.

Mohammed Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) and Faisal Al Teniji (RAK) made the call following a series of complaints over power cuts and poor water quality in the Northern Emirates, and of over-chlorination. It was later noted that the council’s call was not official as no formal vote was taken but the decision was made by acclamation.

osalem@thenational.ae