Sheikh Khalifa formally opens new FNC session

UAE President urges members of the 40-strong council to live up to the "high hopes and expectations" set as they fulfill an "arduous responsibility".

Fourth from left, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed watches the opening session. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President, opened the 15th legislative chapter of the FNC yesterday with a reminder to new members of their responsibility to the nation.

He urged the men and women who will sit on the council to fulfil the aspirations of the people who selected them and to pledge themselves to the interests of the country.

Earlier the area around the FNC building was aflutter with UAE flags, and there was an impressive military array of tanks while troops lined the red carpet from 11am, awaiting the President’s arrival.

The opening followed the election of 20 members on September 24, and the appointment of a further 20 this weekend.

New members waited nervously inside the council chamber watching a screen showing what was going on outside, as officials and sheikhs arrived.

At 11.42am Sheikh Khalifa arrived outside and the chamber fell silent, all 39 members present – Ghareeb Al Suraidi, an elected member from Fujairah, was absent because of illness – fixing their eyes on the screen.

The President stood on the red carpet as troops saluted to the strains of the national anthem. As he entered the building he was greeted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

At exactly noon, Sheikh Khalifa entered the chamber, followed by the rulers of the other six emirates.

After a recitation from the Quran, he opened the 15th legislative chapter, praying that the FNC would work for what is best for the country and its people.

“We congratulate you as you received the confidence of the people and support of the leadership and remind you that membership of the National Council is not a privilege or societal relevance but it is an arduous responsibility of those who have put confidence in you and nominated you. They have high hopes and expectations of you,” he said.

“Come up to this confidence and commit yourselves to the interest of the nation and the interests of citizens and you will have our full support in this endeavour.”

Abdullah Hamad Al Shamsi, an elected member from Ajman, concluded the ceremony by responding on behalf of the FNC members, reaffirming that they would work towards what was best for the country.

Sheikh Khalifa then left, followed by the other rulers, crown princes, officials and FNC members for a group photograph.

An hour later the members returned to the chamber. Led by Mr Al Shamsi, as temporary speaker, they took their oaths. First was an elected Ras Al Khaimah member, Ahmed Abdullah Al Amash.

"I swear in Allah's name, I will be loyal to the United Arab Emirates, and respect the federal constitution and its laws, and work in the council and in the committees in all honest and integrity," he said.

His fellow members were called one by one to stand and take the same oath. Several showed their nerves, stuttering as they repeating the oath.

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, an elected member in the last chapter, and this time appointed, was eighth to take the oath - and the first woman.

"It has a big meaning to the new members," she said. "To meet the highnesses and renew their trust."

She said the new members would never forget taking the oath so publicly. "They have all already taken the oath in their hearts when they were born, but now can show their loyalty to the country. This leaves a big mark on members."

The members then set about electing the speaker and first and second deputy speakers of the council, as well as its eight committees. The session ended at 3.30pm.