ABU DHABI // The constitution protects the rights and liberties of all, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said yesterday.
"Authorities in the country have worked to respect these rights and liberties, making the UAE a paradise for nationals and non-nationals alike," the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai told diplomats, top government officials and members of the Federal National Council.
Sheikh Mohammed said both nationals and non-nationals benefited from the highest standards of living and security in a society free of discrimination, and work was continuing to increase political participation and strengthen the FNC's role in supporting the Government.
"We are marching steadily to take the Emirati political experience towards its goals, and achieve the wanted development and expand participation," he said.
Sheikh Mohammed made his comments, which follow a recent resolution by the European Parliament that criticised the UAE over civil liberties, conditions for migrant workers, the status of women and the death penalty, as he opened the new session of the FNC.
In his address earlier, Mohamed Al Mur, the FNC speaker, said the resolution contained false accusations. He defended the UAE's record on human rights, and said other international reports had been positive.
Speaking on behalf of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed said: "We look forward to the central role of your honourable council as a supporting and guiding authority and we are committed to activate its participation in supporting the Government and its policies with a vision and creative and innovative ideas in all realms."
Sheikh Mohammed concluded by reminding council members of their responsibilities, and the importance of keeping in touch with all Emiratis.
“Your membership in this council is a great responsibility and trust, which can be judged by those who have given you this trust,” he said. “So make sure to meet expectations and be committed to the interests of the nation and its citizens. And communicate with your Emirati brothers and sisters and maintain ties that bring you together with all segments of Emirati society.
Sheikh Mohammed had arrived shortly before 1pm at the council’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, where a red carpet was flanked by tanks and troops, and national flags flew by the roadside.
As he received a military salute the national anthem echoed across the grounds, while inside the FNC chamber diplomats, government officials and FNC members fell silent as they viewed proceedings on an indoor projector.
After Sheikh Mohammed entered the chamber there was a Quran recitation before Mr Al Mur gave a recap of what Sheikh Khalifa had granted citizens over the past few months.
He said the President had granted citizenship to the children of Emirati women married to non-nationals, established a fund for Emiratis in debt, and given new homes to hundreds of nationals.
He went on to speak of the nature of the council’s work, in the chamber, during meetings, and at regional parliaments, before addressing the EU resolution and the UAE human rights issue specifically.
He said the “human rights file” contained numerous false accusations, underscoring that many international reports on human rights had applauded the UAE for its action in such areas as respecting the rule of law, ensuring justice, fighting human trafficking, ensuring rights of foreign labour and respecting women.
The eight committees were then reelected.
The council’s next session is scheduled for November 20.