Al Wefaq’s resignation from Bahrain’s parliament to be discussed next week

March 2, 2011

Bahrain’s lower chamber has agreed to discuss next week the mass resignation of the lawmakers representing Al Wefaq, the largest parliamentary bloc.

None of the 18 MPs from Al Wefaq showed up at the weekly session on Tuesday, confirming their resignation they submitted over the weekend in a letter to the Speaker of the lower house after the death of protesters in the demonstrations launched on February 14.

However, the resignation has to be endorsed by the lower chamber to become effective.

Several of the MPs, from the remaining three blocs in the lower chamber, have urged Al Wefaq to reconsider its position and to revoke the resignation.

The absence of Al Wefaq lawmakers does not legally stall the proceedings of the lower chamber elected in October 2010 for a four-year legislative term, but is seen as affecting the parliament’s representation of the nation with all its religious and social segments.

An insider from Al Wefaq told Gulf News that the decision on the resignation was voted by the MPs despite calls from senior members from the society to avoid the en masse move and limit their action to freezing their participation.

At today’s session, an attempt by some MPs to debate the status of schools and the violence that has marred classes and kept several students from attending classes was postponed to next week.

The move aims to give the education minister the opportunity to attend the session and explain the incidents that reportedly occurred at some schools on Tuesday.

Adel Al Mouawda, the session chairman in the absence of the speaker and the resignation of Al Wefaq MP Khalil Marzooq, his first deputy, urged the lawmakers to be cautious in their remarks and comments to avoid escalating an already tense situation.

In Isa Town, in central Bahrain, protesters, mainly students, staged a demonstration in front of the education ministry and the information authority to put pressure on the governments to step down.

The education ministry came under fire for encouraging retired teachers and fresh graduates to apply as substitute teachers in case students are left without instructors.

Last week, hundreds of teachers went on strike and left their schools to join protesters at the Pearl Roundabout, the epicenter of protests in Manama. However, the ministry stepped in quickly to ensure classes were not disrupted and around 7,000 people responded to the call to volunteer.

Protesters also complained about bias on the official television station. All print media in Bahrain are privately owned, but the television and the radio are owned and operated by the state.

At the health ministry, Nizar Al Baharna, the newly-appointed minister, has approved a move to set up a joint committee between the ministry and the two associations of doctors and dentists to investigate what happened during the recent incidents.

The probe is expected to put an end to the growing controversy about the role of several officials and doctors, mainly after the raid by security men on the Pearl Roundabout on February 17 amid conflicting accounts and statements.

Several doctors said that the ambulance drivers were not allowed to reach the injured and that their work was hampered by irresponsible attitudes both at the roundabout and at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain’s largest hospital. However, several people, including the ministry undersecretary, said that the ambulances arrived promptly at the scene and that assistance was extended to all the wounded.

Claims that Saudi tanks arrived via the 25-kilomtres King Fahad Causeway into Bahrain were denied as “untrue.”

A Bahraini source said that the tanks seen on the causeway were Bahraini and that they were returning home from Kuwait where they took part in the national celebrations of independence, evacuation and anniversary of the Emir’s accession to power.

Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm on Tuesday said that “commuters traveling along the 25-km causeway were held up due to the presence of 15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain” and that “the presence of Saudi military hardware in Bahrain is considered highly unusual.”

The daily added that “civilian eyewitnesses could not confirm whether the tanks belonged to the Saudi military.”

The Guardian said that the report that Saudi Arabia was sending tanks to Bahrain reportedly unnerved investors and the market has edged into negative territory.

Reports said that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now suggested for the first time the three-week break in August could be used to accommodate Bahrain, despite the searing temperatures that would prevail.

The race, originally scheduled for March 13, was called off last week by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa, due to the protests in the country.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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