Musallam Al Barrak: Admired and criticized in equal measure

April 19, 2013

Musallam Al Barrak, a former lawmaker and trade union leader, is admired and criticised in equal measures in Kuwait.

As one of the most vociferous voices in the recent parliaments of Kuwait where he represented the Fourth Constituency, he had made several friends and enemies through his words and deeds.

Al Barrak, 57, graduated from the University of Kuwait with a degree in geography. He worked for the Municipal Council and was the head of the employees’ trade union.

He was named member of the executive board of the Kuwait trade union and was at one time the deputy secretary general of the Arab Trade Union for municipality employees.

Al Barrak, the son of former MP Mohammad Hamad Al Barrak, made his debut in the parliament in 1996 and gradually rose to prominence as a member of the Popular Action Bloc. Political parties are banned in Kuwait.

He was re-elected in 1999, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012, often topping the list of the candidates in the constituency.

In the 2012 elections, he made history by obtaining 30,118 votes, a remarkable feat in the north Arabian Gulf state.

He started assuming prominent roles in 2006 when he led a strong movement in parliament to amend the electoral law and slash the number of constituencies from 25 to five. The law was eventually amended in June that year.

He often opposed law drafts that he believed encouraged corruption practices, and never minced his words when he confronted fellow lawmakers or, more often, ministers and officials.

His vitriolic attacks also targeted Arab leaders who voiced their opposition to the hanging of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain.

An attempt in July 2010 to strip him of his parliamentary immunity to face charges of harming the national security failed after he was supported by fellow MPs.

In August 2011, Al Barrak called for the governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait to resign following reports that millions of dinars had been deposited in the accounts of some MPs.

In November, he took part in the storming of the parliament by protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Shaikh Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah.

However, in December, Al Barrak had to defend himself against accusations of receiving funds from Qatar’s prime minister.

A Kuwaiti Arabic daily said that it had evidence that Shaikh Hamad Bin Jassem Al Thani had transferred QR200 million (Dh202 million) to the MP’s account.

The report sparked an outcry among pro-government lawmakers who called for the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the allegations.

The Qatari leader and the bank denied the claims and a court case was filed against the paper.

Al Barrak played a leading role in the protests and demonstrations resisting the amendment of the electoral law to reduce the number of candidates a voter could elect from four to one.

In a speech he delivered at a rally in October, he harshly criticised the decision and addressed the Emir in terms that were unfamiliar in Kuwait, drawing harsh criticism from opponents.

When the country’s security moved to summon him for questioning, he refused to go to the police station and demanded to see a written statement.

His stance was criticised by some Kuwaiti media as part of orchestrated shows and ostentatious claims.

He was arrested in October, but released on bail, pending his trial.

On April 14, one day ahead of the verdict in his trial, the opposition vowed to stand by Al Barrak throughout his “ordeal” and pledged to look at various options to put pressure for his release.



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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