Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr Saleh Bin-Humaid, the speaker of the Saudi Shura Council, has stressed in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat that the council is open to all media organs, and revealed that there is a trend to activate the parliamentary media. Bin-Humaid recalled the most prominent projects and regulations discussed by the council during the first year of the fourth session, of which he mentioned the ratification of the labor regulations, the new traffic regulations, and the measures adopted by the council to face up to the severe shock that harmed the investors in the Saudi share market. He also rejected the claim that there were certain blocs in the council that worked to promote some projects and thwart others; however, he stressed that there was harmony in the opinions of some members about certain issues, and considered this as a “healthy phenomenon.” In the interview, Bin-Humaid pointed out that the majority of the financial reports currently being considered by the council were new and not old ones, and attributed the council’s discussion of old reports in the past to the delay in sending these report to the council. The following is the text of the interview, which took place in Riyadh:
(Q) What do you think of the address of the custodian of the two holy mosques, which he will deliver today to the Shura Council?
(A) Naturally all the council members are looking forward to this annual royal occasion. We all are looking forward to listening to the address of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz in which he discusses the domestic and foreign policies of the state. This is because the address includes important indications that explain the future policies and directions of the state with regard to the domestic and foreign affairs in accordance with the statutes of the Shura Council and Article 14 of these statutes.
(Q) Do you expect the address of King Abdullah on this occasion to include certain surprises, especially as this address is the first since his accession to the throne?
(A) I cannot talk about surprises in this sense, because King Abdullah has his own vision, especially with regard to the affairs of the state. Usually he chooses the right time to announce anything that would serve the work process, whether in the Shura Council or in any other state institution.
(Q) After the end of the first year of the fourth session of the council, how do you assess the performance of the Shura Council?
(A) There is no doubt that the council as a whole, with all its members has acquired a wide experience in the work of the Shura Council, experience that accumulated during the past years and sessions. The work of the council is progressing, and we are striving for more progress in the council work during the coming years. Also we aspire for more powers, because the council is always in touch with the concerns and aspirations of the citizens. We pursue the aim that our work should always be for the benefit of the country and the citizens, and that the way we deal with the issues should serve the country. The Shura Council has contributed to a great extent to the reform measures adopted in Saudi Arabia. This has been accomplished through offering advice and counsel to the state in a way that achieves the public interest. The Shura practice in Saudi Arabia has reached a developed state in which the citizen participates through his opinions, proposals, dialogue, and discussions that aim at developing and enhancing his life.
(Q) What are the most prominent projects and regulations discussed and ratified by the council during the past year?
(A) I cannot remember all that has been discussed during the past year. However, the most prominent projects I can remember now are the ratification of the labor regulations, the traffic regulations, and the measures adopted by the council during the crisis that led to the slump in the share market that harmed many citizens.
(Q) Can you say that you are satisfied with the performance of your council?
(A) We have not reached the stage in which we are completely satisfied with what the council offers. However, I think that the council has been able to gain the trust of the citizen through understanding his needs and aspirations, and deciding his issues. The Shura Council has become one of the important tributaries of the state through its inclusion of the elite of the sons of this country, who are scientifically and professionally qualified, and have the necessary efficiency and experience in all fields and specialties. This is proved by the studies, research, and decisions adopted by the Shura Council for the benefit of the country and the citizens.
(Q) In previous statements, you criticized the weak performance of the general committees of the council. Do you think that the committees are weak in their performance?
(A) I do not recall criticizing the performance of the committees. On the contrary, the council committees are working well, and they are working hard to study the draft regulations and other issues. However, there is confusion in what was attributed to me in a past session, namely that I criticized the silence of some council members. This is completely untrue; what was attributed to me was out of context, as it was a reply to the wish of some council member to increase the time allowed to each speaker to 10 minutes; I pointed out that neither the time of the council nor its statutes would allow this, not to mention that there were members who did not have the opportunity to speak. I did not at all refer to the presence of silent members in the council as you indicated in the coverage of the event by your newspaper. All the council members are active; those who do not participate with their voice participate in other ways to which the council is used, such as presenting written proposals, and other methods.
(Q) In a previous session, one of the members criticized the existence of blocs in the council that try to promote some projects and thwart others. What is your comment?
(A) I can categorically emphasize by virtue of my long period of service in the council, that there are no blocs within the council. There might be harmony in the opinions, and sideline discussions between the members to win votes on important issues of destiny. This is possible, it exists, and it is a healthy phenomenon, but there are no specific blocs.
(Q) Much criticism is addressed to the council because it discusses old financial reports of government departments and ministries. What is your comment on this issue?
(A) I can say that the majority of the annual reports discussed by the council now are relatively new and not old. Also our discussion of previous reports could have been due to the manner used to produce these reports by the sides concerned, which would have led to the delay in reaching us.
(Q) There is talk about the council leaning toward establishing a committee, chaired by the secretary general, to draw up a new strategy to deal with the media. Could you confirm this news?
(A) What we pursue is activating the parliamentary media. We are open to all media organs. We welcome the media coverage of the actualities of the council sessions, because this coverage contributes to informing the citizen directly of the work of the council.
(Q) How will your joining of the parliamentary unions contribute to the development of your performance in the council?
(A) Now we have become members of all the regional and international parliamentary unions. The council has become an important link in communicating with the world countries and parliaments through exchanging visits, forming joint friendship committees, and participating in the work of the interim Arab parliament.