Shoura and vital decisions



THE Shoura (Consultative) Council presents its recommendations to the King. The Council of Ministers takes a final decision on issues in light of Shoura’s observations. When the views of the two councils agree on a topic, final decisions shall be made on it after the King’s approval. If the views of the two councils differ, the matter returns to the Shoura for its opinion and referral to the King to take a final decision, as stipulated by Article 17 of the Shoura Council System.

This clearly shows that the Shoura is given a second chance to bring about a consensus on the issue when differences arise because it represents the people. It is sufficient to know that ten members of the council have the right to propose a new law or amend an existing law if it is passed by majority vote. The law is then presented to the King by the Shoura president.

Rather than taking advantage of these flexible powers to amend laws or make new ones, some members have been obstructing the council’s operation due to their incompetence and inefficiently. The council's law does not allow a member to exploit his/her membership to realize vested interests, like opposing a proposal without any good reason.

Instead of making contributions toward solving social issues some Shoura members display their ignorance, retrogression, backwardness, domination and outdated views. The negative views and ideas of these members have been obstructing activities of the consultative body.

For example, some members have opposed the proposal to merge the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, while some others defended it, saying the Haia members are sometimes irregular and go against the regime. Even after the issuance of legal memo on merger they continued to reject the proposal citing vague reasons. This way they have killed many important proposals in the past.

Recently the corridors of the Shoura Council witnessed a strange incident. Some members tried to remove a proposal from the computer system without realizing that its hard copies have been distributed among members in advance. If members are unable to use their brain they are not supposed to remain in the Shoura for another three years. I think the Shoura membership should be revised to suit current challenges.

What is truly pathetic is the performance of the council’s official spokesman who denied the proposal’s inclusion for discussion at the Shoura. Actually, the council had agreed to postpone it to the next report after three months. But the spokesman insisted on his opinion while evidences proved he was lying. If the official spokesman deliberately misleads society, at a time when the accuracy of information is a professional challenge, it will be ideal to drop his membership without showing any leniency because the performance of Shoura members requires high professionalism.

This is not the first time the official spokesman denies facts. After dozens of Shoura members in the current and previous sessions supported the proposal allowing women to drive in the Kingdom, demanding clarity of vision on the issue, the spokesman said the Shoura had not received any proposal on women driving. These kinds of statements demoralize people and lessen their respect toward the Shoura and reduce their confidence in the consultative body.

I would like to point out that the council's performance on the issue of women driving was really frustrating and weak. Consequently, the King intervened and took a decisive decision and Shoura members must be ashamed of their poor performance.

The council’s stand on the Anti-Racism and Anti-Hatred Law, which is required by all developed societies to maintain stability but the law still languishes in the corridors of Shoura committees that deliberately prolong its study, although they have stated that it’s ready for debate and vote. Then why they hesitate to go ahead with its discussion at the Shoura.

We were certainly relieved and were happy when the council decided to amend Article 77 of the Labor Law and we thought the Shoura has started responding positively to the demands of the street. But the council withdrew the proposal saying it required intensive studies, without thinking about the fate of thousands of affected people who live without a monthly income. The Saudis who have lost their jobs fear about existing poverty while they are threatened by a bleak future.

A Shoura member has proposed that allowances of military officers must remain even after retirement as their basic salaries depend on allowances. After retirement officers will not get allowances and will not be able to meet their expenses with mere salaries. In this case the Shoura should have recommended restructuring of the military salary scale to ensure a decent life for its officers before and after retirement.

Some members raised their objections even to the harassment law and considered it as legislation for adultery while others tried to disrupt its passage. As a result of the inefficiency of Shoura members the King had to intervene every time to resolve issues and take vital decisions. Unfortunately the Shoura Council has become a tool for obstructing progress.

An ineffective Shoura member will not apply to relieve him/her from membership as per the law, thinking it would negatively affect his prestige and reputation. At the same time, such members would not admit they were responsible for delaying great decisions. It is the Cabinet’s duty to review Shoura membership regulations and terminate services of inefficient members.