x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Critic wants tougher Federal National Council

Mohammed Abdullah al Zaabi wants colleagues to use 'monitoring tools at their disposal' to foster justice, prosperity and health and protect the nation and the Constitution.

Mohammed Abdullah al Zaabi gestures during a FNC session in Abu Dhabi.
Mohammed Abdullah al Zaabi gestures during a FNC session in Abu Dhabi.

Mohammed Abdullah al Zaabi shies away from labelling his political views as right or left wing. He prefers instead a more straightforward tag - patriotic, or even nationalist. That in itself is hardly unusual. What sets him apart, however, is his unstinting criticism of government malpractice and the lack of transparency in some federal departments.

Just last month, he accused the Ministry of Justice of interfering with due process in some criminal cases. "We must focus on everything that brings justice, prosperity, and health to the people," he says. "But most importantly, protect the nation, protect the Constitution." Mr al Zaabi was one of 20 FNC members who were appointed by the rulers of the emirates. The other 20 members were elected by a caucus.

He says even with the limited powers of the council, its members can do better. "The council should make use of its mandate, but this depends on the members," he said. "They should use some of the monitoring tools at their disposal." The main power of the council is its right to question government ministers, but Mr al Zaabi says his fellow FNC members should do their homework better. In some cases, he says, he has spent months preparing questions. Since neither the question nor the official's answer can be more than 10 to 15 minutes in length, both parties have a very limited opportunity to present their case.

Mr al Zaabi has been a staunch supporter of transparency in government. Last December he also called for the State Audit Institution to be scrapped. "Since 2007, we haven't seen any official turned over to the public prosecution," he said at a session attended by the Minister of Finance. "How can one monitor when the Ministry of Finance itself commits violations?" In May 2008, he raised the issue of reciprocal visa procedures, citing the US as a country that does not extend reciprocal visa privileges to Emiratis in the way the UAE does for American citizens.

"Why do our citizens get isolated from other travellers for interrogation, while Americans enter this country with their honour preserved?" he said. American citizens, like those of nearly of 34 mostly Western countries, are granted entry visas at the point of entry to the UAE. mhabboush@thenational.ae