x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

FNC holds first of its regular majlises

Emiratis will have greater access to members of the FNC so they can air their concerns directly.

DUBAI // Emiratis will have greater access to members of the FNC so they can air their concerns directly.

Six members at a majlis on Sunday listened to nationals' concerns including fuel prices, pensions and security checks, in the first of what will be twice-monthly meetings.

The call for regular sessions was led by Abu Juma, who said he was tired of having to air his grievances on talk radio.

"Many Emiratis believe you do nothing for them," he said at the Culture and Science Association. "You must embrace these people so no Emirati needs to resort to tell their problems to that radio station on air."

The FNC's Hamad Al Rahoumi said: "We know the leadership is in continuous direct communication with Emiratis. It should be a priority for the council to do the same."

Rulers, particularly Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi of Sharjah, have gone on talk radio to answer Emiratis' concerns directly.

The President, Sheikh Khalifa, reopened the FNC for its new session two weeks ago and stressed the importance of council members interacting with nationals.

Abu Juma said everyone knew the Rulers would not refuse them any request but the problem was getting their message through to them. That, he said, was where the FNC came in.

"Why did people give you their vote?" he said. "To sit in an office? No, to connect with us. Why don't you have an office in every emirate, to connect between the Emirati and the emirate? You must connect [us] with the Ruler."

But Mr Al Rahoumi said it was not FNC members' role to provide that kind of connection.

"We are federal, our work is on the federal Government," he said.

Another member of the audience argued that even local authorities were all under the federal umbrella, "therefore the council should be able to help".

"We do not want an Emirati to feel they need to reach out to [the radio talk show] Khat Al Mubasher," he said. "It is faster, yes, but if there was an office as a local I would know where to go. I would not go to Khat Al Mubasher. You are our voice."

Abdullah Al Qassimi, from RAK, agreed. He said such gatherings broke many boundaries and would reduce the need to air problems on the radio.

Mr Al Rahoumi insisted the council had no power over local authorities, but it had already lodged a request for an office to be opened in every emirate.

Dr Tariq Lootah, assistant under secretary of the Ministry of FNC Affairs, suggested the Rulers of each emirate should set up offices for their FNC members.

"The emirates should give them some resources because they represent the emirates," Dr Lootah said. "They must help the members get people's needs to the council. I don't think its hard to find a place to meet Emiratis in one of courts."

A member of the audience asked whether the council had had any success with its attempt to cut petrol prices.

Mr Al Rahoumi said the council had called on the Cabinet to bring petrol prices into line with those in its Gulf neighbours.

"So far we have had no answer," he said.

Yunis Mohammed, a retired Emirati, complained that he and others had been left behind by increases in pensions for the recently retired.

"If you were a diplomat, you cannot go below that status," Mr Mohammed said. "A dirham has now become 25 fils because of inflation and salaries staying the same. How do we solve this problem?"

Mr Al Rahoumi said the FNC was well aware of the problem. He said it had discussed it many times and would do so again.

"And we know for sure, a person could retire and get Dh20,000 and another retire after them by one month and get Dh50,000, we know there is a [problem]," he said.

Some audience members complained about the need to go through security checks for jobs and promotions. One called it a "punishment", but the FNC members said the law must be followed.

The next Dubai majlis will be held on December 9, and thereafter on the first and third Sunday of each month. Similar meetings will be held in other emirates with other members.