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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Fast-tracked UAE military service law could be in force by end of year

Committee members expect the bill to be passed to President Sheikh Khalifa by the end of the FNC term in June.
The draft law requires military service for all Emirati men between the ages of 18 and 30, and makes it optional for Emirati women. Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
The draft law requires military service for all Emirati men between the ages of 18 and 30, and makes it optional for Emirati women. Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // A fast-tracked law requiring young Emirati men to sign up for military service could be in force as soon as the end of the year.

The bill was drafted last month by the federal Cabinet on the orders of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, and has already been sent to the Federal National Council for amendments and debate.

At the FNC session on March 4 the bill will be passed to the council’s eight-member Interior and Defence Committee for review before a public debate.

“We will finish quickly with it since it came from the leadership and this is their direction,” said Ahmed Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi), a member of the committee. “The FNC and the leadership work in the same direction.”

The draft law requires military service for all Emirati men between the ages of 18 and 30, and makes it optional for Emirati women.

Those who have finished secondary school will serve for nine months. Those who have not graduated are required to serve two years.

Obaid bin Rekad (UAQ), deputy head of the committee, said they had not yet seen the bill, but he predicted that few amendments would be proposed and it would pass before the end of the FNC term in June.

“Of course this is a great step, everyone wants to serve their country,” he said. “When the law does come to us next week, we will start discussing it the following week. I don’t think it will take long to discuss it. I believe the law will be out by the end of the year.”

Mr Al Ameri said every Emirati should play a part in defending the homeland and learn how to use weapons.

“Every local needs military training,” he said, “to be able to protect the country and themselves. It is also in line with the Prophet’s teaching, which told us to teach our children how to ride horses, swim and archery.”

He said military service would not take the same form as in other countries, but would hone Emiratis’ skills. “The Government will not make a decision against anyone, but for the benefit of all.”

The other committee members are Khalifa Al Suwaidi (Abu Dhabi), Saeed Al Khatri (RAK), Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi), Dr Abdullah Al Shamsi (Ajman) and Ahmed Al Amash (RAK), under the Dr Yaqoub Al Naqbi (Sharjah).

FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman), a highly experienced former senior military official, said the law was “a great and brave step forward for the country”.

“At a time when eyes are fixed on other fields, the leadership also saw to enrich national identity and national capacities,” he said. “This national defence will increase security in the country.”

He said although some countries had a wider age range for military service, the 18 to 30 age adopted here was “perfect”.

“Because after 30, you would be a strong asset at work, so you’re needed there more,” he said. “We cannot disturb development.”

He said military service would not be imposed on all at one time, but in batches.

“There will be certain numbers that go in, and others go in later,” he said. “Its effect will barely be noticed for those outside.”

Once the FNC has finished its debate, the law will be passed to Sheikh Khalifa for presidential approval.

Emiratis with jobs will not be exempt, but their period in the military will be counted as work time for the purposes of calculating retirement age and pension.

osalem@thenational.ae