x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Past FNC members tell of life out of public eye

Yesterday, FNC members past and present had a chance to meet and talk during a ceremony honouring the work of previous councils.

The former FNC member Fatima Al Marri was able to hold on to her career in education administration at the highest levels while serving her country on the council.
The former FNC member Fatima Al Marri was able to hold on to her career in education administration at the highest levels while serving her country on the council.

For new FNC members there is the chance to shape the country, the rigours of debate and the thrill of the spotlight.

But when the council term ends, members leaving public life face a void that can be challenging to fill.

Dr Sultan Al Moazen, Fatima Al Marri and Hamad Al Midfaa are three former members facing that challenge head on.

Dr Al Moazen has helped another member to be elected and advises from the background. Ms Al Marri hopes to reform the education system. And Mr Al Midfaa offers consultations to help others gain from his wealth of experience.

Yesterday, FNC members past and present had a chance to meet and talk during a ceremony honouring the work of previous councils.

About 100 former members from the 10th to the 14th session of the council were presented with certificates of appreciation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai. The council is now in its 15th session.

Those who were forced to quit their federal jobs for an FNC seat had a message for today's members.

"It is hard going from such an intense demanding role to a quiet, inactive retirement," said Dr Al Moazen, 40, who represented Fujairah in the 14th session of the FNC.

"There is a sacrifice, with some former members experiencing a type of depression from the forced early retirement."

Dr Al Moazen was in the police force and would by now have been Brig Gen Al Moazen, with a monthly income of at least Dh115,000, had he not quit to take up his FNC post in 2006 - the first year of elections for half of the council's 40 seats.

Former FNC members receive on average Dh25,000 a month for life.

"I am jobless," he said with a laugh. "But I am OK, I am keeping myself busy volunteering my knowledge when needed."

The former bodybuilder is keen to help the nation's youth with the challenges they face, but he has not entirely left FNC life behind.

In the elections for the 15th council, he backed Ghareeb Al Suraidi, who won a seat for Fujairah.

Some former members managed to keep their jobs while serving on the council, and say the experience has given them more to give back to their professional fields.

"Because I was working for a specific emirate, Dubai, instead of federally, I got to keep my job and work on the council," said Ms Al Marri, who has more than 25 years of experience in education and works for the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

"It was hard working at two jobs but it was worth every minute. I am now putting everything I learnt from the FNC into my work. I know more about legislations."

She is using that knowledge to work on revisions ineducation, and looks forward to the day those revisions go before the FNC for debate.

"I will be there, watching it from a different side," Ms Al Marri said.

She knows of former members who are keen to "give back" but are unsure of how to do so because they were forced to leave their jobs.

Mr Al Midfaa, 51, who has more than 30 years of experience in finance, economics and duty-free zones, said he would like to give back this experience to young Emiratis.

"I wish they set up something where they use us as consultants instead of keep bringing people from outside to do that work," said the former member for Sharjah.

"I am content with retirement, I am not looking for work, but rather hope for a mechanism where people like senior Emiratis with knowledge and experience are used in a more efficient and useful way.

"For those of us who have done what we wanted in life, becoming part of the FNC is a nice conclusion to a long career. But for the young and those who had just started their career, I would imagine early retirement is frustrating."

The highlight of the ceremony, Mr Al Midfaa said, was the chance to see "old friends".

The ceremony began with a documentary tracing the history of the FNC. This month marks the council's 40th anniversary.

The Speaker of the FNC, Mohammed Al Murr, applauded the efforts and dedication of past members in "the enrichment of our parliament".

"Today we remember all those who participated in the evolution of the council, from the heads who participated and directed the council into areas that needed further development, and the members who brought to the discussion tables issues concerning the country and its citizens," said Mr Al Murr.

"It is here, at meetings held by the FNC, where all sides come together and work together for the sake of our country and its citizens."

rghazal@thenational.ae