Prime Min­is­ter hails a ‘bliss­ful oc­ca­sion’ as new FNC con­venes

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - HANEEN DAJANI Con­tin­ued on pages 8-9

Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid cel­e­brated a “bliss­ful oc­ca­sion” for the na­tion on Thurs­day as he opened the 17th term of the Fed­eral Na­tional Coun­cil af­ter last month’s elec­tions.

The Prime Min­is­ter and Ruler of Dubai wel­comed his “broth­ers and sis­ters” to the coun­cil that, for the first time, has an equal num­ber of male and fe­male mem­bers.

Pres­i­dent Sheikh Khal­ifa is­sued a de­cree in De­cem­ber or­der­ing that women make up 50 per cent of the 40-mem­ber coun­cil.

Sheikh Mo­hammed ar­rived at FNC head­quar­ters in Abu Dhabi shortly be­fore noon and strode into the build­ing on a red car­pet as a mil­i­tary band played. Rulers from across the Emi­rates were in at­ten­dance and the ceremony be­gan with the recita­tion of a verse from the Qu­ran on the unity and brother­hood that binds peo­ple to­gether af­ter a dis­pute.

The recita­tion was fol­lowed by Sheikh Mo­hammed’s speech.

“My broth­ers and sis­ters, mem­bers of the FNC, by God’s bless­ing and guid­ance we in­au­gu­rate your coun­cil,” Sheikh Mo­hammed said. “And we ask God for it to be a bliss­ful oc­ca­sion for the peo­ple and the coun­try.” His words were fol­lowed by a read­ing of the fed­eral de­cree, is­sued by Sheikh Khal­ifa, which ush­ered in the new ses­sion.

Vet­eran FNC mem­ber Ali Jas­sim then stepped up to the podium to present the coun­cil’s speech.

“Al­low me, Your High­ness, to hail your ef­forts to reach a mod­ern gov­ern­ment that is con­sid­ered a model for gov­ern­ment,” said Mr Jas­sim, who rep­re­sents Umm Al Quwain.

“And al­low me to con­grat­u­late the mem­bers of the coun­cil for serv­ing as rep­re­sen­ta­tives

of the peo­ple, and their hopes to grow and de­velop.

“I would also like to con­grat­u­late the women mem­bers of the coun­cil for the trust they were given by our wise lead­ers, to make the UAE a leader in em­pow­er­ing women in par­lia­ment.”

Saqr bin Ghobash, the for­mer min­is­ter of labour, was an­nounced as the new speaker of the house.

“I hope to meet your ex­pec­ta­tions,” he told the coun­cil.

“And for the first time, half of the coun­cil is filled by women.

“The daughters of the Emi­rates will prove them­selves as they al­ways have, and their per­for­mance will add value to the coun­cil.”

Dherar Al Falasi, 55, a new mem­ber rep­re­sent­ing Dubai, said the move to en­sure women have an equal say on the coun­cil was a sig­nif­i­cant one.

“No other par­lia­ment has done it be­fore, so we are pi­o­neer­ing and we will show the world how this will add value to the coun­cil,” he said.

He said coun­cil mem­bers new and old were en­thu­si­as­tic about a new chap­ter in the FNC’s his­tory.

“I could see the pas­sion in their eyes,” Mr Al Falasi said. “Every­body wants to do some­thing, and this time the com­bi­na­tion is unique be­cause each mem­ber is spe­cialised in a cer­tain field.

“As a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, I think we will have an ex­cel­lent four years to come start­ing from day one. Every­body is ready to make it a unique term.”

The FNC ad­vises the gov­ern­ment on mat­ters of na­tional im­por­tance. It can pass, amend and re­ject fed­eral laws and dis­cuss in­ter­na­tional treaties, and is also a fo­rum for mem­bers to raise Emi­ratis’ con­cerns.

It was es­tab­lished in 1971 and vot­ing was in­tro­duced in 2006.

Mem­bers hold of­fice for four years.

A record num­ber of Emi­ratis cast their votes on elec­tion day last month.

Calls for greater equal­ity, bet­ter health care in re­mote parts of the coun­try and an ac­cel­er­a­tion of the Emi­rati­sa­tion drive were just a few of the is­sues can­di­dates cam­paigned on.

While the num­ber of peo­ple who voted was up com­pared with the 2015 elec­tion, from 79,157 to 117,592, the per­cent­age turnout was slightly down.

This was the re­sult of a sub­stan­tial in­crease in the num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers for the 2019 elec­tions, up from 224,279 to 337,738 this year.

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, Prime Min­is­ter and Ruler of Dubai, de­liv­ers a speech at the opening of the 17th Fed­eral Na­tional Coun­cil in Abu Dhabi on Thurs­day

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