Riyadh blast damage put at over SR 300 m

Updated 06 November 2012
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Riyadh blast damage put at over SR 300 m

Several witnesses including the driver of the fuel tanker, which crashed into an overpass on a busy road in the Saudi capital on Thursday, killing 22 persons and injuring 133 instantaneously, is being questioned by the Riyadh police.
The police investigation kicked off amid reports that the total loss of property caused by the fiery fuel tanker explosion will exceed SR 300 million leaving aside the insurance claims on the lives of those killed and injured during the accident.
“Around 90 people injured in the massive gas tanker explosion have left the local hospitals in good health, while another 43 are still under intensive medical care,” said Minister of Health Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah here yesterday.
“A total of 10 persons including five Saudis are still in intensive care unit,” said Al-Rabeeah. He noted that a total 133 people were injured as a result of the crash and explosion, while the total death toll is currently 22. “Our hearts go out to all the victims of this tragedy and we pray for them,” said Al-Rabeeah. “We have been overwhelmed by the show of support for the victims and we wanted to let everyone know that we expect them to make a full recovery soon,” he added.
Ezzedin Tago, Philippine ambassador, told Arab News that “the driver of the tanker has been identified as Robin Kebeng, a Filipino national. Kebeng has been working in the Kingdom for the last one year.
“The Philippine Embassy was refused consular access to the detained driver yesterday,” said Tago, when asked to confirm the detention of the Filipino driver and the total number of Filipino workers in the hospitals. Tago said seven Filipino workers injured during the explosion were provided treatment in different city hospitals. Three were discharged yesterday.
The police arrested the truck driver, who is allegedly responsible for the gas truck explosion. Ambassador Tago said that he is not aware of the charges leveled against the driver. He said that the embassy will hire a lawyer to defend the driver. The envoy said the hospitalized OFWs were documented workers and therefore covered by medical insurance paid for by their employers. “We are coordinating with their employers to ensure that they are well assisted while they’re at the hospital. We will coordinate with employers in case there are issues,” he said.
The National Gas and Industrialization Company, owner of the gas tanker No. 845, which crashed on Thursday, said that the company adheres to regulations as regards to trucks and their shipments. In a statement, the company said that this incident will not have any impact on the services of providing gas at stations of the company.
Meanwhile, road and infrastructure safety throughout the Kingdom remains an issue. “While preliminary reports suggest the accident was an unusual, isolated incident, it begs the question as how safe are fuel tankers, how safe are our roads, and how safe are our commercial establishments and even houses,” said Samuel John, a safety expert, while referring to another explosion here yesterday. Riyadh Civil Defense were called yesterday morning to deal with the explosion of a gas cylinder that leveled an external house extension and the boundary wall of a nearby villa in Riyadh. No casualties were reported.
A spokesman for the Civil Defense said the explosion was due to gas seeping from the cylinder in a villa extension in Al-Sahafah District in north Riyadh. He added the explosion caused the collapse of the extension, the outside wall, a part of the villa and shattered the villa windows. In addition, it inflicted damage to a building under construction, and shattered the windows of a nearby villa.


Understanding Shoura: how the Saudi consultative ‘parliament’ works

Updated 30 min 48 sec ago
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Understanding Shoura: how the Saudi consultative ‘parliament’ works

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”