BAHRAIN’S government has averted a political crisis with the Philippines as it stopped MPs from voting against a law amending protocols for a civil aviation agreement.
The issue caused heated arguments during parliament’s weekly session yesterday as several MPs raised concerns that the agreement was unconstitutional because it was submitted in English and not Arabic.
Other MPs said that the original agreement signed in 1992 was unconstitutional as well because it was implemented before it appeared in the Official Gazette in Arabic in 1993 and in English a year later.
However, Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain said Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air could lose an aviation deal to Manila should MPs reject the agreement.
“We have to think about the welfare of the country and that our national carrier could lose a market to other regional competitors as a result of a counter measure by the Philippines government should MPs reject this,” he said.
“The Constitution states that the country’s language is Arabic, but it doesn’t mean that other languages are unacceptable.
“All agreements in English or any other language before 2002 are protected even if they don’t follow the Constitution, and logically can we really throw out vital agreements with the United Nations or other countries and organisations just because they are in English?”
Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry aviation director Ibtisam Al Shamlan also said that similar agreements in English have been signed with Lebanon and Sri Lanka and were due to be amended to match advancements in the field.
“Should MPs block this and then it is time for the others to come, we will again face the same problem, and any trouble will harm Gulf Air and its exclusive deals in those countries and treatment in their airports,” she said.
“The agreement needs to be passed fast for the sake of the nation’s reputation in the field of aviation.”
Parliament’s public utilities and environment committee chairman Adel Al Asoomi, whose committee recommended rejecting amending the agreement, said he was willing to withdraw it from the agenda for two weeks for further review.
However, Mr Al Buainain requested that a vote be taken immediately, warning that a rejection would stir political trouble.
Parliament’s legislative and legal affairs committee chairman Shaikh Majid Al Majid, meanwhile, insisted the bill be withdrawn because it needed to be amended and any mention of unconstitutional clauses be removed.
“I will withdraw it for two weeks, including Eid Al Fitr break, before bringing it back again,” added Mr Al Asoomi.