Bahrain MPs insist on driving curbs for expats
Manama, April 30, 2014
Bahrain’s MPs stuck to their guns yesterday (April 29) calling for limitations on driving for expatriates as the debate over tough new traffic laws continued in the National Assembly.
MPs referred the draft bill back to the Shura Council unchanged, despite voting last week to include an article that would see expat drivers prevented from getting a licence unless they need it for work, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Shura had earlier called for the article to be scrapped and if it insists on its version of the legislation going through then the entire 64-article bill, which has been under discussion for seven years, will be automatically shelved.
Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and national security committee had earlier insisted on the inclusion of an article that would ban expats from getting a licence unless their profession requires it.
However after consulting the Interior Ministry it changed its recommendation to scrapping the article, but 15 out of 27 MPs still voted last week for the article's inclusion.
Interior Ministry assistant under-secretary for legal affairs Brigadier Mohammed Buhamood said that more than half of the population of Bahrain is expatriates and if the article concerning their driving licences is approved then it would greatly affect them.
"If this article is approved then we would be forced to deal with a major problem, in which every expatriate would say their profession requires a licence - and that would mean we have to put all as exceptions, which means the article is void," he said.
"What about expatriate pensioners who decide to buy homes in residential developments and want to spend their remaining time here? They are of no profession, so how could we deal with them?"
MP Latifa Al Gaoud said the problem of traffic congestion was caused by terrorist activities, not expat workers.
"We are directing our attention to an innocent party and leaving terror culprits who block the road," she said.
But MP Ali Al Zayed argued that there were expat workers who had the use of a car yet did not need one.
"Even car cleaners, whose jobs don't require a driving licence, have now left the bikes they used to come on and are coming in cars," he said.
The new traffic law has been pending for seven years and would replace existing legislation dating back to 1979.
It includes tough new penalties such as jail terms of up to six months and fines of up to BD500, or both, for drivers who deliberately jump a red light.
Minister of State for Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel said the current law was outdated with fines being calculated in line with 1970's prices.
"Today, people break the law knowing that the fine won't exceed BD10 ($26.4) per offence and for that we need new legislation that will stop offenders," he said. "It is just one article and it has to be approved for the public's good." – TradeArabia News Service