In an exclusive interview with Al Jundi Journal, His Excellency Saqr Ghobash, Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC), said that the Council was committed to upholding the values of UAE’s present leaders as well as the founding fathers. He explained how the Council has helped the government confront the threat from the coronavirus and also how the UAE has appeared at the forefront of the international effort due to its targeted approach and enhanced testing ability. His Excellency said that the positive messages from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, proved to be very reassuring for citizens and expatriates alike. He also expressed his deepest appreciation for the medical staff’s efforts to contain the virus.
Let us start with the COVID-19 pandemic which has kept the whole world, UAE included, rather busy over the last quarter, and then move on to FNC. The UAE has set a distinguished example of how to tackle this pandemic at all levels. How do you think the UAE’s response stood out when compared to others?
It is true that the UAE was one of the first countries to understand the magnitude of the pandemic and, therefore, how it executed multi-layered crisis management plans became a model for others to follow.
The strategy has so far been a big success, thanks to the efforts and direct involvement of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, (May God protect him), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, (May God keep him), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and members of the Supreme Federal Council, Their Highnesses Rulers of the emirates.
The leadership was able to successfully rally all relevant arms of public and private sectors, with remarkable efficiency, making sure that nobody in the UAE was put at undue risk, and those suffering from the virus were taken care of in the best possible manner. To make sure that all human beings receive the best possible care and attention at all times, federal as well as local organisations have been working relentlessly to make sure that nothing is overlooked. Also, necessary precautionary and safety measures have been instituted in all concerned organisations. This is, in short, how the UAE’s crisis management model stands out.
In this regard, it is instructive to note the following statement of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces: “The UAE’s public and private sectors and the whole community are adequately capable of facing this global crisis.”
It is customary for UAE leaders, armed with wisdom and foresight, to follow a humanitarian approach when handling difficult circumstances. In the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed,“The UAE is home to all mankind”.
What do you say to the frontline medical staff dealing with the coronavirus?
We truly appreciate all the effort put in by all medical staff throughout this crisis, especially the highly transparent precautionary measures which activate early warning systems and ensure adequate medical supplies. As FNC members we recognize the round-the-clock efforts of medical teams to deal with this emergency with efficiency and competence. They are serving above and beyond the call of duty and making sure that the rest of us are in good hands as the war against the coronavirus goes on.
How does the government cooperate with FNC to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control?
I’d like to seize this opportunity to appreciate the mutual cooperation and partnership between the executive and legislative bodies in tackling pressing issues. I would like to express FNC members’ deepest appreciation for His Excellency Abdul Rahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Community Prevention and Minister of State for FNC Affairs, for briefing the Council on 11 February 2020 on the nationwide strategy to deal with the coronavirus. FNC deliberations, dialogues and discussions clearly show that it effectively coordinates with the government to fulfill its responsibilities. I would like also to highlight federal and local organizations’ efforts to contain the virus, thus placing the UAE on top of the world in terms of lab investigations and testing a very large number of people very quickly.
Our wise leadership is taking interest in activating FNC’s role in development. How do you visualize this role in national master plans in the forthcoming period, especially in terms of preparation for the next 50 years?
Since inception in 1971, the UAE has won worldwide recognition thanks to its many achievements. FNC is capable of performing its regulative and legislative roles, supporting national efforts in strategic sectors, especially education, health, economics, housing and advanced sciences, and translating our wise leadership’s vision, which is to support the UAE’s ability to maintain its status as an innovator and leader.
It is the first time-ever for women to represent as 50% of FNC members. How would this step affect FNC’s performance?
It is a new precedent at regional and international levels. For women to win 50% of FNC seats reflects our wise leadership’s profound belief in the role women can play to boost national development and bolster UAE’s status and image. We trust UAE’s women will prove worthy of our wise leadership’s and people’s confidence. Their parliamentary performance will definitely be a game-changer.
What are the main characteristics of FNC’s composition during this legislative chapter? Are the youth and experienced people represented?
A review of the age group of most FNC members will prove that the youth represent the majority of its members, who are highly qualified and have the necessary enthusiasm and ability to shoulder responsibility as active partners in the development process. They prove that UAE has taken giant steps in decision making and all-out development.
UAE is a living example of fruitful cooperation between government and parliament. How will this affect FNC’s role? How can you deepen this cooperation going forward?
This fruitful and positive cooperation between FNC and the government is not new, but rather a steady policy affirmed by our wise leadership. It has been, and will always be, a main characteristic of this bilateral relationship over the few years.
FNC’s foreign policy role is highly important. How do you see this role in the future? How could it be improved and energized to serve national interests at regional and international levels?
UAE’s status in the international arena is the result of joint action and steady cooperation between all decision-making bodies. The UAE is committed to developing this status through various means, notably international diplomacy, opening new horizons of cooperation with all countries and highlighting its worldwide message as a nation for peace, tolerance and welfare. FNC is supporting this role, using parliamentary diplomacy based on clear-cut principles; notably to maintain UAE’s right to the three occupied islands, maintain GCC, Arab and regional security, maintain security and stability in the Middle East, pursue tolerance and openness, and connect with other countries.
How do you prioritize FNC’s missions during the present legislative chapter?
FNC is a committed partner in maintaining the aspirations of the people of the Union. FNC’s ad-hoc committees were always keen to pick topics directly related to UAE’s vision, such as economics, health, education, housing, and communication.
How do you evaluate UAE’s 48-year old parliamentary experience?
Since the inception of the Union the FNC has been accorded maximum attention and support by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May God bless his soul) and our founding fathers who had rock-solid conviction that citizens should be involved in national action and shoulder their responsibilities in building their nation.
This attention and support has continued under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, (May God protect him) who helped FNC achieve many heights on the local and foreign fronts. FNC’s role was complemented by respective UAE ministries to reflect UAE’s policy.
You have been assigned many responsibilities, what makes the difference between your past and present assignments?
The essence of work and the target remain the same; namely to serve our country with honor under the patronage of a wise, enlightened leadership that give us the example to work for building the country. Our aim is to give our nation as much as it gave us – welfare, security and prosperity.
Do you wish to deliver a special message to Ministry of Defence and armed forces personnel?
It is through your respectful publication that I would like to convey this message to all armed forces members: You are a source of pride and honor to the nation.. You are the sons of Zayed, of this land of tolerance and justice. You are shouldering your national responsibilities with patience, diligence, hard work and determination. We all hope that you will continue to set a good, inspirational example for our younger generations.
The armed forces you belong to with pride and honor have always set the highest examples of loyalty and dedication, and will continue to work as a melting pot for dedicated and loyal men capable of defending our soil and keeping obedient to our leadership. May God help and bless you.
Interviewed by: Jasem Shahin Al Blooshi – Photography by: Mohammed Al Shaer