Al-Khajah: “Improving health programs is our first and second priority”
Member of the Accord Bloc
Member of the Permanent Committee for Services
Member of Committee for Youth and Sports
Businessman Al-Khajah focused on the housing issue during his election campaign. However, he has been notable for giving most attention to issues related to public health and medical services. As an MP in the Tubli area Al-Khajah has voiced the concerns of local people about shortcomings of the local sewerage system and the knock-on health and environmental impact. He used an August 2015 media interview to call on the Government to come up with a comprehensive plan for rejuvenating the Tubli area.
During October 2015 Al-Khajah announced that he would be joining the new Accord Bloc, headed by Isa Turki. Al-Khajah emphasized the importance of the Bloc for prioritizing standards of living issues and in ensuring that Parliament’s voice was heard on subsidy reform.
Al-Khajah also frequently addresses the issue of making a higher proportion of jobs available for Bahrainis. Al-Khajah has often raised the issue of improving facilities for young people to help them productively occupy their free time.
Through his Services Committee role Al-Khajah frequently engages the media, and on many issues like health fees, food standards and defence, his position is well within the consensus of majority opinion within the Parliament. However, Al-Khajah was one of 12 MPs who voted against the State Budget during the 2 July 2015 session.
Al-Khajah was busy over the summer 2015 recess and spoke out several times on economic and security issues. A particular issue of concern for him has been the issue of recruitment and ensuring that graduates have the necessary knowledge and skills for the jobs market. He also proposed cancelling the 1% unemployment insurance levy on Bahraini workers.
ACTIVITY DURING 2015-2016 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Standards of living, health & education
Health: MPs Osama al-Khajah, Abdulhalim Murad, Ibrahim al-Hammadi, Ahmed Qaratah and Jamila al-Sammak proposed a mobile health centre for the elderly and those with special needs. Al-Wasat reported on 23 Oct that this proposal was to be discussed in the coming parliamentary session. On 27 Oct, MPs approved this proposal. Al-Khajah said that the proposal aimed to improved access of these segments of society to healthcare.
Autism: During the 3 Nov parliamentary session, MPs discussed a proposal for establishing a centre for children suffering from Autism. Co-sponsor of the proposal, Al-Khajah, said that the Govt’s response was incompatible with the proposal as it covered non-specialist centres. He noted the specific needs faced by those suffering from Autism.
Economy & employment
Industrial areas: Al-Khajah on 18 July warned of the implications of rising fees for industrial lands and the negative impact for Bahraini industry.
Employment: Al-Khajah on 19 July warned that arts graduates were struggling to be absorbed into the jobs market because of the lack of relevant skills, especially in the public sector. In similar earlier statements on 9 July, Al-Khajah echoes the concerns of employers about recruiting those form an arts background.
On 11 Nov Al-Khajah proposed a national scheme for employing new graduates.
Unemployment insurance: Al-Khajah on 22 Aug called for the Labour Ministry to cancel the 1% levy on wages as unemployment insurance and return the funds collected.
Vision 2030: Al-Khajah on 7 Nov questioned the Economic Development Board about efforts to implement the Vision 2030 initiative over the coming years. He said that citizens did not have a clear sense of the Govt’s vision for taking Bahrain forward economically.
Good governance & public finance
Subsidies: Al-Khajah on 17 July said that a delay in implementing meat subsidies reform would allow for the establishment of more suitable provisions to avoid price inflation.
Government: Al-Khajah on 22 Sep emphasized the importance of the proposed reduced-size Cabinet, for confronting Bahrain’s economic challenges.
Unemployment insurance: Al-Khajah on 31 Oct noted that the profits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund alone were enough to build 5,000 housing units. He asked what these profits were being used for.
Audit report: Al-Khajah on 7 Nov said that the violations highlighted in the Financial Audit Bureau report would only be addressed through increasing punishments against those who committed violations. He noted that former parliaments had called for action, but that effective mechanisms did not exist for holding offenders to account.
Policing & regional security
Iran: Al-Khajah on 23 July condemned statements by the Iranian leadership concerning Bahrain, which he described as interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs. On 2 Oct Al-Khajah voiced his support for the expulsion of the Iranian ambassador, after the discovery of a bomb-making factory in Bahrain linked to Iran and other recent hostile Iranian acts.
Terrorism: Al-Khajah on 28 July condemned the recent attack in Sitra which killed 2 policemen, noting that the attacks coincided with hostile statements on Bahrain by Iran. Al-Khajah on 1 Aug said that “Iran’s methods had been disclosed and its coup attempts had failed”. Al-Khajah on 6 Aug condemned the mosque attack in Abha Saudi Arabia. Al-Khajah on 29 Aug strongly condemned the Al-Karranah bombing which killed one policeman. Al-Khajah said that the blast was “a deliberate escalation following Iran’s blatant statements”.
Yemen: Al-Khajah on 4 Sep extended his condolences over the deaths of 5 Bahraini soldiers and other GCC troops in Yemen. Al-Khajah on 11 Sep hailed the importance of prayers to commemorate the five Bahraini soldiers killed in Yemen.
Rights & freedoms
Women: Al-Khajah on 23 Aug praised the Supreme Council for Women for achieving a “qualitative leap” in women’s empowerment.
Media: Al-Khajah on 9 Aug condemned the EU statement on the closure of Al-Wasat newspaper, describing it as part of a coordinated attack.
Al-Khajah on 26 Oct called on the media and Interior Ministry to hold “rumour-mongers” to account. In particular he warned of the impact of social media users who attacked well-known figures.
Parliament role & constituent engagement
Parliament: On 18 Aug Al-Khajah was interviewed by Al-Watan newspaper. He said that many constituents and former MPs were accusing Parliament of “failure”, but that Parliament shouldn’t be judged after just 6 months. He stressed the important achievements of Parliament so far, particularly the passing of the Budget. He noted the large body of work processed by parliamentarians so far, despite the inclusion of 30 new MPs and the record number of questions raised to ministers. Al-Khajah said: “Bahraini citizens are squeezed between the twin pincers of the decision to remove meat subsidies and the continuing ramifications of the rotten meat issue”. He called for fair compensation for families in the event of the cancellation of subsidies.
Al-Khajah noted the traumatic situation of many Tubli residents as a result of problems with the sewage system and the health implications. He noted his proposal to the authorities for reviving and redeveloping the Tubli area and addressing pollution issues. Al-Khajah also cited the Housing Minister’s response in February to his questions about the allocation of housing units to residents.
Committees: According to Muhsin al-Bakri on 19 Oct Al-Khajah is the Accord Bloc’s candidate of choice for chairman of the Youth & Sports Committee, after reaching agreement on this with the National Bloc, headed by Abdulrahman Bumjaid. Sources told Al-Watan newspaper (27 Oct) that Osama al-Khajah and Ibrahim al-Hammadi were competing for chairmanship of the Youth and Sports Committee.
Al-Hammadi on 2 Nov told Al-Bilad newspaper that around five MPs are competing for membership of the Youth and Sports Committee. Reportedly, Al-Hammadi, Osama al-Khajah and Ghazi Al Rahmah are competing for the chairman role. However, by the time of the committees elections in early November, neither Al-Hammadi nor Al-Khajah had their names put forward for membership of the Sports Committee.
Affiliation: On 15 Oct Isa Turki announced the formation of a new parliamentary alliance to be called the “Accord Bloc”, with Turki as the head of the grouping. Other members are Muhsin al-Bakri, Dhiyab al-Noaimi, Mohammed al-Maarifi, Osama al-Khajah and Khalifa al-Ghanim. Most members are Sunni loyalists from the southern constituencies of Bahrain.
The Accord Bloc on 18 Oct held a press conference to officially announce its launch as a five-member alliance, headed by Isa Turki – also including, Mohammed al-Maarifi (deputy chairman), Muhsin al-Bakri (superintendent – amin sir), Osama al-Khajah and Dhiyab al-Noaimi.
Al-Khajah emphasized the centrality of the subsidies issue for the Accord Bloc, noting that the bloc prioritized standards of living. He pointed out that the Govt’s efforts to economize its spending was necessary in the current context, but this must not harm the public. He said: “The Government needs a clear vision for managing its spending, so as to encourage family tourism and hold conferences”.
Private bills: During the 3 Nov parliamentary session, MPs reacted angrily to the Govt’s rejection of a number of private bills put forward by MPs. Al-Khajah criticized the decision to widen the scheme for imposing health fees on foreign workers, noting the harm that this did to Bahraini businesses.
ACTIVITY DURING 2014-2015 PARLIAMENT SEASON
Housing, services & infrastructure
Construction: Al-Khajah positively commented on the referral of two stalled construction projects for judicial investigation, saying this showed the seriousness of ministers in addressing these projects and preserving the rights of investors and shareholders. (2 March) On 12 March Al-Khajah called for greater cooperation between the Government and developers to address stalled projects.
Tubli coast: Al-Khajah on 18 March proposed rejuvenating the Tubli coastal area, in order to “clean up the pollution and make it an idyllic destination”.
Standards of living, health & education
Food safety: On 9 February Al-Khajah stressed his support for setting up a parliamentary committee for investigating the rotten imported meat issue.
Commodity prices: On 15 February Al-Khajah addressed the Ministry of Industry, saying that the Ministry had abandoned its former role of securing low prices for consumers.
Meat subsidies: Al-Khajah on 23 May strongly criticized the plan to remove meat subsidies. He said that the proposed cash payments were insufficient to compensate.
During the 26 May parliamentary discussion, a majority of MPs spoke out against the Govt’s plan for halting meat subsidies. Al-Khajah said: “These tiny sums of money can’t be accepted by citizens… We completely reject the halting of subsidies on meat, based on these tiny sums of money announced by the Ministry for Social Development”.
Services Committee: Al-Khajah on 11 February said that the Services Committee had agreed on a public health bill. He said there had also been discussion of the new employment bill that the Shura Council had rejected saying that it was prejudicial against non-Bahrainis. Al-Khajah said that the parliamentary committee continued to support the bill. The Committee also discussed proposals for modifying retirement benefits for public sector workers.
On 11 March Al-Khajah said that the Services Committee had discussed increasing benefits for pensioners in the light of inflation. The Committee also discussed measures to support the disabled and increase their role in society; as well as proposals for new health centres.
Health: Al-Khajah on 18 February strongly criticized the new fees incurred on non-Bahraini workers for health services, saying that it amounted to a “health tax” on the private sector.
Al-Khajah stressed that the response to the King’s speech should emphasize “the necessity of cooperation with the executive branch over legislation and auditing, to achieve improvements in health services. Improving health programs is our first and second priority”. (17 February)
On 8 April Al-Khajah called for the establishment of a centre for children with autism.
Al-Khajah has put forward a private proposal for a mobile health centre for pensioners and the disabled. (9 April)
Al-Khajah on 25 April noted that 63% of those sent abroad for treatment hadn’t been reviewed by the responsible committee. He was discussing the Health Ministry violations cited in the Financial Audit Bureau report.
Economy & employment
Foreign workers: During the 3 March parliamentary debate on the so-called “free visa” system”, blamed Bahraini citizens for complicity in this issue. He called for comprehensive solutions.
Foreign teachers: Al-Khajah was one of six MPs on 16 March who proposed an open debate about the Government’s policy on recruiting foreign teachers.
Employees: Al-Khajah on 17 May met the Labour Minister and they discussed efforts to train and prepare young Bahrainis for the workforce.
Pearl monitoring: During a stormy 10 March parliamentary debate over a bill for privatizing monitoring the quality of pearls and precious stones, Al-Khajah stressed his own background in the jewelry trade, and praised the expertise of the existing laboratories for testing quality and authenticity.
Fishing: During the 19 May parliamentary debate on the fishing industry, Anas Buhindi proposed compensating fishermen for the 6 month ban on shrimp fishing. He was supported by Al-Khajah who proposed setting up a fund for fishermen.
Good governance & public finance
Public debt: On 25 March, Al-Khajah rejected rumours that services to citizens could be halted in the light of the parliamentary decision not to increase the debt ceiling. Al-Khajah stressed that these services were the “right” of the citizen and said that the Government shouldn’t try and link this issue to a decision taken by the majority of representatives.
According to Al-Watan on 14 May Al-Khajah was one of the 20 MPs who said that they would give conditional support to raising the debt ceiling to 7bn BD.
Audit report: During the 14 April parliamentary debate concerning the annual Financial Audit Bureau report, Al-Khajah discussed alleged violations by a number of ministries in some detail and singled out the use of foreign brokers by the Health Ministry for overseas treatment.
Minister interrogation: During the 5 May parliamentary session an insufficient number of MPs voted in support of interrogating the Health Minister over issues raised in the Audit report (23 supported, below the 2/3 quota of 27 MPs).Al-Khajah voted in favour of the interrogation.
Civil service: On 5 May Al-Khajah met the head of the civil service to discuss cooperation with Parliament and a number of human resources issues.
Policing & regional security
Defence: Al-Khajah on 9 February stated the “unconditional support” of the Parliament for modernizing and empowering the Defence Forces. On 2 March praised the role of the Defence Forces as the “resistant shield of the nation against those with hostile ambitions”.
Rights, freedoms & religion
Quran: During the 17 March parliamentary debate about the proposal for setting up an inquiry committee over the reading of Quranic verses during a talent contest, Al-Khajah said that the incident was the result of “shortcomings in the Education Ministry”.
Media: Al-Khajah was one of five MPs who proposed educational TV programmes for promoting family stability, the proposal was agreed by Parliament. (17 March)
Women’s rights: Al-Khajah questioned the Labour Minister on 18 April regarding the work entitlements for women, based on international labour accords.
Youth, culture & sport
Sport: During a 7 April open parliamentary debate about sport in Bahrain Al-Khajah said there was no difficulty in improving the status of sports in Bahrain, if the political will existed. He called for greater coordination between the branches of Government in addressing this.
Grand Prix: Al-Khajah on 19 April praised the importance of the F1 for Bahrain.
Youth: Al-Khajah on 29 April called for an effective strategy for improving opportunities for young people.
Al-Khajah on 9 May stressed the importance of youth initiatives for integrating young people and improving their employment prospects.
Al-Khajah on 12 May said that the Prime Minister’s decision for allotting a portion of the budget for youth and sports centres was an important step for preparing young people for participating in sporting events at a global level.
- Standards of living, health & education – 9
- Housing & services – 5
- Policing & regional security– 5
- Good governance & public finance – 5
- Economy & employment – 7
- Supporting constituents & youth – 5
- Rights & freedoms – 4
- Constructive Parliament role – 5
- Public visibility – 5
- Progressive/reformist credentials – 4
Results of 2014 elections – 7th Capital
Areas covered: Jid Ali, Jurdab
Housing blocks: 709, 721, 729, 733, 816
Registered voters: 10,695; Percentage 1st round voter turnout: 46.1%
First round votes:
Osamah al-Khajah – 1458 (32.9%); Zainab Abdulamir – 1092 (24.6%); Khalid al-Quwwati – 656 (14.8%); Ridha Shukrallah – 615 (13.9%); Abdullah al-Dirazi – 610 (13.8%)
Second round vote:
Osamah al-Khajah – 2094 (60.4%)
Zainab Abdulamir – 1373 (39.6%)
Profile of election campaign: Osamah Abdulhamid Ahmed al-Khajah
Businessman Al-Khajah has extensively discussed the housing crisis during his campaign. He highlighted the 40,000 outstanding applications and continually rising prices of building materials. Al-Khajah said that greater efforts were needed and a revised look at the outstanding regulations concerning housing provision. Al-Khajah narrowly missed out on a seat in the 2011 by-election. He defeated Sumayah al-Jowder in the first round (Al-Khajah obtained 42%; Sumayah only 26%), but she beat him in the second (1,725 vs. 1,660).
Many commented favourably on the way rival contestant Zainab Abdulamir went about her campaign, which was well covered in the media. Having waged such an effective campaign, Zainab would be well-placed for a successful candidacy in 2018. At a national level, Deputy-head of the National Institution for Human Rights, Dr. Ali al-Dirazi, was the most talked-about figure in this constituency and as a result, he came to be seen as a favourite. However, on the day he was the lowest-polling candidate in the first round.
This district is a remaining fragment of the 1st district of the defunct Capital Governorate. The district lies to the south of Manama along the stretch of coast facing the island of Sitra and has a diverse population. Parts of the locality hails from the Ajam community of Iranian origins, although some Ajam have opposition sympathies, the established families, with close ties to the royal family, are staunchly loyalist.
In the past this area has tended to have one of the higher turn-outs for elections in the Capital area. The lack of any pervading political ideology and a diverse community have tended to favour a broad range of independent candidates and historically has resulted in some of the most interesting – and surprising – electoral contests. There have been vandalism attacks against elections advertising. In this context the 46.1% first round turnout will come as something of a relief to many and is an indicator of the weakness of calls for a boycott outside the handful of core opposition constituencies.
Know your deputy: MPs profiles
Adel al-Asoumi – 1st Capital
Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed Qaratah – 2nd Capital
Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain – 3rd Capital
Abdulrahman Bumjaid – 4th Capital
Nasser al-Qaseer – 5th Capital
Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Ali al-Atish – 6th Capital
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Osamah al-Khajah – 7th Capital
Shaikh Majid al-Asfour – 8th Capital
Mohammed Jaffar Milad – 9th Capital
Nabil al-Balooshi – 10th Capital
Ali Bufarsan – 1st Muharraq
Ibrahim al-Hammadi – 2nd Muharraq
Jamal Buhassan – 3rd Muharraq
Isa al-Kooheji – 4th Muharraq
Mohammed al-Jowder – 5th Muharraq
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Deputy-Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Abbas al-Madhi – 6th Muharraq
Ali al-Muqla – 7th Muharraq
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern
Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh – 2nd Northern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Hamad al-Dossary – 3rd Northern
Deputy Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ghazi Al Rahmah – 4th Northern
Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ali al-Aradi – 5th Northern
Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Rua al-Haiki – 6th Northern
Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Shaikh Majid al-Majid – 7th Northern
Dr. Isa Turki – 8th Northern
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 9th Northern
Mohammed al-Ammadi – 10th Northern
Chairman of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Jamal Dawoud – 11th Northern
Jamila al-Sammak – 12th Northern
Khalid al-Shaer – 1st Southern
Mohammed al-Ahmed – 2nd Southern
Abdulhalim Murad – 3rd Southern
Second Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Mohammed al-Maarifi – 4th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Services
Khalifa al-Ghanim – 5th Southern
Anas Buhindi – 6th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Abdullah Bin-Huwail – 7th Southern
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Dhiyab al-Noaimi – 8th Southern
Mohsin al-Bakri – 9th Southern
Deputy Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed al-Mulla – 10th Southern
Chairman of Parliament