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MENAFN - Arab Times - 18/09/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab Times) To celebrate the International Day of Democracy, which takes place every year on September 15, the British Ambassador to Kuwait, Frank Baker, held an online open Q&A session on Twitter on Sunday morning.

From 11 am to 12:30 pm, Ambassador Frank Baker was present in a public forum, taking questions and providing answers to various different questions concerning democracy and other local and international issues. Baker began the session with a few introductory tweets saying "Democracy is something both of our nations cherish and one of many things the UK and Kuwait have in common... Democracy means the freedom to elect representatives, express views and have a say on the laws regulating people's lives."

He continued saying "Kuwait's democracy is equally embedded, in the idea of the diwaniya, the parliament and the history of the nation... In Kuwait I think people already have many of the freedoms others in the region are reaching for through reform, protest and revolution". He then began responding to questions from various contributors. Responding to a question regarding Arab countries that may not yet be prepared for democracy, Baker stated that "even when you disagree with another opinion democracy means recognising their right to have that opinion", adding that "the tragic events in Syria are a reminder of the end product of the lack of accountability/legitimacy over government."

One tweeter posted a question asking "Where is democracy, your Excellency, in annexing Palestinian territories?" to which Baker replied saying "our vision is for 2 democratic states co-existing in peace... resolving this issue requires negotiations and political will from all sides."

With regards to recent events involving the defamatory film against the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Baker stated that "we deplore the film. Hate speech is illegal in the UK. But violence is never justified."

Regarding events in Syria, one tweeter asked "Do you believe in a political solution in Syria?" Baker responded saying "we have to believe in a political solution in Syria. The solution to any conflict ultimately is political." Regarding allegations that the US was responsible for stalling the resolution of the issue in Syria, Baker responded with "we have worked in New York to move this forward. It is a matter of public record why the UNSG has been unable to do so... we need to continue to work closely with UNSG's Special Representative. The solution has to be political and the international community must take a responsible approach."

When asked about recent allegations that the banks in the UK had failed to return the illegitimate gains of many of the former regime members in Egypt, Baker simply stated that "UK and Egypt have long outstanding relationship... as Egypt moves towards democracy we are building on and deepening these ties."

In response to last year's events concerning privatization and cuts in health and education, and the potentially undemocratic nature of these decisions, Baker maintained that "the UK's National Health Service provides medical treatment for all UK residence free of charge" and that "the UK government provides free education to all children up to the age of 18".

As the discussion began to draw to a close, Baker noted that "This year Kuwait lost one of its strongest voices for democracy, Jassem Al Qatami. Someone to remember as we talk about the subject." He concluded by thanking all the contributors, saying that similar sessions will be held again soon.


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