Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz today swore in the Chairman and 150 members of the fourth term of the Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura), in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz.
Addressing the opening session of the first year of the Shura Council's fourth four-year term, King Fahd reiterated that consultation [shura] is a principle of Islam, a pillar of Saudi Arabia’s system of government, and a tradition that has been actively practiced in the modern Kingdom for nearly 80 years. Article (3) of the Shura Council system regulations, he said, has been amended three times, expanding membership from 60 to 90 in its second term, from 90 to 120 in its third term, and from 120 to 150 in the current fourth term.
King Fahd reminded his audience that Islam is a religion that encourages benevolence and rejects evil; calls for peaceful co-existence among nations and civilizations; and prohibits aggression and corruption. Vowing that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will never allow the deviant group to destabilize the country, he declared that in Islam there is no room for violence, extremism, fanaticism, oppression, or terrorism; or for assault against people or confiscation of the property of others. The Saudi authorities, he said, are sparing no effort to confront all forms of terrorism, and pointed out that the Kingdom has been carrying out a fierce fight against terrorism within its borders, and is committed to the relevant resolutions of the United Nations in combating the phenomenon.
For this reason, Saudi Arabia launched an intensive national awareness campaign that began in February with the Counter-Terrorism International Conference in Riyadh, hosted by the Kingdom and attended by representatives from 51 countries and 9 international organizations. At that conference, Crown Prince Abdullah presented a proposal, approved by the participants, to set up an international center for the war on terrorism. The conference agreed that the United Nations should lead a comprehensive strategy for international effort; that regional and international disputes should be settled peacefully so that terrorist organizations have no opportunity of exploiting such situations; that any link between terrorism and Islam must be rejected; and that multi-cultural dialogue and international, regional and bilateral cooperation need to be enhanced in order to dry up funding not only for terrorism, but for organized crime and illegal trade in drugs, weapons, and explosives.
King Fahd declared that the Saudi government will continue its economic, social, and political development, citing the recent reform of the municipal council system and the numerous regulations that are providing a strong impetus for greater growth and prosperity. He reviewed the country’s progress, pointing out the transfer of technology, the high standard of education and health services, and the attention to social welfare. He gave figures on the size of investment in industry, over SR260 billion [U.S. 69.4 billion], and the rise in the number of factories, about 3,700, providing some 354,000 jobs.
The success of the development plans, said King Fahd, has been achieved while continually improving the country’s human resources. He confirmed that priority is being given to increasing the participation of women; to encouraging the role of the private sector; to building up a national workforce so that foreign workers can be replaced; and to re-structuring education and training institutions to meet contemporary needs. The Eighth Five-Year Development Plan specifically aims at providing job opportunities for citizens, opening new areas for investment, and training the national workforce. A recent Cabinet decision sets up mechanisms to confront the problems of unemployment among citizens and to reduce the number of foreign workers.
Turning to the current 2005 State Budge, King Fahd referred to appropriations amounting to SR 75.5 billion [$20.2 billion] for new projects, reflecting the strength of the Saudi economy. He also referred to the use of part of the extraordinary surplus from last year of SR 41 billion [$10.9 billion] to increase the capital for the various government lending and financing institutions that provide citizens with facilities and soft loans.
On foreign policy, King Fahd commented on the continuing situations in Iraq and in Palestine where the victims are innocent women, children and old people, and called for an international stance to stem the bloodshed and restore security, stability and peace to the region. He urged the people of Lebanon to overcome the crisis there, and to maintain the country’s unity, stability and integrity, resorting to dialogue rather than division. On Arab relations, he confirmed Saudi Arabia’s focus on promoting joint Arab action.
In his speech, Shura Council Chairman Shaikh Dr. Salih bin Abdullah bin Homaid commended the process of reform instigated by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He went on to praise the increase in the Shura Council’s membership, and the amendment of Articles (17) and (23) that gives the Council greater powers. Referring to the events of 9/11 and their negative impact on Muslims and Islam, he declared that Saudi Arabia had successfully avoided the worst of this calamity, while benefiting from its lessons, tackling its causes, and dealing wisely and patiently with the violence and terrorism that have followed it. The Shura Council, he said, has been opening channels of communication not only within the Kingdom, but with media, and with governments and parliaments all over the world; and has acceded to the prestigious Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Reviewing the Shura Council’s third four-year term that has just ended, Shaikh bin Homaid reported that 438 items had been discussed, and 387 decisions issued, pertaining to systems, regulations, agreements, treaties and annual reports.