Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – will resume plenary meetings on Sunday, with MPs asking to open an investigation into the deadly train collision, which took place near the city of Tahta in the upper Egypt governorate of Sohag on Friday morning, leaving at least 19 people killed and 185 injured.
Head of Parliament's Transport Committee Alaa Abed, told reporters Saturday that a large number of MPs have submitted "information requests" and "urgent statements", asking House Speaker Hanafi Gibali to devote tomorrow's plenary meeting to discussing the Sohag train accident.
"MPs have asked that Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Minister of Transport Kamel El-Wazir be summoned to address parliament on the accident and review measures necessary to upgrade the performance of Egypt's railway system and to put an end to such disastrous train accidents," said Abed.
A parliamentary delegation including Abed, Deputy Parliament Speaker Mohamed Abul-Enein and Parliamentary Spokesperson of the Majority Party of Mostaqbal Watan Ashraf Rashad visited the city of Sohag on Saturday to review the scene of the accident and make sure that injured citizens receive adequate medical treatment at hospitals.
"Parliament's discussion of Sohag accident will not contradict with the Prosecution General's inquiry as the house's discussion will not focus on the technical causes of the accident but rather review the measures being taken to upgrade the performance of the railway authority, and how concerned ministries were able to conduct the necessary rescue operations, taking injured citizens to hospitals and financially compensating the families of the victims," added Abed.
Abed also indicated that the House's transport committee will hold an urgent meeting on the train accident on Sunday morning.
In a tweet on Friday, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi vowed “deterrent punishment” for the culprits of Sohag's deadly train collision, stressing his determination to end a “pattern of such disasters."
“Whoever caused this tragic accident, whether through negligence or corruption or [for] other reasons, will face deterrent punishment with no exceptions, reluctance or deferment,” El-Sisi said.
House speaker Hanafi Gibali also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
"Parliament is closely following the prosecution's investigation into [the] causes of Sohag's train collision and hopes that all injured citizens, who [are] receiving medical treatment, leave hospitals soon," Gibali said in a statement on Friday.
Parliament Deputy Speaker Ahmed Saadeddin also said that the House's transport committee joined all state authorities in taking all the necessary rescue measures like, escorting injured citizens to nearby hospitals and making sure that they receive necessary medical treatment.
According to informed sources, it is not expected that MPs ask for firing Minister of Transport Kamel El-Wazir or take him to task for the deadly accident. "El-Wazir, who came to office in March 2019, has been exerting tremendous effort to streamline the performance of Egypt's railway system and we think he should stay to complete his job," said MP.
In a statement on Saturday, El-Wazir apologised for the Sohag train accident. He said "on behalf of me and all the staff at Egypt's railway authority, I apologise for the upper Egypt train collision." He also said that "the government has allocated EGP 225 billion to upgrading Egypt's railway authority and we are trying to use this amount to meet the operation needs [as well as] upgrade the system at the same time." El-Wazir added "please be patient until we complete the upgrading and renovation works and until we finish our job."
Prosecutor General Hamada El-Sawy ordered an urgent inquiry into the causes of the collision, dispatching a team of investigators to the scene of the incident.
The Prosecution General said in a statement “all bodies not issue any statements on the reasons behind the collision," pending the results of its investigations.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly ordered the formation of a specialised technical committee to find out the reasons behind the accident, stressing zero-tolerance with any negligence or faults while also vowing to hold the culprits behind the crash accountable.
Meanwhile, Parliament is also scheduled this week to discuss three legislative amendments, the most important of which is one on fighting female genital mutilation (FGM) crimes.
A report prepared by parliament's health committee indicated that Article 242 of the Penal Code will be amended to increase the minimum and maximum prison sentences on FGM crimes.
The amendment, approved by the Senate on 21 March, states that "non-medical individuals involved in performing genital mutilation would face up to seven years in prison if the practice led to a permanent disability, and up to ten years in prison if the practice led to death".
The amendment also said medical professionals (i.e. doctors and nurses) who perform genital mutilation can face between ten and 15 years in prison.
"If the procedure led to a permanent disability, medical professionals involved can face a minimum of ten years in prison, and if the procedure led to death, the penalty will be toughened to be between 15 to 20 years in prison," the amendment added.
Moreover, the amendment also added that medical professionals convicted of performing genital mutilation will be stripped of practising their job for up to five years, and have their clinics closed for the same period of time.
According to the same amendment, any other individual found promoting, encouraging, or supporting FGM in any of the ways prescribed by Article 171 of the Penal Code will be jailed, even if the procedure took place without leaving any harm.
On Monday and Tuesday, the house is expected to resume discussing a controversial law on water resources and irrigation works.
The legislative agenda this week also includes, discussing a third report on the law related to the handling of cotton crop in the local market. The law aims to help the general authority on cotton arbitration while, tests impose control on cotton gins to make sure that the cotton produced is that of the required and of highest standard quality.