File Photo: A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session (AP)
Alaa Abed, head of parliament’s Transport Committee, revealed in a House plenary meeting on Sunday that the committee will hold hearing sessions on the deadly train accident which took place near Tahta city in the Upper Egypt governorate of Sohag on Friday morning.
“As article 9 of the House’s internal bylaws gives the House speaker the authority to invite a certain committee to hold urgent meetings on an important subject, I ask that the Transport Committee meet to discuss the deadly Sohag train accident,” Abed said.
House Speaker Hanafi Gebaly also told MPs that “the House will invoke its supervisory powers only after the prosecution-general declare the results of its investigation into the train collision.”
“In the meantime, however, the Transport Committee will bear the responsibility of following the development of the accident and taking note of the result of the investigation being conducted by the prosecution-general in this respect,” Gebaly said.
Abed said a sub-committee was formed immediately following the accident to gather information and prepare a detailed report.
“The sub-committee was also a part of a parliamentary delegation, including the House’s deputy speaker Mohamed Abu El-Enein and the leader of the parliamentary majority, Ashraf Rashad, which met with Sohag’s governor and visited the people injured in the crash in hospitals,” Abed said.
Abed, however, kept short of holding Minister of Transport Kamel El-Wazir politically responsible for the accident.
He said in a TV interview on Friday evening that a move against El-Wazir requires proof that he committed gross negligence that was mainly and directly responsible for the accident.
Abed offered thanks for President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi “because he issued directives to the government to offer all forms of support to the victims of the accident and their families”.
“The government also did well in the area of offering the utmost medical care to the injured people and I can say that, in general, the government managed the crisis well,” he said.
Other MPs, however, insisted that there should be a kind of political accountability for those who might have a hand in this accident.
Tarek Radwan, head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee and a Sohag governorate MP said “nobody is above political accountability, and the House and its concerned committees should be informed of the development of the prosecution’s inquiry into the accident.”
“I hope that accountability will not be confined to a low-level employee or the train driver, but we should go after the real culprit who caused this accident,” Radwan said.
MP Mahmoud Badr also called for adopting a hard line with the National Railway Authority (NRA).
“As many as eleven transport ministers have resigned before because of their political responsibility for previous train accidents, and what we see now is that no one has resigned, including the chairman of NRA,” he said.
Abdel-Moneim Imam, the parliamentary spokesperson of Al-Adl (Justice) party, asked to form a parliamentary fact-finding commission to investigate the financial and technical conditions of the NRA.
“This commission should include the transport committee and the budget committee to review the budget of the railway sector and how it is used to improve performance,” Imam said.
Joining forces, MP Amr Darwish also called for forming a fact-finding commission to be entrusted with reviewing the financial feasibility of the railway sector’s projects, identifying officials politically responsible for the accident, and following the progress of the prosecution-general’s probe.