Everything You Should Know About Yesterday’s Parliamentary Session in Lebanon

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir l fabouj

The House of Representative’s legislative session lasted only two days instead of three and ended yesterday, Wednesday, April 22nd. It was exceptionally held at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut in the presence of PM Hassan Diab, ministers, and representatives.

A number of MPs walked out of the session, which led to quorum loss and several matters untackled.

A series of draft laws and proposals were approved and many were returned to the parliamentary committees for “study.”

Notably, the majority of the revolution’s demands were voted against, including the foremost ones related to the prosecution of corrupt officials, the lifting of bank secrecy, and early parliamentary elections.

The most prominent proposal is the opening of an additional line of credit of 450 billion LBP due to hospitals. It was subject to debate and some demanding to be referred to the Health Committee, but it got finally approved.

The council also approved the draft law aimed at suspending legal, judicial, and contractual deadlines.

MP Alain Aoun submitted a law proposal on the suspension of debt payments and financial entitlements with banks and credit contours. The proposal was ratified after extensive discussion related to the financial and economic plan.

Representative Gebran Bassil demanded that the government starts on the economic and financial plan, pointing to the generalization issued by the Governor of the Bank of Lebanon.

He referred to a proposal submitted by his bloc on determining the reference interest that wasn’t deemed urgent, stressing that it is part of the Capital Control. To this proposal, Speaker Nabih Berry responded: “Capital Control is not our specialty. It’s the central bank’s.”

The parliament dropped, after extensive discussion, the repeated and urgent law proposal aimed at lifting the immunity of the ministers.

“The aim of the proposal submitted with my colleague Hani Qubeisi regarding the trial of ministers and presidents is that we collided with a constitutional text and a judicial reality,” MP Hassan Fadlallah said.

“The judiciary does not play the role under the pretext of the constitutional text, and I say that ministers refused to go to the judiciary under the pretext of immunity,” MP Fadlallah advanced.

He stressed, “Today, the whole country is waiting for what we will do to recover the stolen money, that is, a formula for promoting the judiciary to summon any suspect or any of the ministers.”

To that, Ali Ammar stated: “As a member of the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers, and after Al-Qubaisi and Fadlallah enacted the swords of the trial, I am before the General Assembly voluntarily submitting my resignation from the Council, and thus be a lesson to whoever is considered.”

As for the reason why the MPs voted against that law, MP Hadi Abu Al-Hassan explained the following:

“Despite the importance of the proposal, it remains incomplete if we do not start with the independence of the judiciary, and when it will be placed on the agenda.”

“Secondly, whoever says that the corrupt is a minister, they may be a general manager or an employee. Therefore, with our appreciation, we do not agree with this proposal before the independence of the judiciary.”

On the issue, MP Bilal Abdallah said: “We are with this proposal, and I hope that it will be accompanied by the independence of the judiciary.”

He stressed that “any constitutional amendment that does not address the abolition of sectarianism is like scattering ashes in the people’s eyes, and all attempts will fail. It is time to abolish the sectarian system and move to a secular state.”

MP Ziad Huwat agreed: “Today, the ministers are protected by their sects and parties, and an amendment is necessary.”

The repeated expedited law proposal to stop all work on the Bisri Dam was presented by Representative Paula Yacoubian who stressed, “We do not know if it will meet its needs or not… We have a responsibility to stop this environmental crime.”

The vote was against this law and it was dropped and referred to the competent committee.

Another repeated and expedited law was proposed by the Kataeb representatives: Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, and Elias Hankach. This proposal was to shorten the mandate of the House of Representatives and to hold early elections. This law was also dropped.

A number of deputies discussed extending the rent of non-residential places, especially shops, and the suffering of the tenants, and pointed out that it is a major crisis. This law was postponed.

The law proposal to issue a general amnesty for some crimes, which was submitted by Deputy Bahia Hariri, was referred to the committees.

The law proposal to establish a special fund addressing the repercussions of the pandemic and those who lost their jobs in the private sector was dropped and referred to the committees.

The law proposal to amend articles 18 and 20 related to the regulation of the exchange profession submitted by representatives Bilal Abdullah and Hadi Abu Al-Hassan was referred to the committees.

The law proposal related to value-added tax presented by MP Paula Yacoubian and related to merchants and tax was dropped and referred to the committees.

The MPs voted against a law to remove politicians’ pictures from public places. They also voted against removing banking secrecy.