Lebanon News

Controversial draft laws on agenda as legislative session kicks off

File - Lebanese police stand guard in front of the Parliament building in Beirut, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: MPs will debate Tuesday several controversial and crucial draft laws as a three-day legislative session kicks off, ending more than a year of paralysis in Parliament’s work.

Protests against some of the 70 draft laws on the session’s agenda began Monday, with Electricité du Liban contract workers blocking streets near the company’s headquarters in Beirut and other roads across Lebanon.

They were protesting the first draft law on the agenda, which if passed would make over 1,000 EDL contract workers full timers.

According to the draft law, the Council of Civil Service would hold examinations to fill EDL’s vacant posts. None of those taking the exams should be over 56 years of age.

Contract workers insist that the tests be supervised by the council, and argue that the workers’ expertise should be taken into consideration when grading.

They are also demanding that contract workers be paid compensation, an item not stipulated in the draft law. Most of contract workers are supporters of Speaker Nabih Berri.

Sources familiar with the issue told The Daily Star that contacts between Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi and various parliamentary blocs were underway and would continue till early Tuesday in a bid to find a solution that would satisfy the workers.

The sources added that should those efforts hit a dead end, then Parliament would withdraw the draft law and not pass it.

Contract workers will protest at Riad al-Solh Square Tuesday morning in order to voice their demands.

The ninth item on the agenda is a long-awaited draft law to protect women against domestic violence.

Metn MP Ghassan Moukheiber, who was a member of a parliamentary subcommittee which studied the draft law for 52 sessions, said that it was passed unanimously by Parliament’s joint committees after they received it from the subcommittee. The joint committees comprise MPs from various blocs.

But Moukheiber voiced fears that the draft law could be referred back to the joint committees if MPs argued that it contained mistakes or that it still required some amendments.

“I support passing it by Parliament as amended [by the subcommittee]. If there is a need for correction, then this can happen later.”

“I am afraid that if it is referred to the joint committees again, this will take much time and we will be wasting an opportunity to pass this draft law,” Moukheiber added.

He explained that the draft law improved in light of the amendments introduced by the subcommittee. The draft law was referred to Parliament by the Cabinet in 2010.

“This is the best possible draft law and better than the original one referred by the Cabinet. It provides good protection for women.”

Moukheiber said that under the draft law originally forwarded by the government, perpetrators received lighter punishments than those in Lebanon’s penal code. “But we made amendments so that punishment became harsher.”

In a sharp increase in cases of domestic abuse, three women died this year in Lebanon as a result of family violence, driving hundreds to march in Beirut last month, calling for the adoption of a draft law to protect women.

Meanwhile, public notaries expressed their opposition Monday to a draft law on the session’s agenda which would appoint Justice Ministry employees as public notaries without making them undergo a required exam.

“Tests to appoint public notaries are essential in the profession of a public notary and it is unacceptable that the basis of this profession is undermined,” said public notary Abdo Abdo, addressing a news conference at the Press Club.

He said that the draft law weakened the profession and violated constitutional principles, particularly that of equal opportunity in terms of employment. Media reports said that some of those whom the draft law would appoint have previously taken the exams and failed.

Another controversial item on the agenda is a draft rent law which is opposed by longtime tenants.

Other important draft laws include one that would grant access to information and another calling for adopting proportional representation in parliamentary elections. with additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 01, 2014, on page 3.




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