08 June 2001
Maha Al-Azar Daily Star staff
Parliament’s Administration and Justice Committee on Thursday rebuffed an attempt by MPs to address crucial green issues, failing to turn up at a special session that had been called by the Environment Committee. The Environment Committee had invited the Administration and Justice Committee and other MPs to the meeting to discuss various important environmental issues, in particular the Code of Environment which has been held up in Parliament since 1998. “Out of the 34 MPs called to the meeting only a handful attended,” said a source close to the meeting. “Their absence has provoked condemnation from those present,” said environment committee chairman Aley MP Akram Chehayeb at the end of the meeting. The Code of Environment is a set of laws that deal with environmental conduct in a comprehensive manner and specify penalties in cases of violation.
The meeting, which was scheduled to take place from 9.30am to 1pm , was attended by four environmental non-governmental organizations and was expected to discuss environmental issues including the code, environmental impact assessments, protected areas, and sewage treatment. NGO representatives were irked when some of those who did show up left before any of these issues were discussed. “Environment Minister Michel Musa left at 11.30am , saying he had prior engagements. Others did the same,” said Green Line president Ali Darwish. “Calling us to a meeting and then disappearing shows complete disdain for people and for the environment,” he added. Green Line issued a petition with the signatures of four green NGOs and the Beirut Order of Engineers, “denouncing” the Administration and Justice Committee’s failure to attend and demanding that it approve the code “without amendments.” When it was first sent to Parliament, the code consisted of 104 articles, but it was later pared down to 52. “Despite this, they still haven’t managed to endorse it,” said Darwish.
Akkar MP Mikhael Daher, chairman of the Administration and Justice Committee, denied having received any invitation to the meeting, saying, “I receive hundreds of invitations to events, if these are not supplemented with a personal call, I don’t consider them.” Daher insisted that in this case, no one had contacted him. But a source close to the organization committee for the session confirmed that Daher was contacted by telephone and met with one of the organizers, who asked him to deliver a speech during the session. While Daher declined to make such a speech, he “promised to attend the meeting,” according to the source. Daher, who mistakenly thought that the code was a proposal for a legislation and not the draft law that it is, said he “hoped” to place the code on the committee’s working agenda “within the next two or three weeks.”