Aoun-Berri Row Flares Anew after Ruling by Justice Ministry Committee
A new war of words erupted Tuesday between the Change and Reform bloc and AMAL Movement, after the Committee of Legislation and Consultations of the Justice Ministry issued a recommendation on the controversial officers seniority decree.
“The Committee of Legislation and Consultations has given its opinion regarding the seniority decree and everyone must comply,” Change and Reform said in a statement recited by Justice Minister Salim Jreissati.
“President Michel Aoun is not exceeding his presidential powers and we will not allow anyone to encroach on the president's jurisdiction during this presidential tenure. The president is the president of us all and he is the guardian of the constitution and the law,” the bloc added.
It also stressed that Committee's ruling “puts an end to the constitutional and legal debate” over the disputed decree.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil hit back swiftly, stressing that “no one is above the constitution.”
“We are responsible for every word we say and we know the meaning of our words very well. Let no one try to intimidate us,” Khalil tweeted.
“It would be better for (Jreissati) to say that he no longer wants to rely on the constitution, and he should not think that he has the ability to repress viewpoints that contradict with his edicts,” Khalil added.
In its recommendation, the Committee of Legislation and Consultations noted that the disputed decree did not require Khalil's signature, citing a 1992 Shura Council ruling that had stated that “the finance minister does not have the right to oversee the work of the other ministers.”
According to LBCI television, Berri said the Committee's recommendation was issued “at the request” of Jreissati and his political party.
Khalil also commented on the recommendation, saying “the attempts to cover up for the violation of the constitution are of no use and will only aggravate the confusion of those behind them and lead to new disputes.”
“We do not need a dictated opinion,” the minister added.
The Aoun-Berri spat broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister's signature.
Aoun and his aides have argued that the decree did not require Khalil's signature because it did not entail any “financial burden,” a point Berri and officials close to him have argued against.
Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army's highest echelons.
The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun's military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.