By Ghassan Karam, Special to Ya Libnan
Patriarch Sfeir, General Aoun, Hariri and most of the other non Shi’ite political luminaries in Lebanon have so far been getting Beri jabs and swift combinations that they cannot seem to duck or avoid. They have not been able to as much as touch Mr. Beri. They have been outclassed and I am glad that they have been made to look like the disingenuous people that they are on this all important issue of removing sectarian allocation of parliamentary seats and, the Presidency, the Speaker, the Premiership as well as many civil service jobs.
The case against sectarian allocation of jobs and political posts is so strong and convincing that no one has dared be associated with supporting it outright. It is more likely that all political leaders have condemned the system as a relic of the past that is holding Lebanon down and that is the cause of most of its problems. Unfortunately these same leaders who extol Taef on a daily basis had to circle the wagons when they were finally challenged to implement one of the most important features of Taef, ban political sectarianism by de confessionalizing the political structure of Lebanon.
Let us be clear about what the Speaker is proposing. He wants to finally start the process that the Lebanese were mandated to implement by the Taef agreement of 1995. He is suggesting that the Parliament must form a committee to study the process of abandoning sectarianism and make suggestions about implementation. Once this committee studies and analyses all aspects of the problem by holding hearings and talking to all sides will issue its recommendations that the Parliament can accept, reject or modify. That is a straight forward process that should not have generated any opposition but should have been welcomed with open arms by all. It was not though and for a very simple reason. The traditional leadership never wanted to change the system. They are happy with a system that has given them power and prestige, equity, efficiency, justice, democracy be damned. That is also why all these leaders are scrambling to find a legitimate argument against the Beri proposal. They have not found any and allow me to predict that they will not find any.
The best that they could come up with are various explanations of the need to eliminate political sectarianism in Lebanon but the time is not right. They claim that they do not object to the idea but they are opposed to the timing. If fifteen years is not enough time then what is? Logically the weakest of the specific arguments to counter what has become known as the Beri plan when actually the first person to call for the commission was President Suleiman, is that of Patriarch Sfeir. Prior to eliminating sectarianism from the laws let us eliminate it from the soul he said. What is the test to eliminate an idea from the mind? Isn’t it true that once something is eliminated from the inner self then there is no need for a law to address that problem? Maybe Patriarch Sfeir should oppose all criminal law and wait until the idea to steal, rob, deceive and maybe murder is eliminated from the soul? That is rubbish and I expect that all the supporters of this idea know it. All what can be said about this weakest of defenses is that I am glad that no one suggested eliminating slavery from the mind prior to passing laws against it or that Martin Luther King Jr. had the courage to demand Civil Rights legislation instead of waiting for people to eliminate it from their hearts.
Inner beliefs cannot be legislated but we sure can legislate what is acceptable behavior and what is not. It is high time that the accusations that Mr. Beri has an ulterior motive for making the suggestion when he did to stop and it is time for everyone in the whole nation to lend this most noble of efforts the support that it deserves. Our future as human beings and as a state rest on this commission. Nothing else is as important as how we treat our fellow citizens. I look forward to the day when a Lebanese Moslem woman is elected President; a Lebanese Greek Orthodox is nominated as Premier and a Lebanese Armenian as a Speaker. Obviously I would expect half of the Parliamentary seats to be occupied by females and each of the occupants will be driven by their commitment to the national welfare of the citizens irrespective of their gender, race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
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