Phalange Party chief MP Sami Gemayel announced Thursday that he is willing to confront Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil of the Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanese courts over the controversial issue concerning the leasing of power generation ships and the libel lawsuit that followed.
“This scene in addition to other scenes that we witnessed over the past few months remind us of the era of the (Lebanese-Syrian) security apparatus,” Gemayel said at a press conference, referring to Abi Khalil’s lawsuit against dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who have launched corruption accusations against the minister in connection with the controversial file.
“I have already expressed my willingness to have my parliamentary immunity lifted and I hope this issue will be addressed as soon as possible so that we can meet you in court ,” Gemayel added.
Similarly MP Boutros Harb also yesterday expressed his willingness to have his parliamentary immunity lifted in order to defend the 400 activists, politicians and journalists that were sued by the minister
“The problem is not that you have a problem with 400 Lebanese citizens but rather that we have a problem with you,” Gemayel added .
He also revealed that he had recently submitted an official request to form a parliamentary panel of inquiry into suspected corruption in the file of the power ships.
“If they want to discuss the case in parliament we are ready and if they want to go to court we are also ready,” Gemayel added.
Referring to the meeting Abi Khalil and an FPM delegation held with Justice Minister Salim Jreissati, who also reprsents FPM in the cabinet , Gemayel slammed the remarks that were voiced by the minister during the meeting.
“The justice minister turned himself into a judge and issued a ruling before the case was even referred to the judiciary,” Gemayel lamented.
“He said ‘none of us’ has requested a commission, as if he is part of the issue,” he added.
“When citizens see the justice minister siding with the ruling class, this is considered intimidation and an attack on public freedoms, and it is a method used in backward states,” Gemayel went on to say.
He also revealed that he has documents obtained from one of the firms that had intended to submit a bid that prove that the contract terms and conditions were “tailored” to secure the contract of a specific firm – the Turkish Karadeniz firm which is the operator of the Fatmagul Sultan and Orhan Bey vessels that Lebanon has been leasing since 2012.
FPM was founded by president Michel Aoun .
The ministers of the Lebanese Forces also slammed earlier in May the conduct of Energy Minister Abi Khalil of the Free Patriotic Movement over the electricity plan that he proposed.
In a joint press conference, LF ministers Ghassan Hasbani, Pierre Bou Assi, Melhem Riachi and Michel Pharaon stressed the need to “respect the decisions of the cabinet and to return to it during every phase of the electricity plan phases.”
Stressing that they will take “the necessary steps inside and outside Cabinet to put things on the right track,” the ministers said their opposition to their ally’s conduct is aimed at “preserving public funds and supporting the rise of the state of law and institutions that this new presidential tenure had promised upon its commencement.”
Hasbani noted that the Cabinet had taken “a clear decision tasking the energy and water minister with taking the necessary measures, calling for bids, preparing the public tenders and briefing the Cabinet on all the stages in line with the applicable laws and regulations.”
But Abi Khalil “did not submit any book of terms to Cabinet and instead endorsed an amended book of terms that had been approved by a previous government, under which a public tender marred by several legal and procedural flaws has been organized,” Hasbani said.
He emphasized that the call for bids “did not conform to the legal standards – neither through the Public Procurement Administration nor according to the public audit law nor through the Electricité du Liban firm.”
“We insist on diversifying the options in the book of terms in order to seek the best solutions in terms of cost, speed of implementation, transparency, the applicable laws, and environmental priorities,” Hasbani added.
The deal has become a huge scandal in Lebanon and is damaging president Aoun’s image