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Parliament Member Ghassan Moukheiber Lectures Political Science Students at LAU
On Friday November 4, 2011, a member in the Lebanese, as well as an expert on Human rights and conditions, Ghassan Moukheiber, gave a lecture at the Lebanese American University for students of the Lebanese politics class. During his lecture, Moukheiber discussed the functions of the Lebanese parliament. According to Moukheiber, the parliament’s functions, specifically the parliamentarians, vary from legislation (making laws, as well as financial legislations such as budget policies), representation, Elections (of the president, as well as half of the constitutional council and the national council) to providing services to citizens and attending social events. The first three functions compose about only 12 % of the parliamentarian’s duties, while providing services and attending social events dominate in 88%. Moukheiber also discussed the National Human Rights Action plan briefly. He commented “Reality, especially in the Political Science field, is not necessarily what you study in books”. Moukheiber’s lecture was particularly interesting, for it discussed the reality of the Lebanese parliament and its functions. (The document also includes students’ comments about M.P Moukheibers’ presentation).

 

Throughout his presentation, Member of Parliament Ghassan Moukheiber mainly tackled the different roles and functions of the Lebanese Parliament, as well as its caucuses and their degrees of activity. I was glad to become aware of the existence of a parliamentarian committee such as The Human Rights Committee, which is effective when it comes to human rights issues in Lebanon. What I came to know was that the committee is quite active, and had raised up to 23 human rights issues. A subject of interest to me, particularly, was the objective and fairly realistic perspective presented by the MP. It was quite interesting to listen to a Lebanese MP, addressing the handicaps of his country explained by the dysfunctional parliament that he, himself, belongs to. A question that I would like to have asked, was concerning the development of the human rights conditions in Lebanon. Are human right violations increasing or decreasing? And how is the Human Rights Committee contributing to the prevention of these violations? I personally thought the presentation quite interesting and enlightening in terms of the parliamentarian functions, the causes behind the deadlocked parliament of Lebanon and its inactivity. However, further discussion should raise the issues of parliamentarian actions specifically to human rights matters, and the process of addressing them.
 
Having Mr.Ghassan Mokhaiber as a guest speaker in our “Lebanese Politics and Government” class with Dr. Imad Salamey was very beneficial for us. To start with, as member of the parliament, Mr. Mokhaiber knew all about the “dirty little tricks” in Lebanese politics, hence he shared with us some really interesting information that we didn’t know before. For instance, as political scientists we already knew that the parliament had legislative, oversight, and representation duties. Yet, Mr.Mokhaiber highlighted some other captivating parliamentary duties such as the budget allocation, the inner-elections and, ironically, the most important duty was attending some social events (ex: funerals). The most interesting part during this special lecture was actually witnessing a real “live” Lebanese politician talking about corruption and how much some politicians became media frenzy to the extent that they neglected their duties just to appear on T.V. The session also included some questions that were asked to our guest. Some helpful questions asked by fellow scholars targeted the human rights action plan that Mr.Mokhaiber works on as well as the levels of action in the parliament. Personally, although I asked some questions of personal interest, I couldn’t have the opportunity to ask about the importance of setting up a time-strategy to execute the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) agreed-upon goals in a country with notorious reputation of neglecting and postponing the adoption of reformation steps such as Lebanon. After this discussion, I recommend to further discuss the importance of parliamentary councils in the future, as they act on national issues beyond the interference of different political caucuses.  
 
a.     First, I would like to thank you for bringing a Lebanese Parliament Deputy to class. The presentation was really helpful as it was one of a kind, meaning that the subject was related to the course.
What the speaker made us aware of is that many of us, as Political Science students, do not follow the Lebanese Politics which, in my opinion, might be dangerous. What I learned about was the Human Rights Organization’s tasks.
b.     The most interesting part of the discussion was that a Deputy was criticizing the fact that the Lebanese Deputies give more importance to services, rather than legislations, which I think should be the prior job for them.
c.      No questions were asked as long as I remember.
d.     I would like to know more about the Human Rights Committee’s works, and if we, as Political Science students, can work for them in the near future, or at least do our Internship there.
e.      I recommend that more such discussions take place, but I think we should give the speaker more time, as in the end of the discussion he barely ended his speech.
 
Member of Parliament Ghassan Moukheiber, visited our Lebanese Politics and Government Class, he discussed with us the Various Functions and Role of parliament, and as the Spokesperson for the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee he explained to us the Lebanese Human Rights Action Plan.
This Discussion was very interactive, and we learned more about the Characteristics and work of the Government. What was intriguing is that we got to Hear about parliament and human rights from a person who is engaged in these institutions and affiliated with this work.
One of the interesting Questions, by one of the students during this session was regarding how many times the Parliament meets, and the answer was deceiving.
The Issues I’d like to raise following this session are the importance of Parliaments meetings, and Discussions in the favor of citizens that are supposed to be embodied in this institution through representation of the Elected Deputies. I’d also like to stress on the importance of the Budget issue that has not been paid importance to for almost 6 years now.
 
The presentation was rich by the ideas and information that Mr.Ghassan Mkhayber said in class. He made me aware that the members of the Lebanese parliament don’t really represent those who voted for them in the parliament as they do in the media; as well they attend social events more than they attend meetings in the parliament. And what really shocked me is that the Government has no budget for 6 years as well legislations has not been changed and if any changes happened they are very few. With this shocking information no one could ask any questions; however, if I had the chance to ask the parliament member a question, it would be, if he is optimistic about Lebanon becoming more just in terms of representation in the future? In conclusion, this presentation was really helpful because the speaker opened our eyes about what is really happening in the parliament that we didn’t know.
 
In light of MP Mokheiber’s lecture, one is compelled to question the constitutionality of our legislature. Upon further elaboration, the disparity between the parliament’s duty, as ordained by the Lebanese constitution, and its actual functioning is most striking. Within established democracies, parliamentary debate constitutes the polity’s official discourse, without which democracy is deemed impaired; and as such it takes place on a fairly regular basis. Thus, upon learning that the Lebanese parliament has been able to convene, for the purpose of debate, only four times in the last 18 years, its legislative legitimacy appears desperately wanting. Furthermore, perhaps the most important function vested in the legislature is that of oversight, particularly budgetary regulation. However, as MP Mokheiber pointed out, our revered parliament has ceased to perform such an abrasive task, due to the self-evident corruption embedded within the Lebanese polity. Still, notwithstanding institutional incompetence, our elected officials do fulfill certain unofficial functions, such as excessive media exposure, as well as the parochial custom of attending social events, notably funerals. As to further exploration however, the legislative committees, albeit bereft of tangible power, and their potential role in the prospect of legislative reform are deserving of more careful perusal. In retrospect, more emphasis was needed on the corrupt praxis of the legislature, as it clearly pertains to the democratic anomaly of the Lebanese political system.
a. the presentation was very important and critical to our course. the speaker presented parliamentary problems as they are without hiding any facts which was helpful for us as student to explore what maybe our future obstacles as political scientists. MP Moukheiber made me aware that the distribution of functions of an MP is not effective in Lebanon as much as it should be. I think the lesson to be taught here is not how bad the parliament is but how we can solve it.
b. therefore what was interesting for me was the answer to this ineffectiveness of the functions in our parliament and how we need to work on making it better.
c. one of the most helpful question for me was how to solve this big issue through bills, order of the parliament, and finally through commitees.
d. i would have asked MP Ghassan Moukheiber "how much time does he personnally spend on social events?"
e. since we have not yet started getting into the parliament section of our course, i would recommend maybe more speakers to introduce it as we go along.
 
The presentation was fruitful because Mr. Mukhayber made me aware that the members of the Lebanese parliament don’t really represent those who voted for them in the parliament as they do in the media. And what really shocked me is that the Government has no budget for 6 years! With this shocking information no one could ask any questions but i wanted to ask him more about what’s happening now in Syria and how the Syrian army and regime are still interfering in the Lebanese politics and the government didn’t do anything. In a nutshell, this presentation was really helpful because the speaker opened our eyes to things we didn’t know as political science students.
 
The presentation was very useful for our course.
Mr Ghassan Moukhaiber talked about the role of parliament and parliamentarians which vary from the legislation to the attendance of social events. The interesting part of the discussion was the talk about the insufficient meetings of the parliament compared to parliaments of other countries. I would have asked him about the electoral system in the country and why most of the parties say that they want to change it into proportional representation but none of them really work for it.
 
Member of Parliament Ghassan Moukheiber has been representing the Metn district since 2002 and is a member of the “Change and Reform” parliamentary group. His visit to our Lebanese politics classroom was very fascinating, accommodating and informative. MP Moukheiber began his discussion in an approachable manner by trying to interact with fellow students. He ascended by the raising the question “what are the functions of parliament?” The first function elevated was legislation. Therefore, one of the students said that likewise representing people is an important function of parliament. Moukheiber, approved and therefore clarified how elections can be attached to the positions and policies of MP’s where we could know which voice reflects people the most. Hence, other roles were brought in discussion such as budget, where Moukheiber called this function “power of the purse”, he continued by explaining that the last budget voted in Lebanon was 6 years ago. One of the interesting issues mentioned during discussion is the concept of “Jalsit as2ila wa estejwab” which is when a parliament meets and does a vote of confidence. This concept was a new one to me, and it was very interesting to learn about. Nonetheless, something interesting caught my attention about the social services MP Moukheiber talked about. Member of Parliament should attend social events and the most important ones are funerals, since if an MP does not attend a funeral it is an embarrassment. Hence, while speaking about corruption, Moukheiber alleged that parliament can be corrupt but he also emphasized that anyone else can also be corrupt. The way through which Moukheiber spoke about corruption is true, but I would have liked to add to what he said that, anyone else can be corrupt, but members of parliament have more authority and power to be corrupt. I would have liked to ask Moukheiber, what has the Lebanese parliament done for the people so far away from representation other than just being deceitful to people? Last but not least, the recommendation I would make in light of the discussion that can be furthered explored in the future, are the concepts of representation of the people and discussing more about Lebanese people rather the bogus functions of the Lebanese parliament.
 
As a non-Lebanese student this course is giving me a lot of insight in Lebanon’s history and unique politics. The same goes for Friday’s session when I learned that Parliament has failed to do one of its main duties, which is budgeting, and that no budget has been planned or implemented for the past 6 years! I was shocked to learn that a Parliament is actually functioning (whether or not it is functioning properly is another issue), without a budget plan. Meanwhile, what was interesting for me is how few a times the Parliament meets annually, while other Parliaments certainly meet more than 5 times/year.
On the other hand, Human rights issues and the speaker’s connection to human rights were barely mentioned, and the Parliament’s corruption was highlighted very well. A question I would’ve asked was how would the speaker relate common human rights issues in Lebanon such as the issue of domestic workers or Palestinian refugees with the human rights issues that he handles or tries to solve? As well as whether he thinks the lack of media attention to these issues is a result of the corruption that infests the media and politics?
What I would recommend for further discussion is the issue of human rights because it was not addressed as expected by the speaker.
 
A Leader, But Not a Follower
On the fourth of November, we, as Lebanese American University students majoring in political science, welcomed MP Ghassan Moukheiber to the Lebanese Politics Class.
Moukheiber is a member of the Lebanese Parliament representing the Metn district since 2002 and a longtime activist in a number of Lebanese Civil Societies.
In his lecture, he spotted the light on the Lebanese Parliament discussing its functions and linking it to reality. First, he talked about legislation which is the act of making or enacting laws, considering that it is being applied to reality with a percentage of “1”. He continues to talk about the next function (representation), and considers that it is somehow applied to reality with 10%, for , the 128 members of the Lebanese parliament seek to attain their own benefits. The third function was setting the budget, and it is linked to legislation in a way that budget is one type of legislation, and it was one of the major reasons why parliament was created. And here, we should note that there hasn’t been a budget settled since six years. He continued to talk about the government supervision which was applied as a percentage of “1” too. Elections of president, prime minister, and constitutional council were the fifth function of the Lebanese parliament. Services were not applied to reality, but resembled a sixth function. As for the last function, which they, as members of parliament considered it very important and applied it fully, was attending social events and especially funerals.
 
The lecture was a fruitful one, for, we, as students came to know how to differentiate between what was written in books and what was being applied to reality. What was of a great interest in the discussion is that he was frank about politicians for not working for the sake of their country. One of the questions that were asked by students and was of great interest is:” What can a parliament do if it discovered that the government is not working up to their needs?”, and I think one other important question that should have been asked is: “What is your definition for a leader?” . We, as students do know the answer, but I doubt politicians do, for, reality explains a lot. At last, I recommend every single person to be a leader for his own self, and never ever be a follower.
 
a. The speaker made me more aware of our government and in particularly the parliament. The new lessons I acquired was basically and added knowledge on the functions of the Parliament. For i thought that it is only legislative, attending events and solving citizens issues.
b. What was interesting is my knowledge that one of the most important functions of a parliament is the " Budget" which has been neglected and forgotten about for about 6 years. This is part of corruption.
c. Honestly, not so many questions were posed since i believe time did not help.
d. one of the main questions i would ask is: Do you think that part of the corruption in Lebanon is coming and starting from the corruption starting in the Parliament? Since every year the same people are sent to elections and no free-entry to new citizens is open. As well, how is it possible for a parliament member to become a council of ministry member when infact it is wrong.
e. It was more of a lecture for me than it was an open discussion. I believe it should be more of what s going on in reality than what it should be.
Thank you though:)
 
The presentation was good. Mr. Mkheiber enhanced our information about parliament and parliamentarians in a way we couldn't have understood as much from books. He made us aware of the exquisite role of parliamentarians in parliament. some new lessons i have learned throughout that are:the role of parliament in elections, such that elections of members i didn't know of take place like elections of the National Media Council. Moreover, i learned about the different kinds of parliament conferences that engage parliamentarians each in a different topic, and the "vote of no confidence" in case of parliamentarians not abiding by the law. What was particularly interesting for me in the discussion was that throughout his speech, Mkheiber mostly talked about the flaws of the Lebanese Parliament and he shed light on the mistakes parliamentarians tend to do. Knowing that he is a member of the parliament it was challenging to talk about parliament's negatives rather than exposing its good sides. I only though the public are the only ones who would point out parliament's defects. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for so much of the questions by the end of the speech, but a question that was helpful to me was: "What is the definition of the services that parliamentarians in Lebanon offer as part of their job?", the answer of this was helpful since it turned out that the services are different from the parliamentarian's program implementation. Services turned out to be more of a cliental process where parliamentarians serve those who will most probably help and support them, and mostly in times of elections. In fact, Mr. Mkheiber said that only recently the parliament in Lebanon has been rehabilitating and improving towards the better. In light of that, I would have asked: "What are the causes behind this improvement?" and "what happened recently for this improvement to take place?" Furthermore, I would recommend the discussion of how to achieve a better parliament and what specific steps should be taken to obtain a functionally great parliament. For as Mkheiber said, "A functional government is the other part of democracy."
 
 
I usually do not like presentations that only involve the presenter talking, I prefer visual aids be included. However, Parliament Member Ghassan Moukheiber did not use any of these but still managed to catch my attention because his approach was simple: interactive methods and real life examples; no theories.
I enjoyed the presentation because I was never really aware of the functions Parliament was supposed to fulfill ( legislation, representation, Budgeting, oversight, electing prime minister, services) I was blind sighted by how our Parliament handled his functions and I really interested to see how much it can really do and affect if it was ACTIVE.
What was particularly interesting for you in the discussion…
 I really enjoyed the pie example Parliament member Moukheiber gave. He used it to divide the parliament members time spent on each of their supposed functions. It struck me how clear he was about the time those members (for 85% of their time) spent on attending social events such as memorial services. It was really interesting to hear numbers : in the last 18 years, Parliament has met on average five times, compared to the everyday meetings other parliaments in other countries have. The result: DISASTER. He really opened my eyes to how different things would be in the country if the parliament was not high jacked, like Parliament Member said, for many years.
What questions by other students you thought were helpful …
 I thought it was most helpful when Parliament Member Moukheiber was aked what did they do when they meet and how come not more legislating takes places. He, with utter frankness , answered that few people show up and they only do so for media coverage: they pose and leave. Although it is really sad to hear; it is refreshing to hear such a real answer. He again shed the light on the hideous reality facing our Parliament.
What question would you have asked but didn’t…
I would have loved to ask more about The National Human rights action plan Mr Moukheiber talked about. I was really interested in knowing what topics were exactly going to be included, as well as the actual plan for targeting them. I was curious to know if the funding mostly came from their partners (Human rights organizations and int. organiations) or from the government as well.
Recommendations…
It would be nice if, for a similar session in the future we had more time for dialogue because I had class and needed to attend.
 
The speaker, his exellency Ghassan Moukheiber, made us aware of what a parliament is and its functions. He also explained how the Lebanese Parliament has been weak and dysfunctional although it is slowly improving. It was intresting when he compared the Lebanese Parliament which meets on average five times a year to discuss legislation, to the American and Canadian which meet daily and the French one four times weekly. Also it was interesting to see that the Lebanese Parliament has not had a budget for six years. Parliamentarians are mediators between citizens and government but unfortunately in Lebanon they spend most of their time attending social events. I would have liked that he would have given us a kind of solution to the probems in the Lebanese Parliament.



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