Let’s break up the Interior Ministry!
Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/06/2009
Dismantling the Ministry of Interior?! Now that’s easier said than done. But it is quite obvious that such a ministry is more suited for Napoleonic times than ours. A country like the United States doesn’t have such a ministry. Why should we? Interior ministries are usually repressive, bureaucratic and static (immune to change). And ours certainly doesn’t have a very good record.
Now let’s have a quick look at the Ministry’s ambit. It is responsible for administrative affairs (e: Civil registries), policing, immigration matters, palestinian affairs and municipalities. Moreover, it represents the government at local levels (districts and governorates). This ministry is one of the major obstacle in front of a “national goal” set by the Taef accords, that of decentralisation! It is the authority in charge of censorship (its body includes religious people, a fact that has no grounds in constitutional law). It has invented several mechanisms that are quite objectionable (according “under-study” I.D. Cards… a status that can be inherited! It has deviated our laws on associations), and has failed in managing Palestinian affairs. Finally, the police is corrupt, ignores the laws that govern the society and is inefficient in maintaining civil peace.
I propose to subdivide it into six Ministries, two of which will be merged with existing ministries (namely the Ministry of Defence and the Office of the Minister of State for administrative reform.
- Ministry of Administrative affairs
- Ministry of Civil liberties and rights
- Ministry of Secularism, Religious and Communal affairs
This ministry will take over all the “administrative” functions of the Interior Ministry: Ombudsman, Administrative reform, Civil registries…
So as to balance the power of the Ministry of Defence and the obsession the government has with “security”, it is important to have a ministry in charge of promoting, protecting and expanding civil liberties.
Lebanese are generally unaware that their country is amongst the most secular in the region, and that there is a complete separation between State Law and religious law. Unfortunately, the principle of separation between State and Church is not complete in Lebanon. Muslim communities still benefit from the State’s financial support (for their hierarchies and their courts), while Christian and Jewish communities don’t. But this can be changed following another principle, that of equal treatment of established religions.
Moreover, people ignore that Religious freedom and membership to an established community have two different legal grounds. It is possible to adhere to any religion one wants, even if it is not recognised by the state, as long as one doesn’t threaten public order. Lastly, the same legal text establishing the different religious communities also recognizes the “Civil law community” (Communauté de droit commun). One of the aims of this new ministry would be to finally establish this community (with almost 80 years overdue).
- Ministry of Palestinian Affairs
Palestinians affairs have been badly managed by the State from the onset. The focus has been on the fact that Palestinians are “Refugees” and that their primary (or sole) political right is to return to their country. All the rest has been neglected. Palestinians were not treated as individuals who have intrinsic rights as individuals, to be protected, to have a space to grow and thrive. This new ministry’s function is precisely to change this way of dealing with Palestinians. Not only will it be in charge of decommissioning within the camps, but also of organising elections for the representation of Palestinians in Lebanon, and for the modification of discriminatory legislation towards them (ex: they should be allowed to create NGOs under the same conditions as Lebanese or any resident in the country).
- Ministry of Municipalities and Decentralisation
Decentralisation has been a national goal for almost twenty years, and yet nothing has been done up to now to start implementing it. By handing over to the Interior Ministry the function of supervising Municipalities (the only “decentralised” authority in Lebanon), the successive government have actually increased the centralisation of the State. By separating the two Ministries, the national goal will be highlighted, and there will be an authority that’s function is to devise a plan (mechanism and agenda) for this decentralisation, and then to follow it up.
- Ministry of Defence and Human Security
This Ministry is actually an expanded version of the Ministry of Defence. It will take over all the Policing responsibilities so as to concentrate all security and law enforcements efforts. This will help the country protect itself against external or internal threats. It will have the authority to modify and merge new forces for the sake of efficiency. It will have an agenda to decommission all non-governmental armed forces, fight corruption within the police force, modernize the army and protect Lebanon from foreign interventions and most importantly, protect the citizens in case of attack (by building shelters, organising evacuations…). The notion of “human security” (i.e. the citizen’s security) is at the center of the ministry’s thinking, and not the abstract notion such as “national security”. Its aim is to preserve human life.