Deputy Speaker Farid Makari on Thursday adjourned a legislative session due to a lack of quorum and accused “those practicing obstruction” and Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel of jeopardizing the fate of the long-stalled new wage scale.
Makari said he adjourned the session to a date that will be set later by Speaker Nabih Berri.
“Those practicing overbidding and obstruction, topped by Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, are to blame for the possible loss of the new wage scale,” Makari added.
“This puts the rights of more than 250,000 families at stake, under the excuse of securing other funds without proposing a realistic alternative and without taking part in any serious efforts,” the deputy speaker went on to say.
Makari also accused news websites “close to MP Sami Gemayel” of circulating “rumors” about the new taxes.
Gemayel hit back swiftly, noting that the imposed taxes were not “confidential” and that “the 22 taxes were published by all media outlets.”
“This is the first time I hear that a parliament or a government would adjourn a session over a rumor,” he added.
“I call on everyone to check Kataeb’s website and the social media accounts of our MPs,” Gemayel went on to say.
“Does an opposition party have the right to voice its opinion over taxes that harm citizens or have we become in a dictatorship? Thank God the media was present in the parliament hall and I hope they will say whether it was us who obstructed the wage scale,” Gemayel added.
“If there is a dispute inside the ruling class over the tax that was imposed on cigarettes, they should not pin the blame on Kataeb,” he said.
He also stressed that the responsibility for the adjournment of the session falls on “the MPs who were not present.”
Prime Minister Saad Hariri meanwhile lamented the failure to approve the new wage scale, saying he will ask the ministers of justice and interior to pursue those who “spread lies on social networking websites” about the new taxes.
“We have been able to arrest terrorists and I assure you that we will arrest those who have spread these lies and we will name them. The law will be enforced on everyone and if the perpetrator is a certain MP, we in parliament can lift his immunity,” Hariri added.
“What happened was shameful and Deputy Speaker Makari exerted several strenuous attempts to continue the session,” the PM went on to say.
Protesters meanwhile took to the squares in Beirut and Tripoli on Thursday to reject the new taxes following calls on social networking websites.
Protesters at Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square were led by activists from the Kataeb Party, the National Liberal Party and others from March 14 and the civil society.
Kataeb had repeatedly rejected any tax hike aimed at funding the new wage scale, calling on authorities to secure funds through putting an end to “corruption” and “the squandering of public money.”
The parliament has hiked the value-added tax (VAT) from 10 to 11% and increased other taxes related to cement, stamps, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages.
Gemayel warned Wednesday that “failure to tackle corruption and instead targeting citizens’ pockets will lead to bankrupting the state, destroying the economy and impoverishing the Lebanese.”
He had earlier warned that a “revolution” might erupt in the country should parliament approve new taxes to fund the wage scale.