BEIRUT: A memo will be sent to President Michel Sleiman Friday urging him to return to Parliament a law that would appoint Justice Ministry employees as public notaries despite a number of irregularities in the hiring process that they argue constitute a flagrant violation of the Constitution.
A group of existing public notaries, who are behind the memo, say the law violates employment equality requirements, as it creates a special, altered exam especially for the 45 ministry employees and ignores the fact that some candidates are over the age normally allowed.
The ministry employees have been working as acting public notaries to temporarily replace notaries on holiday or unable to work.
The normal rule says that anyone holding a law degree and between the ages of 25 and 44 can become a public notary as long as they pass the Justice Ministry examination.
Some of the 45 candidates have already taken the normal exam and failed, while others are older than 44.
“We oppose the principle of altered exams because it represents a flagrant violation of the Constitution, which stresses the principle of equality in term of employment between the Lebanese,” said Raymonde Bachour Sakr, a Beirut public notary.
“How is equality preserved when altered exams are held for a certain group of people to appoint them as public notaries when they are already employees [of the ministry]?” Sakr told The Daily Star. “What if some people who are not yet employed want to take this [altered] exam?”
“We will urge the president in a petition to return the law to Parliament in order to preserve the law and Constitution,” she said. “Such a law should not pass.”
Sleiman must sign the law before it goes into effect.
Sakr, the first female public notary in Lebanon who has been practicing the profession for 33 years, said that several attempts had been made for over a decade to appoint these ministry employees but that all had so far hit a dead end.
“Why haven’t they taken the Justice Ministry exams during this period? Some failed and got very low grades. This is an indicator of their qualifications,” she said.
The Justice Ministry’s Legislation and Consultations Committee also opposed the draft law in 2001, arguing that ignoring the age condition violated the principle of equality. It was also turned down by the government in June 2012.
During the session Wednesday, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said that 14 of the ministry employees had registered to take the required exams before. Nine did not show up on the day of the exam, three failed and only one passed.
Rifi proposed that an exam restricted to the 45 employees be held before appointing them, saying this was in line with a proposal made to him by some public notaries in order to preserve the standards of the profession.
After a debate, the draft law was endorsed with Rifi’s and another amendment, which stipulated that those who failed the exams would not be allowed to serve as acting public notaries again.