BEIRUT: Internal Security Forces General Director Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi sounded downbeat in remarks published Friday on the prospects of Cabinet reaching a deal to extend his term of office as police chief.
“The extension of my term requires the votes of two-thirds of the Cabinet and this has not been secured as more than half of the members publically reject the extension of my tenure,” Rifi, who spoke to An-Nahar newspaper, said.
The tenure of Rifi, who has been police chief for the past nine years, will end on April 1 as he turns 59, the ISF’s maximum working age.
Rifi said that he would go through the regular procedures should his term not be extended and would hand over his post at the end of March.
“I will hand over my post at the end of this month and I will return home out of my respect for the [ISF] institution,” he said.
“But I will not resign from my national duties,” he added.
Rifi said that if the government failed to appoint a successor for him, he would directly handover the “helm of the institution” to caretaker General-Director Brig. Gen. Roger Salem.
A Cabinet session at Baabda Palace later today is expected to discuss the controversial extension of terms of security officials, including that of Rifi’s.
During a Cabinet meeting Thursday, March 8 ministers, who regard Rifi as close to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, reportedly opposed the extension of the police chief’s term.
The Future parliamentary bloc has written an urgent draft law to change the mandatory retirement age for several high-ranking security officials who are set to reach mandatory retirement age this year, including Rifi and Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.
The proposed law would allow Rifi to stay on until 62, and would extend Kahwagi’s tenure until he turns 63.
Speaking to reporters before Thursday’s Cabinet session, Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, a Hezbollah official, said that March 8 ministers would not vote for the extension of Rifi’s term.