BEIRUT: An agreement appointing the top posts at Lebanese television network Tele Liban has hit a snag, with it unlikely that the Cabinet will move forward with administrative appointments in its session Wednesday.
Sources told The Daily Star that President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and a majority of ministers had decided to put forward Rafik Shlala for Tele Liban’s two top spots: director general and head of its board of directors.
However, some Melkite Greek Catholic figures objected because Shlala is a Maronite and the seat has traditionally been held by their sect. Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham sent a letter to Sleiman, requesting that the post remain in his sect’s hands.
Sleiman has agreed to the patriarch’s request, despite the fact that the post has been occupied by Maronites in the past. Various political figures are now circulating their own Greek Catholic names for consideration.
These include the Laham-backed George Kallas, who once worked in Parliament and is now dean of the Lebanese University’s Faculty of Media and Documentation.
Sleiman has backed the owner of the Central News Agency, Talal Makdissi, for the position. Makdissi has been in the running for several ministerial positions in the past, and he has close ties with Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi.
Camille Menassa is the choice of both Information Minister Walid Daouk and Mikati. Menassa has approached Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun asking for his support, but Aoun has not yet spoken on the matter.
Aoun’s say is crucial given that his party is the strongest Christian presence in the Cabinet, and is backed by Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, and the Marada Movement.
The latest candidate is Pierre Azar, who has reportedly received the support of Aoun and some March 14 leaders. Former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud put Azar on the committee that supervised the 2009 parliamentary elections.
The positions at Tele Liban have been a matter of debate for some time, with both Sleiman and Mikati proposing names only to find them vetoed by various groups in the Cabinet.
Ministerial sources say that the long list of Greek Catholic nominees makes it unlikely that Cabinet will discuss the issue Wednesday, although they said that Daouk is eager to fill these posts.
Mikati, Sleiman and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri have already prepared a list of board members that represents all sects.
As for judicial appointments, despite reports that Judge John Fahd had been chosen as head of the Higher Judicial Council, sources familiar with the issue said Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi has not informed Fahd whether this is in fact the case.
Fahd’s age could be an obstacle: He is not set to retire for 11 years and sources say some have floated concerns that such a long occupancy would promote favoritism in the judiciary.
The former front-runners, Judges Alice Shabtini and Tanious Mashlab, have been set aside.
There is harmony on one name in the judiciary: Mikati, Sleiman and Qortbawi have all chosen Judge Hatem Madi to fill the Sunni post of Public Prosecutor.
Uncertainty still reigns in the arena of diplomatic appointments, despite a list of ambassadors agreed on by most parties and officials.
Sources say a senior politician is delaying the process because he wants employees of the Immigrants Ministry, which merged with the Foreign Affairs Ministry several years ago, to be made ambassadors.
The UAE has also expressed opposition to Lebanon’s choice for ambassador because the candidate is a Shiite.
Names for the committee that will administer oil administration have not yet been selected, as sources reported Energy Minister Gebran Bassil is still seeking consensus on the seats reserved for Greek Melkite Catholics and Greek Orthodox members.
The presidency of the committee will rotate yearly.
In the Customs Department, ministerial sources said appointments are likely to go through later this month, with Musa Hazim as head of the department’s administration council, Aoun-backed John Fares as director generator, and Shafiq Merhi as a member of the Higher Customs Council.