Hundreds from various Australian states and the International participated at the LDE Conference
"Lebanon alone is our community, our party, our religion and our belonging," Gebran Bassil
(Translation appears in Arabic section)
Sydney- M. E. Times Int'l: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Gebran Bassil inaugurated the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference for Oceania 2018, held in Sydney at the Dallton House Park. It was attended by Political and spiritual figures, delegations of Lebanese parties and the Lebanese-Australian Chamber of Commerce in Sydney and Melbourne, officials of the Cultural University, the Maronite League, the Maronite Synod, the Lebanese-Australian Christian Council and the Lebanese associations and institutions as well as a host of participants from all the Australian states, New Zealand and neighboring countries.
A delegation from the Bank of Beirut, the Lebanese-American University, academics, writers, intellectuals, free professions and a crowd of Lebanese people attended from Lebanon.
Bassil delivered a speech in which he said: Australian journalist, Philip Adams' words "Unless you're willing to have a go, fail miserably and have another go, success will not happen."
Bassil recollected the words said by NSW Prime Minister Ryan on the 100th anniversary of Lebanese immigration to Australia "these 100 years are no more than yesterday, compared to the history of the Lebanese civilization which goes thousands of years back... The Lebanese should be proud of their civilization and their Lebanon across the world."
"When a senior official of a great country senses this amount of greatness and pride in the people of a small and an unsuccessful State, this is proof of the greatness of this people," Bassil said.
I am putting this out because I am one of you and your descendants. I am the grandson of the great grandfather who left Lebanon to New Zealand because of the lack of freedom before 1900, where he made success and brought it home with much pride. It’s the same pride that we all share in our origins. We proudly say, "You are the Past and the present ", and no one can take away our origin by revoking a nationality or changing an identity, by naturalization or resettlement, by refugees or displaced persons.
"No one can snatch our origin by revoking citizenship or changing identity, or by naturalization or resettlement of refugees and displaced,” he corroborated.
"It is Lebanon, our only concept of belonging and our only path to the homeland; neither the sect, nor the party, nor the religion, or the belonging. Lebanon alone is our community, our party, our religion and our belonging," Bassil maintained.
It is the Lebanese concept of shared life. It is a distinctive way of life in this interconnected and ideologically connected East. We wanted to live equally between Christians and Muslims in a unique model that was not created by the most powerful democracies or empires, conquests, campaigns, states, convictions, occupations or commands. A model that should be preserved and even developed in order to simulate the aspirations of future generations so as not to end at the doors of foreign embassies that will exchange visas to escape from our reality with the cards of displacement to our land.
Deeming Lebanon "a model that should be preserved and even developed to meet the aspirations of future generations," the minister told his audience "It is true that you live the farthest from Lebanon, but you are the closest to it in the way you live."
"Your interest in your children's access to the Lebanese nationality is revealed by the number of registration forms at the consular corps. (...) Your passion for the political life in Lebanon and your seeking to have influence upon it is evidenced by your affiliation with many Lebanese parties. This translated into Australia ranking first among the countries where Lebanese expatriates reside in the number of Lebanese registered to vote in the upcoming elections," Bassil stressed.
You have to participate in making its political decision and benefit from the law that represents all segments of our society in order that you have a representative representing this continent in the next session with the insistence on increasing it later.
"We did everything we could. We failed sometimes and succeeded often times; the last success of which was granting you a passport to vote with - a passport reaching your doorsteps at a cost of only one thousand Lebanese pounds. Dear expats, you no longer have an excuse not participate or contribute to change. Be many."
You are no longer an argument for non-participation and change. Come to vote heavily. Those who are registered in the expatriate shall go to the 14 centers identified in Australia, and those who are not registered, they shall come to Lebanon to conduct electoral tourism on 6 May and to participate in the Central Energy Conference on 10, 11 and 12 May.
The Minister went on to highlight the ongoing efforts at the service of expatriates, saying "we need to further develop foreign economic diplomacy in order to link the successes and energies of the Lebanese with each other, wherever they are, at home and abroad, and create for them not only investment opportunities but also administrative, tax and legal incentives."
We also have to work with you on projects such as Lebanon connect, buy Lebanese / buy Lebanese, invest to stay, Lebanese Diaspora Fund LDF, International Chamber House, and the Federation of International Chambers, and that’s what you can be good at in Australia.
"From this standpoint, we prepared a plan pertaining to the National Council for Foreign Affairs to submit, as a draft law, to the government (...) in a bid to give the Diaspora a greater national attention, and full freedom so as to benefit from its energy and not to put a hand on it."
"There is no return to the era of guardianship, but to a period in which expatriates are the guardians of themselves, their decisions and their free political will," said the Foreign Minister and FPM President.
"As we celebrate the International Women's Day, we realize that had it not been for women, it would not have been possible for expats to endure and succeed. We, as Foreign Ministry, have started to gradually give women what they deserve of consideration. Even if we still have not reached our ultimate goal, the number of female ambassadors has reached 20, and the last diplomatic corps’ exams have witnessed success among female applicants twice as the number of succeeding males," he went on.
"You are the descendants of those who have benefited from the difference and the descendants of those who have learned the meaning of communication and exchange. The descendants of those who carried the letter as a gift to the world built a city on its shores and the boats as a way to transfer material and intellectual needs.
"You are requested, today, to take Lebanon out of the state of economic floundering, and into a state of making firm and steady steps. Work for the Lebanon that you want, away from pressure and influence; for a better, stronger and cleaner Lebanon of which we can be proud and to which you can return," Bassil concluded.
Media presenter Mariam Saab presented the ceremony which began with an artistic tribute representing the original Australian people, the Aborigines, and then the Lebanese and Australian anthems.
The consul Macaroun, Ambassador Raad, Mr. Sfeir, Mr. Ajaka representing Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister Sukkar representing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
After the opening, a dinner was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and sponsored by the Australian-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce in Sydney, headed by Joe Khattar.
The Ceremony was hosted by Nisreen Khadra, then Khattar made a speech as following: “It is an honor for us that the Chamber is the main sponsor of the celebration, and we confirm the Chamber's support to the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference since its launch in 2014". He called for "strengthening Lebanese-Australian relations at various levels, especially economic ones," praising Basil's role in the Lebanese deployment.
The Lebanese athlete Silvio Shiha gave a word also in which he expressed appreciation for the Foreign Ministry achievements.
The ceremony included cultural and artistic paintings, and rugby player Chris Saab was honored as the representative of the Lebanese team.
Bassil answered the call to a luncheon held in his honor by Sfeir in the presence of Raffoul, Bishopes Tarabay, Qodsieh, Rabat and Ajaka, Ambassador Raad, Consul Makaroun, Consul Itani and a crowd of Lebanese and Australian personalities.
Bassil accepted Sfeir's invitation to a luncheon on his honor. Sfeir welcomed the Foreign Minister saying: "Australia is one of the farthest countries from Lebanon, but it is very close, because the Lebanese community is full of national origin and has a great heritage, and a special passion for Lebanon".
"The advantage of the meeting is to meet with a dynamic minister who is not tired and does not sleep for Lebanon and to communicate with the Lebanese spread throughout the world," he said.
"Lebanon is bigger than its geographical borders because its sons who emigrated from hundreds of years did not forget their country or their people, and their roots remained planted in the soil of Lebanon," he said.
"We are all hopeful and confident that a new process was launched in Lebanon with His Excellency President Michel Aoun, and will complete its path with a new parliamentary council,” He concluded.