BASSIL tells of road ahead for Lebanon and need for government reforms
(The Article was translated and Edited by M E Times Int'l. See Translation in Arabic section)
Lebanon: In a wide ranging press conference, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gibran Bassil has raised questions about why the Lebanese political hierarchy is so resistant to change. He also highlights the need to stamp down on corruption and urges the Lebanese public to support the FPM’s fight for a fairer government. The following are excerpts from his speech:
"By its resilience and actions to preserve the confidence of the Lebanese and the supporting parties; despite all our urging to increase the government’s productivity, we are not ready to withdraw confidence from it as long as the alternative is not available. We are not ready to put the country into the unknown again, such as what happened with the previous government.
It is not enough for the government to be uncorrupted, it is required to fight corruption which has not shown yet.
Financial reforms are needed to reduce the deficit, especially by controlling smuggling, customs, closing of some institutions and stopping waste.
The implementation of the government’s plan must begin with the corrections and a final identification of the losses in conjunction with the implementation of the Council of Minister’s decision to conduct the anatomical audit on the accounts of Bank of Lebanon. Here we are surprised by the delay as if it is a way to hide what will appear. Stopping this process from being launched is the government’s biggest scandal.
It is not allowed to incite the Sunni Shiite strife by a 1400-year talk by parasites and it will fail as long as adults reject it. Christian-Muslim strife is forbidden and cross-lines in the Shiyah will not return. Coexistence in the mountain is sacred to us and the incident of "Kabrshmoun" shall not prevail against it. Hence the importance of inviting the President to the meeting in Baabda to ward off sedition in all its dimensions. Despite our political differences we should meet to prevent sedition from our country.
Mr Bassil also talked about the FPM’s exposure to “mass political assassination”.
“You know that even our closest friends were not supporting us in many files or decisions due to their considerations or priorities which causes anxiety or confusion in the FPM ranks and is sometimes expressed in social media. They ask us, anxiously, why they leave us alone and do not stand with us in basic files such as electricity, oil, fuel, Sukleen, Beirut port, communications, budget, customs and borders. What is more important than that?
The money is leaking out and we do nothing to recover it, nor do we stop the further drainage of our cash reserves. The option now is to rebuild the country through work and effort and not to lie, talk and obstruct the projects. The problem with the political mentality that considers the completion of any project by others is a political loss to them, so they hinder those projects.
We urged the civil society to rise up with us against those who stopped the projects; but when it rose up, it rose against us, and instead of helping us stop obstruction, it became an additional part of it.
Nobody can terrorise the FPM for telling the truth, the movement is for genuine people and not for thugs. Please bring back the civil movement to the good people and let’s fight together against corruption to rebuild the country. We are being subjected to mass political assassination because of liars.
I know people are interested in seeing the big perpetrators in prison and not only the employee who receives $2500 for each forgery, but the big one who protects and takes millions of dollars. Those, one of them hid and the other escaped, one has his back covered with the political umbrella and another with a financial umbrella and all these parasols will not help them because our Lord will judge them in their hereafter. They shall be condemned by the judiciary system; the Special Investigation Commission in the Bank of Lebanon evades responding the Prosecutor General questions. However, there are judges who face danger and carry out their work with boldness and the ruling judge has to finally decide the return of looted funds to the state. And the government has to conduct a new tender quickly and invite international companies that do not need to work with corrupted Lebanese companies funded by politicians at the expense of the state, so that they can work in politics at the expense of the people! Then come kill me politically and assassinate me morally.
Our problem with electricity is we want it 24/24 to stop the budget deficit because of a subsidised price they set and which lead to a loss of $1 to $2 billion per year according to the oil price. They put the price and subsidised part that goes to the citizens and they accuse us of being responsible for wasting money in electricity as if the money goes to our pockets not to the citizens.
The projects they blocked were dams. The last of these dams is "Bisri" Dam. Now they want to cancel it after they withdraw from government with political distress. This dam is yours, 1.6 million benefits from it today and 1.9 million Lebanese in 2035, let the projects continue, the regions thrive and people evolve. Stop your grief and deceit and let the country progress.
The confrontation fragmentation weakens Lebanon and makes us face each other instead of facing the conspiracy. It makes us, fearing each other, resort to the logic of self-protection. The sectarian provocation weakens us and opens the door for the conspiracy. The conflict on the issue of Syria weakens Lebanon in the face of resettling the displaced.
The disagreement over the issue of numbers and losses makes Lebanon divided in its negotiations with the IMF, but our loss from today to the IMF option is a loss of a paper or one of the most important options that Lebanon has. Who is responsible for excessive negotiation with the IMF before reaching its conclusion? Leave this matter for those who want to eliminate the covenant, government and country.
Do you know what it means that the IMF option expires? It means we will lose a reference that compels us to conclude reforms and accelerate them. It means, we will lose any possibility of financing from the West and any possibility of establishing investments and projects such as electricity and infrastructure and any possibility to stimulate the banking and economic sector.
Now you bring us a new element called Caesar, we have been waiting for Caesar from the East to close the West for us. But here is coming from the West to close the East and cut off the air! So what if it backfired? We never want a confrontation with America but we want to maintain our friendship with it. Thus imposing Caesar will suffocate us inside and out. We have common borders with Syria, people, banks, companies and common interests. Syria is our lung to the Arab World, do they want to cut it off? To cut off our Arab identity? We are not Westerners, but rather we will remain Arabs and Levantines with a diverse Western and Eastern culture."
He added: "... the timing is pressing for us ... we have to survive and steadfastness will be by working on reforms and implementing them, and by the productive economy. The Lebanese live above its capacity. In 2018 we imported $580 million in meat and $100 million in fish and we are of the Middle East! No, this situation is unacceptable; we do not grow, waver or fabricate! They say that necessity is the mother of invention and we are a people known to adjust to adversity. The necessity will encourage our innovation. Innovation of crops and new industries. Innovation of electronic services that allow us to adapt technology to our needs.
The Corona experience showed us the first wave of societal solidarity; in moments of trouble, our love for each other will appear. The FPM, for example, works to find lands to be planted and to help people in need in all regions. If we succeed we will not leave anyone in need without our help. We are the Lebanese assistance and no one will go hungry. Mission schools are the foundations of the Arab renaissance and closing them in Lebanon means the beginning of intellectual darkness in our country.
The basis of our project for a civil state is with civic education to educate our students and young people on civil and citizen thought, which is a prerequisite for citizenship to be in the soul, not in the texts.
This is our political way now to emphasise the unity of Lebanon and our commitment to coexistence and to seriously search for how to develop our political system that prevents us from productivity in the name of sectarianism and from reform in the name of sectarianism and from construction, development and progress in the name of sectarianism. God made us into races and tribes and commanded us to "Love each other as I loved you", so let us work with God's will and keep His gift for us, Lebanon."