Bassil accuses designate Lebanese PM Hariri of not wanting to form a government
11 Jan 2021 -
(See translation in Arabic section)
Beirut - M E Times Int'l: The head of the Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon, MP Gebran Bassil, yesterday accused Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri of “lack of seriousness” in forming a government. At the same time, he claimed there is an international blockade imposed on Lebanon because of Israel and the Palestinian issue.
In a televised speech, Bassil, who is the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, said that every time Hariri meets with Aoun, he takes with him a different portfolio list from the previous one, this is “evidence of lack of seriousness and a change of stand."
Since the current caretaker government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned six days after the Beirut port explosion last August, Lebanon has been unable to form a new government whose mission is to stop the economic collapse and rebuild Beirut.
Bassil pointed out that “Hariri names the Sunni ministers, but we all know he cannot name the Shiite ministers on behalf of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, nor the Druze ministers for the Socialist Party, nor even the Minister of Marada (a party led by Suleiman Franjieh) or Tashnak (an Armenian party). But how can ministers be named on behalf of the president (Aoun) and the Christians? Do they think we are second-class citizens? ” Bassil added: “We do not trust Saad Hariri alone on reform, and we hold his political approach responsible for economic and financial policy." He continued: "In short, we do not want to participate in the government. We have so far remained silent about the accusations and lies so as not to impede their formation, but enough is enough." It was not possible to obtain immediate comment from Hariri, who announced in early December that he had presented Aoun with "a government formation of 18 ministers with specialisation, regardless of party affiliation." However, Aoun announced at a later time, his objection to what he called "the uniqueness of Hariri to name ministers, especially Christians, without agreeing with the presidency." On October 22, Aoun assigned Hariri to form a government, following the apology of his predecessor, Mustafa Adib, for his failure to form it. Let us go through normalisation (with Israel) without restoring rights and without protecting our resources and wealth, especially gas in the sea (Lebanon and Israel are negotiating with American sponsorship over it). Lebanon suffers from a severe economic crisis that is the worst since the end of the civil war (1975-1990), the repercussions of which have been exacerbated by the Beirut port explosion.
MR. BASSIL began his speech by greeting the Lebanese people. Excerpts from his speech:
In-as-much as the coronavirus began in 2019 along with a political disease, we hope that they will both end in 2021.
We hope that it will end in vaccination campaigns that reach Lebanon through the state and private sector, and we seek to diversify its sources, western and eastern, similar to the diversity of our foreign relations.
Lebanon must have the American, English, Chinese, Russian and other vaccines so that the Lebanese people will have the freedom to choose and quickly get out of this crisis that has struck our economy, which was already suffering.
We pray for all the sick to recover. We are all vulnerable, and we must commit ourselves to prevention, or else there will be more infections.
Just as trust between the state and its people has been completely broken in 2019, we hope that it will be rebuilt in 2021. Firstly, by striking corruption and adopting reforms, and secondly by breaking the international blockade of Lebanon that is cutting off aid and dollars. Lebanon has to implement reform policies that restore the international community’s confidence in it, without bending to foreign political dictates against its interests.
The blockade imposed on us is the result of political and national choices that Lebanon made in confronting Israel, and against the takfiris who, along with Israel, seek to fragment the region into rival sectarian entities, by weakening some of them that become easy preys. Therefore, Israel wishes to see itself surrounded by other sectarian states. Certainly, it cannot tolerate a country as diverse as Lebanon. It wants to have Kurdish, Alawite, Shiite, and Sunni countries around it, but not Christian, because Israel wants Christians to leave this region.
Whoever believes that if this region is divided, Lebanon will stay safe, is delusional!
I wonder how is it possible for a Lebanese person not to have understood all the prices that Lebanon has paid throughout the past 73 years because of Israel and the Palestinian cause! And Hezbollah is out of question there, because in 1948, 1958, 1967, 1973, 1975, 1978 and 1982, Hezbollah didn’t exist. Hezbollah was formed after the Israeli invasion of 1982.
I also wonder how is it possible that a mature Lebanese person considers submitting to Israeli conditions under the heading “We are tired and we no longer want any war, we want peace.” Do you think we don’t want peace? However, we are offered surrender, not peace. What is before us is a recipe for internal war, disintegration and dissolution that would allow Israel to liquidate us and liquidate the Palestinian cause and realise its great settlement occupation project by fragmenting surrounding countries, especially Lebanon. In fact, Lebanon is the biggest danger for the Israeli prototype thanks to the Islamic-Christian co-existence that is the antithesis of Israeli fundamentalism.
We are the ones who truly want peace because we are children of peace and we do not carry any hostile ideology.
Our culture is a culture of peace, and our religion is a religion of peace, but we want true peace based on justice and the restoration of rights, because peace without justice is a consecration of injustice, and cannot last. Pope Saint John-Paul II said: “No peace is built upon oppression and injustice, but rather upon justice and forgiveness.”
We are for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in accordance with the initiative of King Abdullah at the Beirut summit. There will be no peace if the Palestinian people do not build their country and the refugees can not return to their land, and if we, along with Syria, do not regain our sovereignty, land and wealth.
The siege imposed upon us is a means of pressure. However, we have also internally contributed to the increase of its burden due to bad performance, corruption, lack of awareness for some, and increased treason for others. It is a pressure card to accept settlement of the displaced, and to accept normalizing with Israel without restoring any rights and protecting our resources and wealth!
They want to brush aside the financial blockade, the explosion of the port, the Syrian crisis, terrorist attacks and Israeli aggressions, all of which come together in a planned framework to overthrow the State in Lebanon, to become once again an arena where foreign struggles are resolved upon its land and at its expense and the expense of its people.
We are surrounded by a great international and regional conflict that we hope to see ending with an arrangement of relationships for the peoples of the region, instead of ending in settlements that will generate new injustices.
America in conflict with Iran achieved for Israel during the mandate of US President Donald Trump what it had been unable to achieve over the past 70 years (settlements, Golan, resettlement, Jerusalem, the Jewish state). Previously, America’s truce with Iran, under Barrack Obama’s mandate, had brought some stability after the nuclear agreement, and we hope that under Joe Biden’s mandate the US will return to the policy of dialogue and not isolation and sanctions, because it is beneficial for Lebanon and for the region. This policy ought to be reflected in Lebanon through a greater balance of its internal relations, and not by strengthening one team over another.
Conflicts in the Gulf harm Lebanon and the balance of relations with its countries, while a reconciled Gulf relieves Lebanon and does not place it with one axis (against another). As much as we are happy for the return of harmony between the Gulf states, we wish to see it return between all the Arab countries so that we won’t be with one axis (against another), but rather in the one and only axis that seeks to restore Arab rights, embrace the Palestinian cause, and help Lebanon with the co-operation of all Arabs.
Lebanon in conflict with Syria is a detriment to Lebanon and not a gain as some promote. When Lebanon is reconciled with Syria, there are social interests between the two peoples, financial interests between the economies, military interests between the two armies, and political interests between the countries; surely the return of the displaced is in the interest of both countries.
Lebanon is negatively affected by every harm that afflicts any country in the world, because there is a Lebanese diaspora everywhere, and because its diverse nature makes it interact with all the countries and benefit positively from whatever good they have to offer. No Lebanese should wager on attacks in any country.
When America’s Capitol Hill, a symbol of democratic equilibrium (checks and balances) in the world, is under attack, Lebanon fears for its democracy (from those who are happy that America’s democracy is under harm). On a side note, when I saw how Trump was dealing with his own people, I thought to myself that the sanctions upon me were nothing in comparison!
Yes, Lebanon is strengthened by the strength of its friends, who are many, and weakened by their weaknesses. Whoever sees differently is short-sighted, and will make Lebanon pay dearly for their wagers.
We are facing a year of great changes internationally and within the region. The coronavirus has hit the global economy and put China in the lead with an increasing gap, and this alone is sufficient to cause major international conflicts. American policy will witness major changes with Biden that also concern us.
WHAT MUST WE DO?
We must prevent the fall of the state, revive our institutions, and the first thing that we should do is to form a government.
The forming of the government today is the main essential priority. Our constitution regulates the process of forming the executive authority, although it does not set timelines for it. Our parliamentary bloc has submitted a constitutional amendment draft that sets a one-month deadline for the President of the Republic to conduct parliamentary consultations, and a one-month deadline for the Prime Minister to form his government; otherwise, he must step down. The ratification of these laws is more than necessary for the regularization of our political life. Our constitution stipulates the formation of the government based on the National Charter.
The parliamentary mandate is given in the name of the Lebanese people, and should not be taken hostage by the designated Prime Minister (and travel with him), in a time when people are living in danger and poverty.
The government is formed through an agreement between the President and Prime Minister, and through the confidence of the Parliament. Therefore, there are three parties involved in the establishing of the government in the name of the Lebanese people. None of them can individually sum up Lebanon and make a government according to their taste (without any principle or standard). Let’s not forget that Lebanon is a parliamentary republic and not a private property!
We are a republic that has a constitution, and the ones transgressing it are the same people who intimidate their public of any changes to it! There are constitutional means to change this constitution and develop it, but it cannot be changed according to the discretion of some for the benefit of their own interests!
In short, we do not want or seek to participate in the government. We remained silent until now about the accusations and lies to avoid obstructing its formation, but enough is enough! Once again, we made the mistake of remaining silent and putting up with things, and we did not tell the people everything in order to make things work for the country. And now we have turned out to be corrupt and subversive?
Do you really believe that these people want a government that conducts reforms, forensic audit, fights corruption, returns money transferred abroad, recovers stolen money, and uncovers bank accounts of politicians and state employees?! Really? Does anyone believe all this? Who has prevented them from adopting the reforms of the CEDRE donor conference? How many times have we demanded them to be presented to the cabinet to work out a plan and a roadmap for us to adopt? Who prevented this from happening? Nobody! Other than laziness, ignorance, unwillingness to reform, and the desire to steal public money.
The thing is, they want us to hand over the country to them, so they can suck the rest of it! We will not give in.
CORRUPTION AND AUDIT
The problem is not only with the government, it is with the reforms that it must put together. For if there was really a will to reform, some things could have been done through the Parliament without a government, or through a caretaker government. However, it is not being done because this reform would undermine the interests of the political and financial system ruling the country.
Take for example the forensic audit that the caretaker government is theoretically capable of performing. They do not want it to happen and you can see how they are fighting it. It is true that General Aoun talked about auditing since 2005, but the International Monetary Fund requested it in 2020 as a prerequisite for negotiations when a large financial gap appeared in the accounts of the Banque Du Liban and there was a dispute over its value. If this audit takes place, it will reveal many truths and names, so they try to overturn it even if the IMF program is overturned with it. Take a look at the excuses they bring forward! Once it was the company’s name, later its identity, or the nature of the contract, or banking secrecy and the need to pass a new law. They put obstacles every time in order to delay the audit!
Why don’t you take a look at all the anti-corruption laws we have proposed? Why don’t we look at the Capital Control Law that regulates transfers to foreign countries? Can anyone believe that the financial collapse started 15 months ago, after this law was passed? Do you know why? Because until this very day, money is still being transferred abroad! When will this mockery end and the money that belongs to the Lebanese depositors will be kept for them and not go abroad? Is there something that we haven’t done to return the funds transferred abroad?
One deputy transferred 65 million dollars, and all day long, he gives lessons to the President of the Republic in patriotism, while any other citizen is unable to transfer a thousand dollars to his son studying abroad!
PORT EXPLOSION AND THE COURTS
Is what’s happening to the Port explosion case acceptable? This is a case in which the capital was destroyed and more than 200 martyrs fell down and thousands were wounded. This is Beirut, “the Lady of this world”, and its people were killed at the hands of their State.
The Lebanese people have the right to know who brought the goods and why and how more than 2000 tonnes of them were used, who covered keeping them in the port and how they exploded when the story was revealed and became widely circulated.
It is not permissible for the judge to limit his investigation to the administrative aspect only, and not acceptable to write the report in a way so that insurance companies pay money to the beneficiaries! How great is this negligence!
We were so happy that international assistance was coming to help with the investigation, to find out later that none of the external agencies was able or willing to provide us with useful information about the bombing (and this reminded us of assassination of Prime Minister Hariri).
They do not want us to know the truth about the explosion, not even the smallest truth about the entry and the use of nitrates. The story does not end by accusing the Prime Minister and ministers of negligence, because if this were true, they neither smuggled the goods nor detonated them ... We want to know who destroyed the capital of Lebanon!
If neither the government, nor the parliament, nor the judiciary system are capable of undertaking reforms, this means that our system has failed and needs to be reformed!
We must have the courage to approach this issue in cold blood, instead of waiting for matters to become hot and for problems to arise. Therefore, we demand, call for, and request the holding of a national dialogue that will result in a common Lebanese vision for a new political system that guarantees stability in the country. Jumping over the system’s structural problems and arguing that Hezbollah alone is the cause of the fall of the State means that someone is determined not to solve the problem in depth.
Of course, the issue of arms, defence strategy, Lebanon’s position, relations with other states, and the issue of its neutrality are essential and fundamental issues at the core of the required dialogue.
We refuse to see our land as a theatre for the struggles of others, or that the weapons of the resistance serve any project other than protecting Lebanon, and we are in agreement with Hezbollah on this and they would not accept it as well. Moreover, we agreed with Hezbollah to launch a bilateral dialogue to review our relationship and review our agreement paper on key axes, including the foreign axis and the state-building axis, because things are not going well. Nonetheless, this bilateral dialogue is not enough, and Hezbollah and us cannot account for the whole country. The issues of arms and Lebanon’s situation are fundamental, but also complex and intertwined with the region’s problems and solutions.
As for the issue of developing our political system, it is internal and concerns us alone, as Lebanese people. It is time to start studying it and resolving it. Decentralization was adopted by the Taif document in 1989, why have they been stalling it for 31 years?
In economy, it is unreasonable to continue like the past and reproduce the failed model that accompanied us from the nineties and collapsed, because it is no longer viable after the State and the people went bankrupt.
We need a new economic and financial system, which is not based on services, speculation and excessive consumption, and not dependent on debt, mortgaging the property of the Lebanese people, selling them, wasting their money and stealing it with options, bets, and engineering done by financial officials.
We want a productive economy that makes the Lebanese people proud to work in their land and factories and provide services of knowledge and creativity. The Lebanese must return to work with their own hands, not just be managers. Like all the countries of the world, people work in farming, garbage, and petrol stations. They work in the tourism of their country, they manufacture and export, not merely import, and we are all following up and encouraging thousands of Lebanese who have established production enterprises and registered patents.
We lost a lot but it can all come back. What is important is that we stay and not despair. The important thing is for the people to stay alive because the economy can return to life, but if the people become desperate and migrate, we will become a land without a people, and the displaced, refugees and strangers will replace us. A land without owners means a nation without its people, a body without a soul.
How often have we paid the price of our positions regardless of the consequences, we cannot accept today some petty persons to arise and accuse us of petty policies and private benefits like them, only to distort our reputation, attack our struggle, and frustrate our people.
We are for all the Lebanese, defending them in the face of any danger, we will remain in Lebanon, and there is absolutely nothing in it that can uproot us from our land.