.At the center of this terrible breakdown
Of the region and civilization’s meltdown
How can we protect one small nation
When there is so much confrontation
And everyone has a special vision
Of themselves in a leadership position.
With government corruption throughout
Because many politicians are sold out
Some to Arab kings or rich magnates
Others to religious leaders and potentates
All of them vying for power as a goal
Over a section of the population to control.
The promise of gas and oil though far away
Keeps the sharks circling the national prey
As the clan leaders continue to promise
Rewards and benefits that astonish
Instead of focusing on the many problems
For both the Christians and the Moslems
Who confront poverty and humiliation
With little hope for salvation
In a country that cannot guarantee
A viable future for individual or family.
Lebanon is described as a nation
When at present its a conglomeration
Of people who have too much false pride
In what they show and what they hide
Of their material wealth and possessions
And who’s who in the list of processions
They shout at each other and get upset
Over who sits in the first row near the pulpit.
With corruption and chaos as their muse
They don’t want order because they would lose
Privileges granted by who you know
Leaving regular citizens with nowhere to go.
We’ve got to end the ethical derision
Somehow resurrect a healthy vision
Of a different a kind of future and atmosphere
To replace the existing aggression and fear
With ideas of justice, tolerance and compassion
And respect for the other’s beliefs and confession
We have to return the practice of civility
Towards one another instead of brutality
Because taking care of each other
Is the essence of this future we must usher
Especially at this time in the world of rising polarity
With nationalist leaders promoting religious disparity
Let Lebanon be an example for mankind
To find common ground and relations that bind
Regardless of religious preferences
And domestic tastes and other references
With sandy beaches and snowy Mountains
We understand contrasting geography
And how to bridge demography
So let us lead the way on this word stage
As an example of a people proud and brave
Who have conquered all kinds of hatred
And chosen to showcase this nation fated
To unite people and not to divide
To deliver a special message worldwide
We tried war once and luckily we failed
Let our lesson be the world’s answer unveiled.
Four years ago I returned with energy and hope to be part of a process of change for the better, only to find that during this period, things changed dramatically for the worse. Of course the neighboring war in Syrian contributed greatly to this decline, but the political paralysis was due to the behavior of the leading political figures and groups and their disrespect for the constitution and the exercise of their own responsibilities over that period of time. I am hoping that with the election of The President this will all change. The preceding period led to a failing state, a flat and dangerously declining economy and non-existent social welfare.
In addition, most of the institutions are still functioning on life-support. The process of Democracy has not yet been restored since parliament extended its own mandate twice in a row. The present talk of another extension is a further indication that Democracy is still perceived as the handmaiden of the politicians instead of it being the dictate of the Constitution.
In the recent municipal elections where voter turn out was only on average 40%, which tells us that the majority of the results obtained were partial at best, and not representative of the whole population as some claim. In fact, the only thing that such a low turn-out represents is the overall disappointment and rejection by the population of the existing political configuration. Though it was refreshing to see new movements of dissension arise, it was equally depressing to see them overcome everywhere by the habitual format of political outcomes due to voter complacency.
The worst feeling that any person wanting to contribute to his or her country feels today is the sense of inability to change anything and the fact that it is a closed system to newcomers because of the hegemony of the existing oligarchies which has been institutionalized by an electoral law that is construed to protect their monopoly on power and a function of the ruling classes’ entrenchment and reluctance to change anything, even when confronted with revolt, as during the summer of last year at the time when the waste management crisis was at its peak.
The inclination and tendency therefore will be to proceed with Parliamentary elections based on the law of 1960, which guarantees that the control of the political establishment will continue as it is.
If Lebanon is ever allowed to emerge from the stagnation it is facing it will only happen through the arrival of a new political class to power. I believe that are three ways to do this:
1-) Make elections mandatory for all Lebanese between the age of 18 and 80 in order to force people out of their lethargy and resignation.
2-) Bring back the number of deputies to 108 as specified in Taef and remove the 20 deputies added during the Syrian occupation which are not representative of their constituents.
3-) Enact an electoral law based on proportional representation with large districts to break geographic and confessional hegemonies, or a one-man one-vote system to reflect the more accurate national role of legislators.
If the present leaders proceed with the law of 1960, I guarantee you that the inertia will persist and there will be no recourse to bring about change for the next 4 years. I do not recommend that this be allowed to happen.
The big battle ahead of us now is to say no to the majority law of 1960 and to fight for the three solutions outlined above.
The prospect of going to Iran triggered within me so many mixed emotions - First, excitement and then, trepidation. As a Lebanese American I was concerned about the sanctions and whether I could go. Having resolved this matter and discovered that there were no longer any travel restrictions, I began to look forward to the voyage. I am calling it a voyage because for me it was more than just a trip. A voyage is something where you start somewhere, and you finish somewhere else completely - often in the least of expected of places.
My invitation to the Islamic Republic of Iran came from The Revolutionary Guard via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Embassy. I considered this in itself a great honor. They were inviting a mixed delegation to participate in the celebration of the National Day of the Revolution. However, it was the first time that political women were being included in such an invitation, which I chalked as a worthy milestone, and a source of pride for me as a woman.
We were 3 women in total. There was myself, the President of a Political Party, then Mrs Vera Yammine who is a Member of the Political Bureau of the El-Marada Party and heads up their Media Relations, and finally Dr. Ghada El-Yafi an activist in The Civil Society and a Parliamentary Candidate. Among the men accompanying us was a former deputy, several doctors in medicine and politics, as well as, Sunni, Chia, Druze and Christian religious and political figureheads, in other words, a cross-section representing our Lebanese society.
Having attired myself with scarves and long shirts and sweaters that hide the posterior as required, I set off on this adventure not knowing either our itinerary, our schedule, our destinations, or anything. It was truly going to be a leap in the dark and I was enjoying the unknowability of it all, having decided from the outset to just go with the flow and see what came up.
In 1979, when the revolution occurred, I was 19 and in the middle of some of the worst years of the war here in Lebanon. My family and I had taken refuge in the mountains in Faqra and we were fighting a very big battle against the Al Sa’iqa Army which was being utilized by Syria as a proxy force against us. I was part of the Christian resistance at the time, and therefore I had a very different take on what was happening in Iran. In Lebanon were were fighting for our survival and to preserve our Western ways of life.
In the sixties I had grown up with tales of wonder narrated by my grandfather Camille after his frequents visits to Iran to see his friend the Shah. To this day I remember sitting around the family table while my father Dany and he, discussed the attributes of a very special breed of ram called the Mouflon which they would enjoy hunting in the Northwest of Iran.
Added to this, was the glamour of the Shah’s second wife Soraya whose beauty ravished Lebanon’s high society during their official visits and also the buckets of caviar that would be flown back to Lebanon after my grandfather's visits. Therefore, to be fair, I have to say that when the revolution came about, I was not on the winning side of this event and I looked upon the Ayatollah Khomeini in the same way as did the whole of the Western world at the time, as a fearsome and dire character, who would change Iran for what we believed would be the worst.
Needless to say that I was in London when the Iranian Embassy siege took place and we all followed with terror the Iranian hostage crisis when they seized the US embassy in Teheran. Iran filled the news for a couple of years and then it went dark for the rest of us. But in Iran, something else altogether different was happening which I was about to discover…
As soon as I boarded the plane I was in a different world. The old images of the revolution came back as I took my seat in a plane full of women wearing black tchadors. I had brought a scarf, which I had kept loosely around my neck. I remember the moment when I would have to lift it over my head just before landing. It was a very difficult action for me and I literally had to fight my resistance and force myself to cover my head. My first instincts were not wrong because during the whole time I was in Iran the scarf issue became the one thing which nagged me the most, but it was also to be a catalyst for one of my most joyful insights.
The travel aspect of the trip was at best chaotic but we did not seem to mind. Our small group could find humor in anything. We were confronted with poor scheduling, ad hoc programs, wrong hotel destinations, inaccessible hotels by the bus, breaking down busses, even at one stage, as Vera and I sat in the front row we felt like Sandra Bullock in Speed because our bus could not stop still. If it did it would never restart! We kept coming fearfully close to climbing on top of the cars in front of us, or hitting a passer by because the driver could not slam the brakes! Needless to say, we let out several shrill screeches as we hurtled towards the oncoming traffic, much to the amusement of our stern revolutionary guard guide, Hussein, who looked upon us smiling with confused curiosity.
The hotels we stayed in were rundown and lack luster and in need of repairs! In Teheran we stayed at the Enghelab Hotel which means the Overthrow Hotel. In marketing terms, such a name is not exactly what one would choose, but I did find out that while it had been operated before the revolution by some large international group, after the revolution it was decided that all these large hotels would be given to the associations of the families of the martyrs. These hotels are now run as non-profits and 70% of the revenue goes to the families of the martyrs of The Revolution, hence the lack of commercial and competitive incentive to bring these hotels up to Western standards such as regular WC's. In some cases they only had Arabic toilets, the ones without a seat, just a hole in the ground and a hose to wash yourself down.
Therefore, there was certainly an adjustment to be made for all of us when it came to our accommodations. But then I realized something, that it was the same everywhere we went. Even the Shah’s former winter residence which we were taken to visit - which was by our Lebanese standards a nice villa equivalent to one in Rabieh for instance and for them was a palace and a sign of imperial oppression -Even there, I witness a lack of attention to appearances, some walls were in need of repair, the pathways just left without any care.
I concluded that Iran has been insular for so long that it had not needed to see how others might see it. We are used to having monuments presented in such away as to attract tourist but the same effort is unnecessary with no tourists, and it will be interesting to see, as we enter into this new phase of openness to the West, whether Iran will have to adopt some of these western veneers from which it has so far dispensed including such things as Facebook, twitter, and YouTube which are still banned in Iran.
It is time now for me to talk about the Revolution and its star the Ayatollah Khomeini. After visiting the Shah’s palace, we were taken to the Ayatollah's home and final abode which consisted of two small rooms overlooking a terrace, and our attention was drawn to the contrast between the Shah’s grandeur seeking lifestyle and the Ayatollah’s path of renunciation. Maybe because I myself am a practicing yogini, I can understand the path of renunciation more at this stage in my life, but it suddenly dawned on me in ways that I could comprehend, that the Ayatollah’s Khomeini was worshiped in Iran as a great Guru, an enlightened being who through his self-discipline and courage was able to bring about a social revolution that has feared better than any other revolution in history - Whether it conforms or not with our own political preferences.
Strangely enough, I also believe that the West inadvertently, because of its sanctions on Iran and its isolationist policies towards it, has shielded this revolution from the shocks of the clashes of civilizations for over 37 years, and thus, given the people of Iran the space to grow into their new social order.
The one thing that one does realize about this revolution is that it was implemented in a rigorous and methodical manner with no stone left unturned. I mentioned the hotels earlier but everything else is like that as well. They have given huge consideration to honor their people. The streets are named after their martyrs not their heroes. The respect for their struggle is reflected in everything that they do. The war museum is a chronicle of the long road of suffering that they have endured, including the terrible conflagration with Iraq and their great losses through the chemical attacks waged against them, as well as, the recent assassinations of their nuclear scientists by the Mossad. Everything is memorized, recorded and weaved into the narrative of their triumph.
During one of our long bus Rides I sat talking to a young man called Taha, whose father died only 20 days ago in Aleppo. He was one of their most respected generals. Taha told me that one of the Ayatollah’s main slogans was “Yes You Can”, which is ironic considering Obama’s own dictum during his elections.
However, for the Islamic Republic of Iran the truth is “Yes They Have”. Time and time again after being tested, Iran has proven that it can overcome all adversity. It worked assiduously at being able to refine its own oil when the West was banking on it failing to do so, it has proved time and time again, that it is a major regional military force, it has developed its nuclear capabilities against great adversity, to the point where the West was forced to negotiate with it.
Today, the people of Iran have a very clear sense of their identity and their autonomy. They possess a great unifying pride in their nation’s ability to overcome anything, which also makes them confident that they can withstand opening up economically to the rest of the world.
Whereas over the last half century we have seen social revolutions rise and fall, from the Soviet Union to Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran has one advantage over all of them, which is the overarching unifying principle of their fervent Islam - Now made even more intense by the Sunni / Shia divide which is senselessly costing hundreds of thousands of their lives.
The Ayatollah’s resting place is a vast mausoleum paid for by the people. As I stood in its center under the vaulted dome grander than any pharaoh’s tomb, more ornate and intricate, I understood the volume of love that they have for this holy man, whose teachings sought to protect them from the hegemonic imposition of the Western world’s standards and values on a culture unwilling to receive them.
Therefore, my only warning to the West is do not try to change Iran. Do not try by other means to “liberate” the people. Understand this: the people are “free” in their own Iranian way, which needs to be respected, and any move towards liberalization has to emerge from within progressively and steadily as they seem to do best.
I discovered that The Islamic Republic of Iran is different. This is neither good nor bad just different and in this, it is a success story.
As far as my own experiences went, I began each day to value more and more our mixed group of Lebanese, the religious leaders and the lay people, the tolerance, the openness, their non-caring whether we wore scarves or not, their appreciation for our female presence, the respect that they showed us, all these things made me just fall in love with my small little country of Lebanon all over again!
I rediscovered passionately that I love what Lebanon symbolizes. I love that we squabble and argue but ultimately we don’t impose anything on each other religiously. I told a reporter who interviewed me that the difference between Iran and Lebanon is that in Iran they respect diversity under uniformity, but in Lebanon, we uniformly respect our diversity.
So to my great surprise and delight my journey to the Islamic republic of Iran ended with a love affair with Lebanon and a recommitment of my own vows to myself, to defend our uniqueness because we too are different and THAT is good.
The recent nomination of the deputy Sleiman Frangieh took everyone by surprise because of the seeming ripple of movement that it generated in an otherwise stifled environment surrounding the election of a President in Lebanon, added to that was the unexpected concession of those against the regime in Syria to support such an uncontested ally and friend of President El-Assad.
Let us start in the beginning where suddenly out of nowhere, rumors began circulating about a secret visit between Frangieh and former Prime Minister Saad Harriri in Paris. As is the case in Lebanon, there is very rarely smoke without fire and the rumor finally emerged as being correct.
There has been much speculation about how this meeting came about; Whether the meeting was planned or spontaneous and whether Frangieh communicated the relevant information of this encounter to his strongest ally Hezbollah ahead of time is still debatable, but what is clear is that after the meeting he certainly informed them about the discussions that were held and the seriousness of Hariri's proposal.
The talks between the men covered the details of his presidency including the matter of an electoral law which both agreed would have to remain as it is today to preserve the interests of the parties involved.
The news of the meeting triggered a flurry of reactions as the shock waves of this collusion spread out into the Lebanese political pond.
While some navigated the news eagerly, including the international community who saw an acceptable opportunity to resolve the political vacuum, others were rocked at their core by the implications of such a possibility.
The outcome of all the deliberations is that the only clear thing about Frangieh's candidacy to-date is that it is unclear. It is unclear for many reasons including:
1- General Aoun firm rebuttal:
The validity of Frangieh's candidacy is being rebuffed with the belief that if a candidate with Frangieh's affiliations are acceptable then the preference goes to General Aoun.
2- Saad Hariri's slowness to declare:
The delay of Hariri's visit to Lebanon seems to be linked to the larger implications surrounding the matter of his security. Maybe indeed Hariri feels he can only return to Lebanon with an ally such as Frangieh because of his close ties to the Syrian regime which would grant him a degree of safety.
3- Hezbollah's silence:
This is a reflection of their own conundrum confronted with on of their favored candidates becoming problematic. This dilemma was brought about because of their engagement with General Aoun and the fear of his retaliation and retrenchment into a Christian-only front if challenged by Frangieh's accession to the presidency.
For Hezbollah, this would lead to their loss of a powerful ally on the ground and create a dangerous confessional polarization at a time when Lebanon can least afford such antagonistic stances. In Parliament this would also fragment their voting coalition and leave them without Christian representation. If they are to reconsider Frangieh's candidacy it would certainly be tied into their insistence on a new electoral law which would not perpetuate the existing balance of power.
3- Samir Geagea's isolation:
Geagea is certainly not a proponent of Frangieh's candidacy viewing their bloody history and they rivalry in the North of the country. Frangieh's nomination has left Geagea publicly isolated from his own political bloc confronted with the uncoordinated nomination of a candidate from "the other side" by Saad Hariri, the leader of his block.
The tensions that had been suspected for some time between Geagea and Hariri were suddenly laid out for everyone to see. This has forced Geagea into a retaliatory stance where he is measuring the consequences of displeasing his Saudi sponsors and gambling with the threat to nominate Aoun to avoid Frangieh.
4- Saudi Arabia's timidity:
The lack of any declaration by Saad Harirri to-date ostensibly leads us to believe that Hariri has not received the reassurances he needs, both financial or otherwise, to push this deal through at this time. The Prime Ministery would bring with it financial rewards and would help him get back on his feet because it is fair to note that with the change of leadership in Saudi Arabia, the Hariri that Frangieh is negotiating with is not the same Hariri that Aoun was negotiating with a year and a half ago.
The question therefor begs to be asked: How much favor does Hariri really carry today with the King and specifically with the Crown Prince?
To sum up why things are so unclear, it is because the usual lines of identification have been crisscrossed. The leader of the March 14 movement proposed a March 8th candidate unilaterally, and the allies of each group lost their points of reference in the process.
It is fair to say that both protagonists, Frangieh and Hariri, are in fact being undermined mostly by their own camps. However, Hariri is as prone to veto as Frangieh since his rights to the premiership are also contested, not his only by rivals in his own camp but much more importantly by the Syrian regime and President El-Assad because of the seriousness of the unresolved past issues between them.
On the scale of Lebanon, this latest attempt has placed the March duality into the mixer and whatever will come out now in the next week or so, will never be the same. Expectations have been shattered and feathers ruffled on all sides.
It will take some time for this dust to settle but if it does settle into nothing again then the matter of the election of a President will also turn to dust in the short term which, would be a lost opportunity for Lebanon.
Baabda – December 2015
عندما يتم تمويل أي تلفزيون كي يبقي هواؤه مفتوحاً بهدف النقل المباشر للمظاهرات الأخيرة، يكون قد ساهم بشكلٍ غير مقصود بالتقليل من شأن الثورة بوضعها في خانة تليفزيون الواقع. فقد أدى هذا الهواء المفتوح والمتواصل عبر وسائل الإعلام إلى خلق منبر حيث بات بإستطاعة أي كان من نيل بضع ثوانٍ من الشهرة مقدماً كلمة مرتجلة كمتنفس لغضبه الصادق والمحق. لكن ما من شيء دون مقابل؛ فقد كان لكل هذا أثرٌ سلبي فتحولت الثورة الموعودة إلى نشاز وأهداف متعارضة.
كان هذا وصفٌ لما حدث خلال الشهر الفائت. فبدل من ثورة بشعاع الليزر، رأينا مصابيح صغيرة مضاءة هنا وهناك.
على الرغم من كل ذلك، كم من مرةٍ يجب رفع مواضيع القرف والإستياء تلك في وجه آذان صماء؟! الفساد، سوء الإدارة، سوء إستعمال السلطة، سرقة المال العام، إنعدام الشفافية، التمييز، المحسوبيات والزبائنية، كلها شكاوى تتساقط كالشتاء على أرضٍ جافة. في أي وقتٍ من الأوقات، يتم إبتلاع تلك الأصوات ضمن عملية الهضم في النظام اللبناني كما يتم وضعها على الحياد وإستيعابها في عملية التمثيل الغذائي.
في البداية، بدا واضحاً إنزعاج بعض المسؤولين من تلك الأصوات. لكن مع مرور الأيام وتبدل التسونامي الثوري الشعبي ليصبح فقط منبراً للإعتراض المرتجل، إرتاحوا إلى ذلك المنظر وتنفسوا الصعداء وعادوا إلى أماكن راحتهم - قلاعهم المحصنة.
تطورت تلك القلاع على مدى العشرين عاماً المنصرمة متلاعبةً بأجهزة الدولة. لذا، لا يمكن كسر هذا الجدار المحصن من خلال تظاهرات سلمية. وإذا كان العنف غير مطروحاً (علماً بأنه لا يمكن صنع عجة البيض دون كسر البيض)، فما هي خياراتنا من أجل مواصلة الضغط على كارتيلات السلطة لإجبارهم على التغيير؟
الحل الأبسط والأسهل حالياً في لبنان هو إنتخاب رئيس للجمهورية موثوق وذات مصداقية، الشيء الذي من شأنه أن يطلق سلسلة أحداث منها حكومة جديدة، قانون إنتخابي جديد ينتج برلماناً جديداً!
رغم أن موقع رئاسة الجمهورية في الواقع خسر الكثير من صلاحياته التي تشكل ضمانةً وليس إمتيازاً، لكنه برهن عن أهميته وقوته في فراغه. انها الآلية الوحيدة التي ما زالت لها نقاط تأثير ويجب الإستفادة منها محلياً ودولياً من أجل كسر الجمود؛ وإلا سنشهد استدامة المنظومة الحالية المغلقة والممددة لنفسها وغير المتأثرة بالظروف الداخلية والخارجية والمغلفة بإستبداد السلطة الحاكمة.
* رئيسة حزب "الديمقراطيون الأحرار"
* ترايسي داني شمعون
When a certain TV network was funded to keep their airwaves open and broadcast the demonstrations live, they inadvertently contributed to trivialize the revolution into an ongoing reality TV show. This constant media access gave birth to the Lebanese soapbox where everyone and anyone had their 15 seconds of fame delivering impromptu speeches to vent their honest and valid discontent. This had the adverse effect of turning the promise of a revolution into a cacophony of conflicting objectives instead.
It unfortunately showed that democracy at its best in the form of the airing of free speech is like a sieve, which allows for pressure to be released through unrestrained expression. But in this way it also diffuses the intensity of the message by giving it many voices. This is what happened over the last month. Instead of a laser like revolution we experienced small bulbs lighting here and there.
Nevertheless, how many times can the same serious subjects of discontent be raised on deaf ears? Corruption – mismanagement – abuse of power – stealing public funds – lack of transparency – discrimination – nepotism – clientelism - all these complaints fall like rain on dry land. In no time at all, these sound bites are swallowed in the Lebanese process of digestion and its metabolism of absorption.
Initially, the oligarchs were visibly ruffled by the accusations and huddled together to entrench in their seats of power, but as the days progressed and the soapbox replaced the popular tsunami of revolt, all the Zaims settled back into the comfort zone of their fortresses.
These fortresses have been erected over 20 years of manipulating the state apparatuses to ensure their institutionalized feudal hold on power through the cultivation of serfs instead of citizens protected equally under the law.
Therefore peaceful demonstrations cannot breakdown their walls of smugness. If violence is not an option ( and yet even the simplest omelet is not made without breaking eggs ) then what are our choices to maintain the pressure on the establishment cartels to force them to change?
The only option we have is to return to basics. Ockham's razor (a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham) states that "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." Basically it means that if you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest."
The simplest solution now in Lebanon, is to elect a new president, which will in itself launch a chain of predictive events including a new government, a new electoral law, and a new parliament obligatorily.
Though the Presidency in point of fact, is not strong in and of itself, it has proved to be strong in its vacuum. It is the only mechanism, which still has points of leverage. These must be applied domestically and internationally to break the stalemate. Otherwise the presently closed system of self-prorogated governing will perpetuate itself hermetically sealed by the tyranny of the institutionalized oligarchs.
The politics of obstructionism – Lebanon forgotten
The dissension among the ruling blocs in Lebanese politics has become personal to such a degree that they automatically veto each other’s proposals just as a matter of principle. The confrontations are no longer even expressed on sectarian or political lines but seem to be completely personality related with one leader hating another and obstructing him out of spite or spreading malicious rumors just to score points over each other.
On the other hand, there are extremely urgent matters at hand, which need consensus urgently, including most importantly the matter of the solution to the crisis of garbage collection, but also, the health dangers which this situation poses, the safety of the water, the lack of electricity, the lack of jobs, the collapse of the economy, the Syrian displaced, the matter of wages and salaries increases, the cost of living. These are some of the few essential survival issues confronting Lebanon and the population today.
And yet the bipartisanship is centering around the issue of giving Lebanese immigrants the Lebanese nationality, which by the way fails to address the major women's issue of Lebanese women giving their nationality to their children if married to a foreigner, and the elaboration of an electoral law which though important will not stop people from dying on the streets of the plague due to the rats and rotting waste everywhere.
You have to ask today: Why would the Lebanese abroad even want a Lebanese nationality? When the country is in such a shameful and disgusting mess.
As for a new electoral law? It is very important certainly, but the Zaims won’t even agree on the geography of landfills, how are they going to agree to a law that promises to weaken their hold on their regions.
These polemics are preventing the Parliament, as illegal as it is, as well as the Cabinet of Ministers from coalescing and taking any practical decisions. These deputies who had the audacity to extend their own mandates continue to add offense to injury by getting paid to do nothing. As for their salaries unlike the rest of the poor deprived population, it seems that the matter was solved with one wave of their magic self-serving wand - Yet again!
This is an untenable situation and the constant bickering and petty obstructionism is costing us our nation. The deputies have one essential job to do today: Elect a President! But there are no deadlines, no attendance requirements, no penalties for absenteeism, no consequences for ineptitude! The bottom line is that there is no leverage mechanism to force them to comply! So they continue to do what they do best: Nothing.
This politics of obstructionism is shameful and betrays the concept of statesmanship, which is so lacking today: The idea that there is a moral obligation to overcome one’s ego for the greater good. As we are carried along on this fateful period of continuing and unabated internal discord and brinkmanship, we may as well dig two graves one for us and one for Lebanon...
من الطبيعي ان يتعلّق كل انسان ببلده، وأستراليا كما يعلم الكثير منكم هو بلدي الثاني. فوالدتي "باتي مورغغن" -والتي كانت من جميلات عصرها- ولدت وترعرعت في سيدني في خلال الحرب العالمية الثانية، وغادرت استراليا الى انكلترا وكانت تبلغ 16 سنة لكي تقوم بمهنة برعت بها الا وهي عرض الأزياء. وفي سنة 1958، تزوجت والدي داني شمعون، وكان آنذاك إبن رئيس الجمهورية، جدي الرئيس كميل شمعون. وصلت والدتي الى لبنان عام 1958، أثناء الثورة، وأعطيت مسدّس حان خروجها من الطائرة. كنت في السادسة عشر من العمر حين اندلعت الحرب في لبنان، وأنا بدوري ايضا" غادرت الى انكلترا لكي أكمل دراستي والتي تأثّرت على مدى أكثر من عقدين بسبب الأحداث الأليمة التي نتجت عن الحرب، والّتي إختتمت بإغتيال عائلتي المروّع.
أتحدّث عن الحرب لأنها كانت ولا زالت جزءا" لا يتجزأ من حياتي، حتّى في الوقت الحاضر، ومنذ عودتي في 2011، وجدت أنّ لبنان، مرّة أخرى، مهدّد ومتأثّر من تداعيات الحرب الدائرة في كلّ من سوريا والعراق واليمن. وهذه الحروب هي فتّاكة، حيث استخدمت فيها أسلحة متقدّمة محت الحجر والبشر. وبالرغم من ان لبنان لم يصبح ساحة صراع جديدة ولكنّه لم يكن بمنىءا" عن تداعيات الصراع القائم وتأثّر على الصعيد السياسي مع ركود الاجراءات السياسية في الحكومة ولم يكن بمنىءا" عن الكارثة الانسانية حيث وقع على عاتقه مسؤوليّة ايواء اكثر من مئة وخمسين مليون لاجىء في ربوعه.
وبالرغم من ان لبنان ليس في حالة حرب ولكنّه يواجه خطر الإضمحلال وذلك بسبب الإنتهاكات السياسيّة المتكرّرة التي أدّت الى خرق الدستور، والقيام باساءات واضحة في مسائل التزعّم من خلال استغلال الفرص المتتالية على مدى سنوات والفساد واهمال المهام ممّا أدّى الى خلق دولة هشّة. هذه الانتهاكات السياسية إضافة الى الوضع الاقليمي، ناهيك عن خرق الديموقراطية عبر الغاء الإنتخابات والقيام بتمديدات ذاتية متتالية لأعضاء البرلمان دفعوا لبنان اليوم الى شفير الهاوية.
أمّا بالنسبة للقسم التنفيذي فهو أيضا" يعاني من وطأة الخلافات والشجارات والنزاع الرئاسي، مما أدّى الى تعثّرعمل الاجراءات العادية وحال دون تأدية الحكومة وظيفتها. كما وتأثّر الوضع الإقتصادي بشكل كبير بسبب منع العديد من الدول، ومن بينها دول عربية، رعاياها من السفر الى لبنان وذلك بسبب إرتفاع نسبة الإرهاب والصراع السني-الشيعي في المنطقة. هذا بالإضافة الى ازمة ادارة موضوع النفايات التي تملأ الشوارع في لبنان والتي من شأنها ايضا" أن تؤثر على السياحة في البلد. ناهيك عن عدم توفّر الكهرباء الّذي يجعل من لبنان بلد يصعب العمل فيه او ادارة مصالح تجارية فيه. وتوقّف النمو الاقتصادي بسبب غياب التوافق الوزاري وعدم القدرة على السماح لأموال طائلة من المساعدات الخارجية من الدخول الى لبنان.
في الوقت الراهن، لا يوجد اي اصلاحات اجتماعية، وفي ظلّ هذه الحالة لا يزال لبنان يعمل بميزانية 2005 بسبب تهم الفساد السياسي من جهة ورفض تقديم ادلّة لما هو غير ذلك من جهة ثانية. وبالإضافة لكل ما آنفت ذكره، مما لا شكّ فيه أنّ أزمة اللاجئين زادت عبئها على الموارد القليلة المتوفّرة وحرمت اللبنانيين من فرص ايجاد عمل. وفي هذه السنة من المتوقّع ان يخسر 170000 لبناني وظيفته لصالح العمّال السوريين.
في حين ان البلد على شفير الهاوية، نشهد تحرّك بين صفوف الشعب واحتمال تصعيد العنف على الطرقات.
هذه بالطبع صورة قاتمة لوطن ابتدأ بمستقبل واعد بفضل رجال لديهم رؤية. ولكن ماذا تبقّى منن هذه الرؤية اليوم؟
عدت منذ ثلاث سنوات وكنت مليئة بالأمل وأسست "حزب الديموقراطيون الأحرار"، وهو حزب سياسي مبني على رؤية جدّي الرئيس كميل شمعون للبنان ولكن بأسلوب عصري من اجل بناء مستقبل مستدام للبنان. ولكن وللأسف تزامن هذا الشيء مع أسوأ ايام تاريخنا حيث اننا لسنا فقط نقطف سلبيات سوء ادارة حكومية دامت 20 سنة ولكن ايضا" نشهد حرب اقليمية وزوال الديموقراطية.
في ظل هذه الظروف كيف يمكننا انقاذ لبنان؟
يمكننا فعل ذلك فقط عبر سنح الفرصة لفئة أو طبقة جديدة من السياسيين، طبقة تعرف معنى الخدمة العامة وتقدّر قيمة المؤسسات، من اجل حماية الدستور والوطن.
ولكي نحقّق ذلك، يجب اعتماد قانون انتخابي جديد مبني على التمثيل النسبي، وعلينا ايضا" انتخاب رئيس جديد للجمهورية و تكوين حكومة جديدة تعمل ضمن سياسات تحمّل المسؤولية والشفافيّة وتطبيق القانون.
لكي ننجح علينا أن نركّز على الأمور الّتي تقع ضمن نطاق سيطرتنا وليس على الأمور الخارجة عن نطاق سيطرتنا كتلك المتعلّقة بنتيجة النزاعات في الدول المجاورة. يمكننا فقط أن نسيطرعلى خياراتنا المتعلّقة بالطرق الّتي نحكم بها بلدنا والتي قد تتّسم إمّا بتحمّل المسؤوليّة أو عدم تحمّلها.
أشعر بالفخر اليوم وانا أقف أمامكم في مناسبة ذكرى مرور سنة على تأسيس فرع "حزب الديموقراطيون الأحرار" في استراليا والّذي يترأسه السيّد القدير ريمون أبوعاصي وأعضاء فريق عمله المتفاني.
إمكانيّة هؤلاء الأشخاص الرائعون تمثيل لبنان على هذا النحو في الخارج يجعلني أشعر بالأمل بأنّ جهودهم ستثمر في الوطن الأم لأنني متأكّدة من وجود أمثالهم على استعداد لخدمة الوطن وللتضحية من اجله مثلما افعل انا كل يوم في وطننا الحبيب لبنان.
عشتم وعاش لبنان
The latest deadline set as an objective by all the Lebanese factions was the nuclear deal signed between the P5+1 countries and Iran (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on July 1, 2015, but like most political deadlines in the Lebanese political landscape, its more of a mirage in the desert, which once passed, disappears along with any promise.
Nevertheless, the nuclear deal is a huge psychological tipping point, and either Lebanon can use it as a breakthrough to re-launch its political dynamic with the election of a president that will reset the constitutional counter at zero, or it will continue towards a breakdown with every institution being successively, negatively impacted.
The single major psychological benefit of the conclusion of the deal, is the sense of relief that is over. People can finally situate themselves on either side of the regional fence.
This sense of relief in itself should be used as a catalyst for a breakthrough because it is time to admit that for Lebanon, the solution to the present presidential deadlock and the continuing disintegration of the state is as much an internal problem as it believed to be external one.
If a solution is to be found to this crisis it should be done as soon as possible while the momentum of relief is still present, because realistically, the impact of the nuclear deal itself will have minimal effect on Lebanon due to the existing power sharing structure which is already in place in the Ta’ef accord. It operates as a de facto “Triumvirate”- Regardless of whether we are able to elect a president or not, the seat is in essence for the Christians.
Furthermore, the questions on everybody’s mind are: Will Hezbollah gain strength as a result of this deal? The answer is: Hezbollah is already strong, and will the Sunni community be disenfranchised? The answer is: The Sunni community is institutionalized like every other confessional community in Lebanon, and therefore its rights protected.
On the matter of the presidency: Will it push the deputies to elect a president? Not unless the deal is like the Ta’ef or Doha accords where the name of a candidate was part of the overall settlement package. But the truth of the matter is, that even if the deal is cooked from the outside, it still has to be served “mezze-style” in Lebanon to satisfy everyone’s taste.
In conclusion: There are no more mirages in sight and we must face the blatant reality of our political drought and do something about this as Lebanese, or face breakdown...
The Liberal Democrats
As we sit in the middle of this terrible sand storm which originated in Iraq and Syria we can only be forced to pay attention to the omens. The way of clarity is certainly not available at this time. We are still in the churning of chaos. At times like these it is is wise to retreat. Words are precious and must not be wasted in fruitless dialogues that seek only to appropriate and neuter the emergence of change. The popular revolt being expressed in Lebanon is being fought against from all sides, including accusations of external sponsorship, and now even the weather is conspiring to make the quest harder. The popular swell in its gravity and spontaneity forced reluctant Lebanese politicians to the table after a year of sulking and boycotting each other. However, did they come to the table to resolve their differences or to unite against a common enemy that threatens them? The revolution must go on...
As for me, sometimes only poetry can express the level of my dismay. Prose is too limiting, because it is in the gaps of the unsaid that the play of truth can emerge long enough to remind us of the things that need to be expressed. These are my thoughts this week.
"In the purgatory of delay
Lebanese politicians play
They maneuver to safeguard
Their habitual charade
While the storm of sand
Uniformly covers the land
Angry citizens flail and fail
Public rage and political deceit
Compete noisily on the street
In spontaneous demonstrations
And some other fabrications
But the stench of incompetence
Lies in garbage of big pretense
Our Lebanon is made ill
Turned into a horrid landfill
Toxic smoke fills our struggling lungs
Replacing the sound of smoke guns
Rats roam and the plague nears
As every solution disappears
Because of the stupidity
Of the selfish and greedy
Lebanon stares now at a calamity.
Will the people succeed?
Do the young have to bleed?
Is non-violence the way?
To get change underway?
Through screams and tears
Or shots fired and angry jeers?
How can one even budge
The lords of waste and sludge
Who robed the nation
For their own glorification
With a sickening smile
And pretending all the while
To be serving the weak
When it is subservience they seek
Keeping people like sheep
Grateful for their token kindness
Confused by flattery and blindness
They rate their magnitude
By the volume of servitude
These old power merchants
Are paradises’ resident serpents
They should be held accountable
For ensuring that poverty is profitable
These flamboyant thieves
Must be forced to leave
Only their names to remain
A vestige of their corrupt reign
In a dark corner of history
That is their failed failed legacy.
I still have to believe
That though we cry -
The phoenix can still fly…"