Witnessing The Fall Of The Lebanese Government
“We call [Diab] the vase, because he’s just for show, he does nothing.”
“He told us, ‘Give us 100 days and I promise you I’m going to do something. It's been seven months, we’ve had a blast, we still have people buried under the rubble, and he wants to stay?”
Almost a week has gone by since over 150 people lost their lives to an explosion caused by gross government negligence; the remaining are thirsty for radical change.
Lebanon's current government, a “rescue team” formed on the promise of change after mass demonstrations and unrest, has now become a spitting image of its predecessors.
With over six government officials quitting their posts, exposing the government for their ways, and violent protestors with signs, screaming “resign or hang” in front of gallows and nooses, we are at the very tipping point of a revolution that may change the way Lebanon is governed.
Protestors have been storming ministries, having briefly “hijacked” the foreign ministry with the intention of making it the headquarters of their movement. They also dominated the economic and energy ministry in order to find evidence of systemic corruption that has travelled through generations.
Even holders of legitimate power such as the Maronite Church raised their voice in solidarity against this “crime against humanity”, their words: “It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here, or a minister to resign there. It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”
Public and foreign partners are also stressing on the dissolution of President Aoun’s cabinet, but his protests are going unheard. This was observed when, despite his disapproval of it on Friday, France began an independent investigation into the matter. Ironically, Aoun believes this will “dilute the truth”.
Coming to the “resignation revolution”, the first to leave was Manal Abdel Samad, the information minister. In her resignation letter, she expressed that change remained “elusive” and that she had deep regret for failing the Lebanese people.
Environment Minister Damianos Kattar was second to go. He described the ruling system in Lebanon as “flaccid and sterile” and said that it wasted several chances to reform.This sentiment crossed partisan divides; members of the Christian Kataeb party, a member of the Socialist Progressive Party and an independent- all resigned.
A minister close to PM Diab is also expected to quit. Paula Yacoubian, an independent member stated, “I cannot stay within the mafia. They stole everything, they destroyed the country, and they want to continue doing business as usual.” She believes the only “reasonable and sane” thing to do is to ask the government to resign “and to start again.”
Party chief Samy Gemayel of the Christian Kataeb Party said, “I invite all honourable (lawmakers) to resign so that the people can decide who will govern them, without anybody imposing anything to them.”
Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned even before the blast because he felt the absence of “effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform” and competent leadership.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab urged ministers who were considering resigning to wait, and suggested closed door talks which reportedly took place on Sunday. Previous calls for resignation have been met with claims that a replacement would take a long time, which he said would amount to "a crime against the Lebanese [people]". According to him, the only solution was to hold early elections.
Mr. Hassan Diab urged political parties to put aside their conflicts and give the government two months to work on structural reforms. PM Diab has also been quoted telling his cabinet that they should bear responsibility. He stated, “Right now we cannot leave the country void and vacant,”
President Michel Aoun and PM Diab signed a decree appointing Charbel Wehbe, a close associate and advisor, as the new foreign minister.
The early elections offered by PM Diab are unlikely to materialize according to experts. However, even if they do, it would seem to be a way if appeasing the international community, and could be a trap that would “would only resuscitate the current system”.
After former foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigned, he made powerful statements about how the country was at risk of failing, having minimal regard for citizens’ welfare. Hence, it is possible that this movement can lead to the exact opposite of what Beirut actually needs- justice.
Reporter: Katyayani Nath