In Lebanon, fresh protests bring up old problems

The growing number of demonstrations in recent weeks suggest an inability to find lasting solutions to the country’s ills

Gulf News

Beirut: Lebanon is witnessing the return of fresh political protests as unresolved political issues resurface.

The pro-Syrian Free Patriotic Movement Party has pledged fresh demonstrations in the coming weeks to voice their anger over perceived slights in the Cabinet and National Dialogue sessions.

FPM leader Jibran Bassil, who also serves as Lebanon’s foreign minister, says the National Charter, which guarantees equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians, is not being applied properly.

In a recent speech, Bassil warned that “if they [meaning the Future Movement and most Sunni deputies] do not elect Michel Aoun as president during [the next scheduled parliamentary election session] on [September] 28, then we will commence a series of escalatory measures. We will go down to the streets and we will not leave until we achieve our objectives”, he affirmed.

According to spokesman Habib Younus, the FPM planned to demonstrate in front of “all the ministries and public institutions, not to cripple them and cause people discomfort, but to show our numbers and our strengths”.

On their part, the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces (LF) staged a sit-in on Thursday demanding the formal extradition of two Syrian officers indicted in the deadly 2013 blasts on two mosques in the northern city of Tripoli.

A week after Judge Ala’a Al Khatib indicted two Syrian officers, Mohammad Ali Ali and Nasser Juban, no formal request was made to Damascus to extradite the two men. Students demanded that Prime Minister Tammam Salam and his Cabinet make such a request as a sign of respect for the law.

“The regime that assassinated [LF founder and president-elect] Bashir [Gemayel in 1982] is the same regime that kidnapped Butros Khawand [in 1992] and blew up the Our Lady of Salvation Church [in 1994] and the two Tripoli mosques,” affirmed Jad Dimyan, the head of the LF student department.

Time was long overdue, he concluded, to back the judiciary “if the law is to have any meaning”.

Concern with the law was also on the minds of activists from the ‘We Want Accountability’ civil society campaign, who first confronted authorities after parliament extended its term of office on November 5, 2014, although the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back may be traced back to when the elites kicked off the first season of the garbage scandal on July 17, 2015.

At the time, activists lamented the state of corruption, clashed with police forces for months on end, and organised public rallies that brought thousands into the streets. They breached security barbed wires outside the Serail, which was then transformed into a war zone, before political parties that got into the act and added fuel to the fire, pulled their goons out.

On Thursday, ‘We Want Accountability’ spokesman Wasef Al Harakeh told reporters that the movement was back and intended “to confront… corruption”.

“Our confrontation with the ruling class is open-ended and we want to hold accountable those who are robbing the state,” he said.

Also, YouStink protesters renewed their protests over the garbage crisis with temporary fixes seemingly falling short and piles of uncleared garbage making a return to Lebanese streets.

They broke through the security barrier at the Grand Serail (Government House) in downtown Beirut, and warned that they would rekindle their 2015 protests, which saw violent clashes with Lebanese security forces.

The Phalange party has been organising modest rallies at the Borj Hammoud dumpster to object to current methods of garbage disposal.

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