Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘warlord

Catastrophic Constitutional Vacuum in Lebanon? Lebanese don’t care...

When Lebanese President Michel Suleiman’s term ended on May 25, he left a vacuum that some fear could further erode the influence of Christians in a turbulent region consumed with sectarian infighting.

 of FoxNews.com published this June 2, 2014

lebanonpres.jpg

Sleiman’s  (tacit “constitutional”) post has traditionally been held by a Christian, in the delicate sectarian balance of a nation made up of (19 officially recognized religious sects).

Currently, the vast majority of the population of Shiite Muslims is supported by Iran. The Sunni Muslims are mainly backed by Saudi Arabia.

Five attempts by parliament to reach a deal to fill the presidency have failed, leaving an impasse that not only exacerbates political and social polarization in the country, but also weakens the Christian community in the Middle East, where Christian presence is rapidly disappearing.

“With Lebanon you can never tell when the combination of internal struggle and external regional struggle will fuse together in a combustible way,” says New York University Middle East expert Mohamad Bazzi.

“The more instability and insecurity in Lebanon, the more likely there will be violence in car bombs and potentially worse. The Lebanese Christians are also watching the fate of fellow Christians in Syria, the violence against them from Sunni jihadists.”

David Hale, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, urged Lebanon to seize the opportunity “to elect a new president without allowing any other country to dictate the results.” (And what was the purpose of Kerry’s visit to Lebanon, coinciding with election in Syria?)

The Lebanese people need leadership “made in Lebanon,” he said. “The price of a power is “simply too high. The United States supports this Lebanese process.”

As part of the Taif Agreement, a national reconciliation accord that ended Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990), Maronite Christians, who had historically held the presidency and appointed the government, maintained the position of head of state but were forced to hand over the leadership of the government to the Sunnis.

The Christian president retains powers such as making recommendations for top military posts and the signing of international treaties, but he needs the prime minister’s cabinet approval. A Shiite always hold the position of speaker of parliament. (Nabih Berri, a civil war warlord, has been holding that post for 3 decades now)

This power-sharing arrangement, based on demographics in 1989, forced the Christians, who had historically been in charge of appointing the country’s prime minister, to accept that they had lost their majority to the Muslims after 1 million Lebanese, mostly Christians, emigrated during Lebanon’s civil war.

“The Lebanese Christians are also watching the fate of fellow Christians in Syria, the violence against them from Sunni jihadists,” says Bazzi, explaining why many Christians in Lebanon and Syria have chosen to side with Hezbollah by fighting on the side of the Syrian government of Bashar Assad.

“Christian communities like historic Maaloula have been decimated by al-Nusra and other Sunni militants. For the Christians the Assad regime is the best worst option because at least Assad won’t want to eliminate the Christians.”

Hezbollah and its Christian political allies hold more than one-third (how about more than half?) of the cabinet seats of the Lebanese government. This consolidation of power potentially gives them the ability to overthrow the government. Lebanon has already lost core components of statehood to Hezbollah, which brazenly follows its own military and foreign policy.

Hezbollah’s political camp has boycotted parliamentary sessions to elect the president, claiming that they want a “consensus candidate” rather than the “provocative candidate” (another warlord Samir Geaja who served 11 years of a prison term) the Mustakbal Sunnis want.

Among a field of potential Christian leaders who seek the presidency are heavy-hitters from rival camps. Samir Geagea heads the Lebanese Forces, one of 12 parties that belong to March 14, an alliance of  Christian militia groups and the Saudi-backed Sunni Future Movement, based on the date of a massive rally that pressured Syria to end its occupation of Syria. (It was the Tayyar movement of Gen. Michel Aoun that brought this massive rally)

Of the candidates, he is the most outspoken critic of Hezbollah, running on a platform of independence from Iranian and Syrian interference (but not from independence of Israel and the USA)

Geagea’s main rival is Gen. Michel Aoun, who leads the Free Patriotic Movement that is part of the March 8 alliance (the date of a huge pro-Hezbollah demonstration), an Iran-Syrian-backed coalition of Hezbollah, Amal, another Shiite militia whose leader is Nabih Berri, the current speaker of parliament. March 14 accuses Aoun of being a stooge for Hezbollah.

“Difficulty at filling the post of head of state, which takes a two-thirds majority in parliament, is not new to Lebanon,” says popular Lebanese Christian politician Ziyad Baroud, who served as minister of interior and municipalities for two consecutive governments.

Despite sectarian problems facing Lebanon, Baroud believes that moderate Christians, Druze and Sunni and Shiite Muslims can work together to build a democratic country (if the political climate around Lebanon permit it?)

“Christians play a role of moderation in Lebanon,” according to Baroud, who hopes the current presidential vacuum leads to the selection of a leader who will work to unify the nation. “At a time when there are major problems in the region, it is good timing for Lebanon to offer an example of living together in peaceful coexistence. Christians, more than any other community, have historical responsibility to carry this into the future. 

Lebanon’s presidential crisis of today comes with tremendous internal and external pressures.

Over the past year, Lebanese Sunni jihadis and their rivals Hezbollah have been battling each other in Syria, and the violence has spilled over into Lebanon with at least 16 car bombs and a spate of assassinations. Compounding this unrest are the more than 1 million refugees, mostly Sunni, from the civil war in Syria.

The refugees have increased Lebanon’s population by close to 25% (how about 40%?), creating social pressures and altering the sectarian balance in the small nation. “Try to imagine the United States or France suddenly ending up with an additional 25 percent of their population to cope with, “ says Baroud. “When you add it to the Palestinian refugees, you can imagine what is the impact on this country.”

Staying out of the Syrian civil war is arguably the most critical challenge for Lebanon. “The proxy war that the Saudis (backed by the US and western European States) and Iranians are playing in Syria has unleashed forces that they cannot completely control, both in Syria and the broader region,” says Mohamad Bazzi, who points out that the rival Muslim powers are deeply involved in promoting their agendas in Lebanon.

“The Saudis and Iranians are crafty and can instigate things, but they cannot always control it. When the genie is out of the bottle, you might not be able to put it back in,” Bazzi warns. “That is the case of Syria and the potential danger for Lebanon.”

It may be weeks, even months, until a president takes office in one of the most challenging political environments on Earth and dangerous, too.

There is a long list of assassinated Lebanese political figures — from mayors to prime ministers to presidents. “I don’t have fear,” says Baroud. “The fact that we are still in Lebanon and feel something can be done is what matters. It is not about rational thinking, it is about feelings.”

(And what are these feeling? Of utter disgust of this pseudo State?)

Note: Those parties who refuse to elect Gen. Michel Aoun (leader of the far largest Christian block in the Parliament) have been hinting that Hezbollah (ally to Aoun movement) is blocking an election of a President in order to reform the Taef Agreement and have the Shiaa be represented politically as constituting the third of the population (this sect is actually 50% of the population).

Hassa Nasr Allah said in his recent speech that it was the French who suggested this reform a few years ago, but Hezbollah has no intention of demanding such kind of power sharing.

Complicating the Class-Divide: New Contractor Bourgeoisie in Lebanon Politics: Rafik Hariri clan, Najib Mikati, Muhammad Safadi, and Issam Fares…

Before the civil war (1975-1989), Lebanon was ruled and controlled by the “comprador” bourgeoisie class (importing from developed nations and selling to the regional States) and their attached commercial/financial banks who manipulated the feudal/tribal/sectarian structure of Lebanon political.social landscape.

During the civil war, Lebanese immigrated in trove to greener pastures and left the space to the sectarian warlords militias leaders. The warlord leaders split the country into sectarian cantons, displacing, transferring and remodeling the mixed communities into “cleansing” de facto closed societies.

The moslem Sunnis preferred to migrate to the new Arab Gulf Emirates and Saudi Arabia. A third of Lebanon work force migrated there within a decade: from 50,000 in 1970 to over 210,000 in 1980. Those struck wealth were in contracting civil work, basically working as subcontractors to Emirs and princes who had the proper connections.

Late Rafik Hariri PM, Najib Mikati PM, finance minister Muhammad Safadi, and vice PM Issam Fares were among these new contractor bourgeois…

The Moslem Shia migrated mostly to west Africa where they joined relatives and struck wealth through adventurous trade deals.

The Christians immigrated to the US and Europe for higher education, and most of them never contemplated to return home to settle. Why?

Most opportunities after the war were allocated to the Moslems, particularly the educated Sunnis who filled the vacant institutions, managed and administered foundations of the new breed of contractors, public civil work, and controlled side institutions attached to the Sunni prime minister

For example, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR),  communication ministry, internal police force in Beirut, internal intelligence gathering section, Solidere, Sukleen, appointing the governor of the Central Bank and the minister of finance…

This new landscape was an immediate result of the Taif Constitution that expanded the political strength of the Prime Minister at the expense of the President of the Republic.

The business-politicians and neoliberal technocrats in the Future movement network of Rafik Hariri constituted a force for neoliberal “reforms” that appeased the US administration as to the financial policy direction of  the State of Lebanon.

The Hariri clan network had three main purposes:

1. Privatizing State-controlled entities by acquiring them for cheap since they had the liquidity and were backed by Saudi Arabia, and

2. Pegging the Lebanese currency to the US dollar in order to incur far more debt than necessary on the government and insuring total control of the financial condition, mainly to blackmail their rival political leaders into  difficult situation that only the Future movement of Hariri can untangle this volatile condition… (More details in a follow-up article “Applying neoliberal mechanism on Lebanon”)

3. Controlling the city center of Beirut through the chartered company Solidere

For over 2 decades, the Hariri clan were given the financial responsibilities through appointing the governor of the Central Bank, the minister of finance, and controlling the municipality of the Capital Beirut.

After the civil war, Rafik Hariri filled the vacuum of the Sunni leadership, thanks to the total backing of Saudi Arabia, which was the main loan guarantor for the infusion of international lending multinationals. The Hariri network of clientelists and media empires (TV and dailies) strengthened their electoral votes in the Sunni communities.

The Hariri clan was successful in 3 dimensions:

1. Reaching political offices like Prime minister, ministers, deputies, governors of public institutions…

2. Gaining control of public institutions to further their economic agenda, especially creating and controlling side institutions directly linked and attached to the PM

3. Gathering popular following, particularly among the Sunni community, the Druze and a few Christian parties

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik, monopolized the Sunni political leadership and contributed to the widening rift between Sunnis and Shiaas.

Najib Mikati PM and Muhammad Safadi had to climb a stiff road for claiming a political representation of the Sunni communities. Particularly, that the Future movement allied with the Sunni conservative and extremist Moslems like Lebanese Moslem Brotherhood, the extremist jihaddist wahhabi, the A7bash, the Jund al Sham, the Jamaa al Islamiyya

In fact, it was the Future party that financed and covered the many “terrorist” activities of these fringe Sunni organizations, such as in the Sirat Donnieh, the Palestinian camp of Ain Bared, the massacre committed in Halba, and lately what is happening in the large town of Ersal, confronting the army.

The new neoliberal Contractor class is a level added in class interpretation of Lebanon political structure.

How this new Contractor class acquired its wealth in the billion? (To be followed)

Note: From a chapter by Hannes Baumann in “Lebanon after the Cedar Revolution” by Are Knudsen and Michael Kerr.

Stop abusing your employees Mr. Wright! Obey the Laws of the Land

Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon.

Syndicates in Lebanon were well-organized and engaged on the side of their workers before the civil war in 1975.

This long civil war that lasted 13 years has thrown all syndicates and associations in the laps of the warlords and the political leaders who emerged stronger from the massacres they perpetrated: The warlord leaders are still in power and controlling everything.

The warlord leaders are actually the ones instigating syndicates at their sold to demonstrate for the political leaders expediencies.

Dozens of demonstrations take place every week, but the government is playing the unconcerned and deaf to people’s demands, as long as the warlords demands are satisfied.

Recently, the British chief manager of Spinneys Supermarket chain in Lebanon made a mockery of the entire Lebanese pseudo central government, refused to pay taxes, refused the workers their rights to organize in a syndicate, refused to pay the wage increases that the government decreed… And refused to desist taking a portion of the tips that bag chariot carrier helpers were receiving.

Mind you that these “workers” are not paid anything: as if tips should cover all their hard work and dedication.

Charbel Nahass, the former minister of social affairs has been encouraging the employees at Spinneys to organize in a syndicate in order to reclaim their due rights. Nahas was the main catalyst in this resurgent zeal for employees in other industries to get together and reclaim their due rights..

After many months, and overcoming many problems and institutional barriers, the employees managed to form their syndicate.

Spinneys started to fire all the engaged employees on lame excuses, but the syndicate took hold, with the widest support from the citizens.

Dalia Hashad  of Avaaz.org posted:


Workers rights are finally making progress in Lebanon

Spinneys workers have stood outnumbered in the face of corruption, violence, and cronyism to form the first private sector union in Lebanon in decades.

Now that the State has recognised the union, it’s time for real change .

Only mass solidarity with the workers can bring Spinneys management to the negotiating table.

Public outcry has already helped kill terrible management practices, like refusal to implement minimum wage laws, and making laborers pay Spinneys 5,000 LL a day ($3) just to be able to bag groceries.

When the union was first formed, management went after the workers, firing and intimidating them.

Hired thugs even besieged a building the union council was meeting in, and on one occasion beat up a worker.

Although the union has finally been recognised by the Ministry of Labour, the intimidation continues.

Despite the behaviour of Spinneys management, the workers are not looking to sink the corporation. They want to stay onboard with their rights intact.

Spinneys can capitalise on this moment and become a real beacon for the workers’ rights movement in Lebanon.

Instead, union members told Avaaz that Wright had rejected every effort by the union to negotiate workers rights, refusing even to receive hand-delivered invitations.

Currently, the workers’ movement is unstoppable.

The company is already feeling the burn on their public image and this is our chance to ride that wave and pressure Spinneys to comply with basic workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Only a huge wave of support for the union will make CEO Wright realize that his company can’t jerk around their Lebanese employees anymore and finally come to the negotiating table for better workers’ rights.

If we reach 15,000 signatures in solidarity with the workers’ union, we will buy billboards in strategic locations around Beirut, shaming CEO Wright for allowing ongoing mistreatment and abuse of his employees.

Sign the petition now and share this with everyone:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/spinneys_stop_abusing_your_employees/?bFAfecb&v=19752

The International Labour Organisation has already condemned Spinneys’ practices and demanded action from the government but workers are still outnumbered and overpowered.

Avaaz members worldwide have campaigned to stamp out corporate corruption and promote workers rights around the world.
With hope and determination,
Dalia, Bissan, Rewan, Mais, Ricken, Mouhamad, and the entire Avaaz team

Note 1: Read yesterday, Jan. 8, 2013 that Wright was fired. Good riddence.

Note 2: On former minister Charbel Nahass https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/lebanon-charbel-nahas-best-ex-minister-of-labor-and-the-terrible-reforming-boy-on-the-block/

Related links:

Spinneys Workers’ Fight is Our Fight (Al-Akhbar) http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/13540
Court to tackle Spinneys dismissal row (Daily Star) http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Lebanon/2012/Sep-07/187021-court-to-tackle-spinneys-dismissal-row.ashx#ixzz2BXwWBtvr
Spinneys Union Leader Assaulted (Al-Akhbar) http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/13100
Unionizing in Lebanon: The Struggle is Elsewhere (Jadaliyya) http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7799/unionizing-in-lebanon_the-struggle-is-elsewhere
Lebanon: Bitter battle of Spinneys union (Albawaba) http://www.albawaba.com/business/lebanon-spinneys-union-450841
Abi Hanna: Last Days at Spinneys (Al-Akhbar) http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/13483
After a long battle Spinneys staff elect first union leader (Albawaba) http://www.albawaba.com/business/spinneys-union-leader-451665


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,428,740 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 777 other followers

%d bloggers like this: