Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ziad Baroud

Set of Settlements that are worse than the initial demand

The biggest public mobilization in the history of Lebanon related to salary scale movement of public teachers and many other sections in society was abruptly ratified in the Parliament after 2 years of the political system in Lebanon refused to pass this totally rightful issue.

Former Minister Charbel Nahas is saddened by the results, “An illegitimate authority is liquidating the biggest public mobilization in the history of Lebanon,” he explains. (The Parliament voted for itself to extend its tenure 2 years ago and is getting ready to repeat this infamous practice.

Nahhas questions the timing of the scale’s discussion and the deal behind it.

The recent period had been the calmest in the fight for the wage scale and pressure [on the government] was at its lowest levels. He believes that the political forces want to deal a fatal blow to the Union Coordination Committee after using school diplomas to strike at the union.

Political forces feared popular sentiment, especially within the administration, that gave them the sense of being capable of attaining their rights by pressuring the authorities.

So they decided to go ahead with the scale after completing negotiations on how to make the poor pay for the scale.

Eva Shoufi Published Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lebanon: MPs to strike another blow at the rights of citizens

The Union Coordination Committee holds a protest in from of the VAT building in Beirut. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

Out of the blue, the issue of the salary scale was solved. was solved. Nobody knew what happened, but it later turned out to be one of the darkest deals in the history of Lebanon.

Members of parliament will legislate the encroachment on beach property under the guise of a “settlement,” hence legalizing the occupation of public property.

In addition, the final accounts of the state will be settled for the previous years without any accountability.

The page on “suspicious accounts” will be turned over and a new page will be open without any questioning about public money and public property.

People residing in Lebanon will also have to pay an additional tax on their consumption and numerous fees for services, in addition to dealing with artificial price increases. At the same time, state employees, teachers, contract workers, and pensioners will be denied their rights.

The recent period had been the calmest in the fight for the wage scale and pressure [on the government] was at its lowest levels.

He believes that the political forces want to deal a fatal blow to the Union Coordination Committee after using school diplomas to strike at the union. Political forces feared popular sentiment, especially within the administration, that gave them the sense of being capable of attaining their rights by pressuring the authorities. So they decided to go ahead with the scale after completing negotiations on how to make the poor pay for the scale.

Strangely enough “legislation by necessity” succeeded on two issues. (Mind you that this Parliament failed to elect a President to the Republic that was due 6 months ago)

The first was the consensus between two opposing sides, economic authorities and the unions, that was meant to strike a blow at the rights of employees and “the economy.”

The second issue was the economic authorities admitting that the employees’ demands in the past years were “entitlements” that could not be ensured by the scale.

The question raised by such positions is if the economic bodies and the UCC did not agree on the scale, then what is the use of its announcement with the amendments?

Both sides of the conflict believe they did not achieve any of their goals.

“The deal, magically reached by political forces does not aim to provide the UCC, the workers, or the soldiers their rights. Quite the contrary, the amendments in the new scale bill will strike a blow at the rights of employees, on one hand, and sacrifice the Lebanese economy, on the other,” the economic bodies announced.

They also reiterated their rejection of “tax increases proposed in the scale draft bill” and stressed that “such tax increases will not contribute to solving the crisis but will create a bigger crisis.”

The head of the Lebanese Economic Association, Jad Chaaban, maintains that “raising VAT by 1 percent will impact several basic goods such as petrol and cellular communications, which will be included in the raise, unlike the claims that it will only affect luxury goods.”

Chaaban believes the way the scale will be funded consecrates the principle of funding from people’s pockets. He pointed to “the governments’ dependence on raising indirect taxes instead of direct taxes, which consecrated the principle of funding from poor people’s pockets, since the increase of direct taxes impact those with higher capital.”

The price to be paid by Lebanese will not be limited to the VAT. They will also give up their public beach property through the legalization of violations in one of the biggest scandals that could happen in any country.

According to former head of the Order of Engineers Elie Bsaibes, the first proposal was related to normalizing the encroachment on public beachfront property through paying for previous works. This would have entailed a good yearly income for the treasury.

However, in the current version, they want to take possession of public property and legalize the violations that occurred before 1994, which means most of the violations, a large percentage of which was committed by politicians.

Violations related to the scale go beyond financial issues and deals to strike at the basis of legislation in the Lebanese state.

The government seems to be beleaguered but the political sides are expert at undermining the state and diverting discussion from institutional circles to give it a clientelist character.

Former [Interior] Minister Ziad Baroud is surprised at what happened,

We do not know what happened. Many things changed the day before yesterday, including the exemption of private school teachers from the six grades without knowing why. At the last minute and under the guise of maintaining the consensus, they agreed on the exception.”

The MPs emptied the state from its institutions. The economic and social council, which represents the main space for discussion in the question of the grades and salaries scale, was kept out of the way.

Baroud indicates that this absence was intended to keep the decision in the hands of the political sides so they would agree among each other and safeguard the quota system.

The parliament dealt with the subject in an improvised manner, whether on the level of imports – which are not clear – or on the level of donations to certain segments while excluding other categories.

The contempt of the legislature continues.

The MPs received the draft law on Tuesday afternoon and have less than 24 hours to study a complete bill.

MP Ghassan Moukheiber criticized the short time given to MPs to study the amendments and make their decision. He indicated the issue will be discussed in the session. Moukheiber has reservations on increasing indirect taxes, since it was possible to secure other funding sources. He also stressed his reservations on the question of beach property violations.

Moukheiber may be more familiar with the law than most. However, all indicators are pointing to a farce being prepared in the parliament today, with MPs legislating a crucial law without even spending a day to read it.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

What’s going on in Lebanon? In the prison of Roumieh?

There is this prison in Lebanon, close to the town called Roumieh.  The prisoners set fire in the 4 buildings and closed accesses to the prison.  This prison is holding 4,000 incarcerated people, in all categories from minor citizens (under 17 of age), minor thefts and car accidents…, political prisoners, foreign maids not able to pay their flight back home, …

One prisoner (26 year-old) did not live because he was repeatedly refused treatment for his diabetes:  He was in prison for two months and was to stay 6 months for traffic incident as his family was unable to collect $10,000.

Every week, Lebanon witness a dozen of road kills (people) and the cases are settled out of court. This prison in Roumieh was designed to host one thousand inmates in the 70’s and no other prisons were planned to be constructed.

Every couple of months, the prisoners in Roumieh revolt in order to have better living conditions, and the State crack down and promises improvement… This time around, the families of the prisoners demonstrated on mass for 3 days in front of the prison and the Justice Palace.  The families closed main roads throughout Lebanon demanding information on the situation and conditions of their family members.

There are plenty of evidence that the prison officers have established a lucrative racket, selling cellular phones, cocaine, heroin, and all kinds of drugs…These facts were widely known and the supposed government promised to investigate and nothing was revealed or done or reformed.

Lebanon has never had a government worth calling a government:  Most of the time, the government is in “running affairs” condition because a designated Prime Minister takes his time forming another stupid government, say four months on average, and ending up with virtual governments that are too weak to govern, plan, and execute any kinds of reforms.

The real power in Lebanon is in the hand of the clerics of 18 recognized religious sects.

The current rioting that generated 3 deaths so far, and unknown number of injuries, is the consequence of two decades of negligence and malpractice in the field of correctional services.

Prisoners are held in cells with up to 15 fellow inmates with no medical treatment.  The justice system has been crippled for over 4 decades, since the civil war that started in 1975, and no new judges have been appointed for many years.

Many prisoners in the overcrowded jail have been waiting up to 5 years for their case to be heard over common law matters such as theft, faked signature…Many have died in prison before and during the riots.

The trouble stems from 3 main problems:

First, lack of funding from the Finance Ministry, which was under the control of the late Rafic Hariri PM, and who ruled from 1992 to 2005.  The Finance Ministry is still in the hand of Saad Hariri, son of Rafic:  an oligarchic Future Movement political party succession story.  In this period, Lebanon witnessed institutionalized corruption, and saw its public debt balloon to $60 billion. An estimated $11 billion is currently unaccounted for under his government.  Such funding could have been diverted to pay for the construction of jails in both North and South Lebanon as proposed by the Change and Reform Bloc in Lebanon’s parliament.

The second problem is the immersion of politics in all facets of the judiciary system:  For example he political appointment of Said Mirza (an ally of Hariri) as Lebanon’s Chief Prosecutor.  Mirza is deeply involved in the highly politicized Special Tribunal for Lebanon, investigating the assassination of Rafic Hariri.

This involvement has diverted attention away from reforming Lebanon’s legal system, which is struggling to deal with the backlog of court cases and the subversion of justice in the court and prison systems.

The third hurdle is the conduct of Lebanon Internal Security Forces (ISF) and its General Director, Brigadier Ashraf Rifi, another close ally of Lebanon’s “care taker” Prime Minister Saadedine Hariri.  The ISF was responsible for arbitrary arrests and human rights abuse during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon under Rafic Hariri, and continues to operate in the same manner today.

The treatment in Roumieh prison of Al Qaeda political prisoners,  inspired terrorist groups such as Fateh Islam (that waged a brutal war with the Lebanese Army in 2007), is deemed luxurious compared to other inmates as these groups are believed to have links to the Future Movement political figures and Saudi Arabia absolute Wahhabi monarchy.

The “care taker” Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, a young and dedicated lawyer, as well as a consensus appointment among Lebanon’s different factions and counted as the President of the Republic protegee, has been unable to implement any reforms or reign in the actions of his subordinate, Brigadier Ashraf Rifi.

For 75 days, Lebanon has no government, the parliament does not meet, and the wrath of the Arab masses are engulfing the regions with positive uncertainties, except in Lebanon, the bastion of conservatism in governance.

Sunday, June 7, 2009 Election Day in Lebanon

I got up at 4 a.m. on Sunday June 7, 2009; it is Election Day for the Parliament in Lebanon.

I wrote and published the post “I have a position: I am voting today”.

As my parents were ready we drove around 8:15 to one of the three election centers in the town of Beit-Chabab. Our center was located in the previous private school that the municipality has purchased five years ago and didn’t move in yet.

This is the first time in Lebanon that election is done in one day: Parliamentary elections were performed in two successive Sundays until the last election proved that parties with heavier financial muscles could regroup, focus, and swing elections to their advantages by chastising parties that didn’t stick to the alliance terms in the previous Election Sunday.

I was shocked by the long line that did not move. The army was positioned outside the perimeter and the internal security forces within the enclosed place.

You had first to exhibit your ID to enter the only entrance/exit “door”.  You wait for a security officer to call on a range of numbers corresponding to your family civil record.   The elder people were given priority and my parents voted within half an hour.

The urn assigned to my category was very slow in processing voters. I sat and ate a loaf of “mankoush bi zaatar” that one party was distributing. I asked my parents to hitchhike home.  I waited for an hour and a half and the line never budged. I lost any hope for my turn to come in the morning.

I returned home hoping to come back after lunch for the line to get moving.  Those who arrived at 7 a.m. made it nicely. My brother-in-law, a retired military officer, voted for the first time as well as one of his eligible daughters.

I returned at 1:30 after lunch to the voting urns and had to wait another hour before I managed to vote.  There were too many voters for the reduced number of urns (kalam ektira3). Citizens complained that they lined up as if they were receiving rations “i3asha/e7ssan”.

General Michel Aoun of the Tayyar Party has warned a couple of months ago on the strong possibility of this problem and had suggested that election be resumed on two successive days.

The opposition claimed that the slow process was intentional to discourage their voters from exercising patience.  Apparently, the slow processing of voter lines is due mainly, in addition to the first reason, to the decrease in numbers of urns because of shortage in personnel.

By law, any voter within the enclosed voting area was eligible to vote after 7 p.m.  Dozens of election monitoring groups from around the world were gathered in Lebanon to take notes of the proceedings; the groups of ex-US President Jimmy Carter, the European Union, and the Arab League were present weeks before that well “observed” and critical day.

News are that over 100 thousands Lebanese immigrants flew in to participate in the election process.

Monday Morning, June 8, 2009

I got up at 4 a.m. and watched TV for any crumbs of news on the election results and removed to my study to read.  Official results will not be in before noon but I got a good idea of the trend.

Our neighborhood and the districts of Metn and Kesrouan are very calm and not because people are not up.  The government coalition parties that usually are the loudest and the most trouble makers have lost the election in these two districts.

Unofficial results indicate that the government allies received a majority of 67 deputies to 57 for the opposition.

Actually, the results were already known before midnight.  The minister of the interior Ziad Baroud had announced previously not to expect any official results before late afternoon.

My contention is that, in addition to waiting for formal arrival of evidences, the minister of the interior was asked to delay official results for 18 hours.  The purpose of that delay is first, to permit negotiations for swapping deputies from losers to winners as the implicit entente of the Doha agreement demanded, so that the main leaders represented there will re-enter Parliament and second, so that the difference between opposition and government coalition deputies would not exceed more than 5 deputies.

The opposition coalition major defeats were in the districts of Batroun, Koura, Zahle, and Ashrafieh (Beirut 1).  The government coalition lost Baabda and Zgharta districts.

The main leaders on both sides are winners; Saad Hariri, Michel Aoun, Walid Jumblatt, and Hezbollah.

Thus, any government has to be formed of the three major blocks representing the three main religious sects (Maronite, Shiaa, and Sunni) with practically even power politically in the parliament.

Basically, the Tayyar of Michel Aoun has increased the number of its deputies from 20 to over 27; the Tayyar gained the leader Suleiman Frangieh of Zgharta and lost Skaf of Zahle.

Michel Aoun strengthened his unchallenged Maronite leadership in Mount Lebanon (the district of Jubail, Kesrouan, Metn, Baabda, and Jezzine). The block of General Michel Aoun represents two third of the Maronite deputies and 50% of the Christian deputies and an overwhelming popular support in all Lebanon.

Hezbollah gained the strategic district of Baabda because it is an extension to its headquarters in south Beirut (Dahiyat).

Consequently, the resistance had secured internal political backing of all Mount Lebanon to the southern borders. Obviously, Hezbollah prevails militarily and Lebanon policy of defense cannot circumvent Hezbollah’s concerns for its internal security.

Saad Hariri emerged as the unchallenged leader of the Sunni sect in Beirut, Saida, North Lebanon, and the central Bekaa Valley.  Fouad Siniora PM got a seat in Saida.

The main losers are the President of the Republic, Michel Suleiman, because the opposition coalition badly defeated the President’s implicit list of candidates in the district of Jubail.

The Maronite Patriarch lost because he can no longer claim any political weight in Mount Lebanon since he publicly supported the parties challenging Michel Aoun.  Thus, Michel Aoun is practically the political leader of the Maronite sect according to Lebanon’s caste system.

One fact stands out in this tough election: it is my contention that the sacerdotal caste of the Christian Greek Orthodox did its best to challenge Michel Aoun as the pre-eminent representative of all the Christians in Lebanon.

The Greek Orthodox clergy played politics big time by defeating the Tayyar in Koura, Betroun, and Ashrafieh.  I am not worried about this positioning at this phase because the Greek Orthodox citizens are the staunchest Lebanese patriots against our main enemy Israel: Most of the secular and national founders of political parties were Greek Orthodox. 

Michel Aoun will have to temper his zeal and negotiate with this Christian sect as an equal.  In any event, Saad Hariri will owe the Christian Orthodox big time for the next four years otherwise he is doomed to lose the majority in next Parliamentary election.

The Christian Armenians could swing victory only in the Metn district because they failed in Ashrafieh and Zahle to make any difference facing the outnumbered Sunni voters.

Actually, the 4,000 Sunni voters in Koura reversed a sure win for the opposition to a defeat by less than one thousand votes.

The opposition lost the district of Zahle because the government had transferred the registration of over 25 thousands of Sunnis to Zahle in preparation for this election. This election was an exacerbation of Sunni confessional rallying cry as the other religious sects were distancing from confessional rhetoric.  Saudi Kingdom monarchy is deeply immersed in an ugly and dirty confessional battle.

Monday Evening

Ziad Baroud returned partial official results of 15 out of 26 districts (kada2) by noon and a full declaration by 6 p.m.

The trick that there were discussions going on for swapping deputies did not take off in Lebanon’s archaic confessional political system.  For example, I considered that at least two losing traditional deputies in Zahle would be declared winners in return for two traditional losers in the Metn District.  Lebanon election experienced high turn out averaging over 60%.

Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah delivered a speech by 8:30 p.m. He reminded the citizens of the lies of the government coalition leaders who used scare tactics claiming that the resistance would use its military power to affect election procedures and results.

In any case, if the new political power sharing is to take off then any discussion of Hezbollah military reality should be restricted to the special conference table on defense strategies.

Iran is having its Presidential election on June 12, 2009.

The candidates Ahmadinejad and Moussawi faced off in a television debate.  Moussawi suckered to the public opinion of the western nations’ demands: he is speaking as a foreign affairs minister and not a candidate to win the presidency.

The attitude of appeasing the western public opinions is considered very disgusting in Iran and not the characteristic of a vast “Empire”.

The largest, widest, and lengthiest military exercise conducted by Israel for 5 days and which started on May 31 faltered and was a failure. 

The Israeli citizens did not respond as expected and went on to their daily routine as if nothing is happening, regardless of the loud and frequent siren alarms.

Those five days were a holiday and not of any serious exigencies.  The Israelis on the Lebanese borders were the least concerned.  The message was clear and louder than the siren alarms “Governments of Israel, we want peace.  We no longer believe than security should take priority over peace treaty.  For 61 years you have driven us hard to countless pre-emptive and expansionist wars. Enough is enough.  We paid dearly for mindless and losing priorities and we want your policy to do the right thing.  We want peace, period”

President Barack Obama has to deliver something tangible in the Middle East and very soon, and not six months from now as he is planning.

Periods of sweet talking with nothing tangible in return are gone.  The Palestinian Statehood is due now!  The return of the Golan Heights to Syria is due now!  Direct negotiations with Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon Hezbollah are due now!  Stabilizing Pakistan is due now!  The return of the Shebaa Farms and the Hills of Kfar Shouba to Lebanon is due now!

A specific schedule for the return of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to Palestine is due now!

Why my urgency to resolving decades of roadblocks in the Middle East?

Simple: the Middle East has been steadily catching on to extremist confessional attitudes as the absolution of Israel’s horrors and genocides has been the trademark of the western nations.

Lebanon is catching on quickly to isolationist confessional extremism and if Lebanon is no longer a viable experiment for democracy, then the USA and Europe will have no one to blame but themselves for laxity in executing and enforcing what is the right thing to do in this region.




March 2023

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