President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, completed his consultative meetings with leaders and heads of parliamentary blocs, aimed at preparing for the convening of the national dialogue table.
President Aoun received members of the Parliamentary Consultative Gathering Bloc of Independent Sunni Representatives: Abdel Rahim Murad, Faisal Karami, Al-Waleed Sukkarieh and Adnan Traboulsi.
After the meeting, MP Faisal Karami made the following statement:
“We have responded to the invitation of His Excellency the President for holding consultations around the dialogue table. Concerning this issue, we will meet as a consultative meeting bloc and take the appropriate decision regarding this invitation in line with the national interest.
During the meeting, we discussed the issues that will be addressed on the dialogue table. These issues are all important, especially the issue of the reform paper for economic recovery, and we desperately need it in these circumstances.
Questions & Answers:
In response to a question, MP Karami indicated that Lebanon is a country of settlements, and is based on dialogue, “So in various circumstances there must be dialogue, and we encourage that, but in fact we are waiting for President Aoun’s invitation”.
Question: Do you, as a consultative meeting, secure Sunni cover today, since Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that he will not participate in the dialogue table?
Answer: “We reiterate that when His Excellency the President invites us to the dialogue table, we will take the appropriate position on the issue of participation or not. As for whether or not we represent the Sunni sect, these ballot boxes and parliamentary elections prove the extent of our representation (before and after the elections). Secondly, this issue has taken a lot of controversy in the media. Any party in Lebanon, whether the Future Movement or others, has its representation in its sect, and when it does not participate in the dialogue, there becomes a shortage that we cannot deny, but specifically on the issue of the honorable Sunni community. If the prime minister attends, he represents the charter at any dialogue table and any council.
The Prime Minister decided to attend, and therefore the charter is secured in this matter. Our representation we leave it to the people and we represent who we represent. We do not claim and will never claim that we represent the entire Sunni community, but we represent a part of this community and in all Lebanese regions”.
Regarding the criterion on the basis of which the consultative meeting will determine participation in the dialogue or not, MP Karami said: “As you know that the consultative meeting is composed of a group of parties and there are different opinions, and sometimes these opinions are contradictory, but we always come up with the appropriate decision or unanimously, or by the majority.
Therefore, there are opinions and discussions on this issue within the consultative meeting, and today we listened to His Excellency the President, and when he calls for dialogue, we will meet to take a decision on this invitation”.
Then the President received the Chairman of the “National Party” bloc, MP Asaad Hardan.
After the meeting, MP Hardan made the following statement:
“Today we discussed His Excellency the President’s invitation to consult on some issues, including those related to the issue of the initiative that he presented, that is, the invitation to the dialogue table and the agenda of this table.
We confirm that we always are one of the advocates of dialogue, and I emphasized this a month ago in front of our party leaders, when I said that we are with dialogue and the state should call for dialogue, and this is a good thing.
We thank His Excellency the President for calling for dialogue, but we have some observations related to the agenda of the dialogue table, and we discussed them today with President Aoun. We, as a political party in the country, have priorities in the dialogue that relate to what the citizen cares and feels”.
MP Hardan enumerated the topics that concern the citizen today, starting with securing medicine, fuel and gas, which are witnessing a rise in prices, in addition to all his needs that have become known from the high price of fuel, the prices of all commodities and others…
We discussed these issues with His Excellency, and he expressed his approval of what we raised during the meeting, and stressed the importance of these priorities that the dialogue should address.
We will not discuss now the issue of administrative decentralization and expanded and financial decentralization, as we do not consider them as priorities. Priorities are a complete package. If you want administrative decentralization, which is intended to achieve a balanced development at the level of the country, Where is the committee that has to study the abolition of sectarianism? Where is the election law that unites the Lebanese? We are no longer a national party that wants Lebanon to be one circle. We now accept the smaller circle, but something must be agreed upon to unite the Lebanese. We want the Lebanese citizen to be an integral part of this issue. This is with regard to administrative decentralization, but if we implement financial decentralization, then there is nothing wrong with it, because then we will have a Shiite lira, a Sunni lira, a Druze lira, a Christian lira, an Alawite and Armenian lira”.
Questions & Answers:
In response to a question about the difference of opinion on the items of the dialogue table, MP Hardan indicated that “It was agreed with the President that the agenda of the dialogue table should include these topics. “Because as a political party in the country, we will not proceed now with administrative decentralization before discussing the complete package that we referred to”.
On the issue of defense strategy, Hardan pointed out that this item was on the table 10 and 15 years ago, and it still is. “It is possible that we will not see a result on it now, as there are some topics that we may discuss today and that are witnessing a stumble, but we may reach a conclusion on them later. What matters to us is the citizen, and then the citizen and the citizen”.
MP Hardan concluded, revealing that President Aoun may extend the period of consultation and deliberation with the parties in order to mature things more.
President Aoun received the head of the “Armenian Representatives” bloc, MP Hagop Pakradounian.
After the meeting, MP Pakradounian made the following statement:
“Past experiences taught us that the only way to solve internal problems is through dialogue, and we have always been and still are among those who support dialogue, whatever its form.
Today, we are living in a catastrophic situation, and we are at the bottom of the abyss, and we resort to abroad to help and seek support to find solutions to save us.
It is necessary for us to sit down and discuss matters and debate away from political rhetoric and electoral calculations.
From this point of view, if we receive the invitation, we will respond to it and work for the success of the dialogue. We believe that in the absence of the Council of Ministers and public order, dialogue is the way to save the rest of the country, and therefore we say: To avoid any strife or fighting, we must sit down before what we seek to avoid problems. We do not have time to wait until the elections in order to go back and sit. Today, the problems are great and we are unable to find a solution to the economic or social crisis, employees are without salaries, and poverty pervades all classes of the Lebanese people, and we are still distracted by other matters and political speeches”.
Questions & Answers:
Question: Do you hope that the dialogue table will be an alternative to institutions and that it will reach results?
Answer: “Any dialogue is better than the absence of dialogue. Any dialogue, whether between two parties or between all parties is important. We ask the outside to help us, and if we do not help ourselves, how can this outsider help us? The outside helps us according to his interest, and we help ourselves according to ours. In the past, we experienced the 1975 war, we called for dialogue, and we were aware that we were going to war. Was it necessary to pay the price for the thousands of martyrs, wounded and economic collapse? After 15 years, we went to Taif under compulsion and took forced decisions. And before May 7, we called for dialogue and said that we were going to sedition, but no one believed. We went to Doha under compulsion and took compulsive decisions. Today we say that the time is for dialogue and we do not see any other way. Let the Council of Ministers meet so that we can return to public order and hold elections, and then we can say that change has taken place in the country”.
In response to whether he warns of an explosion in the country in the event of not going to a dialogue, he said: “I see the reality, the citizen is hungry and hunger is subjugating, so it is certain that we will go to the fighting”.
Question: Some parties are entrenched behind the saying that the outside does not want chaos?
He answered and asked: When the outsider wants to go to chaos, and when he does not want to, we do not go to it on the basis that we are tools and do not think and do not know how to work? Today, there is a call for dialogue, and even if it did not produce a result, we can at least say that we “tried the last cartridge”.
In response to a question about the presence of weapons, he said “We are discussing all issues on the dialogue table. We have seen what we have reached, either the dialogue or the fighting”.
President Aoun concluded his consultations with a meeting with the head of the “Strong Lebanon” bloc, MP Gibran Bassil.
After the meeting, MP Bassil made the following statement:
“We have accepted the President’s invitation to a meeting today, and of course we will respond to his call for dialogue, because we are the school of his speech that he said in the year 2000 in Britain. Dialogue is the way to salvation.
Whatever the problems are, when people fight and the war ends, everyone goes to dialogue. This is in principle. As for the nature of the topics that will be discussed by President Aoun, they are very important, the first of which is the expanded administrative and financial decentralization, which is a charter, constitutional and reform clause. It was mentioned in the National Accord Document in Taif, and if there was a problem about it, and we were not able to approve it 32 years ago in the parliament, our social contract cannot be completed without approving this matter, even if there is a dispute about it in the most centrally extremist countries such as France.
Administrative decentralization is financial decentralization, otherwise it is not. This is in principle, and we proposed to the President of the Republic, that we add, if the dialogue table is held, that it will be discussed within the framework of reforming the political system as a whole, which is also a matter on the table. In the National Accord Document, the transition to the complete abolition of sectarianism and not political sectarianism, i.e. the transition to a civil state in its entirety, in which we in the Free Patriotic Movement have a clear and complete position and project.
As for the second item that President Aoun put forward, it is the defense strategy, the discussion of which has become more urgent today, and through which we all rely on the Lebanese state to preserve all the elements of power it possesses to defend and protect Lebanon. This is the basis and this is the goal so that we don’t involve Lebanon in the problems of others, but on the contrary, it is enough for us to protect our country.
The issue of the financial and economic recovery plan has priority today because it is urgent. I believe that this did not affect the work of the government. We are not talking about the details of the plan, but rather with general principles. Every day we delay its approval, the money of the Lebanese is stolen. We have been under a financial and economic system for 30 years, and as a result, the money of the Lebanese has been stolen.
Today, the time has come to stop the theft process simply through a counter-plan that changes. We cannot think of recovering the money of the Lebanese with the same financial and economic policy, and through the same officials who practice the same policy. They enjoy external sponsorship and have internal protection, and whenever any Lebanese withdraws his money from the bank, part of it is stripped off through circulars.
It is outside the policy of the government, it is issued by one person and thus people lose their money. What is more urgent now than stopping the bleeding of the Lebanese money, which is accompanied by a programmed political plan before the elections, by raising the price of the dollar. Today’s dollar is not in its real value, but in its artificial and contrived value to keep the process of stealing people’s money without a corresponding plan. And in parallel forensic audit is prevented and the judiciary is prevented from carrying out its duties.
Every day a judge stops practicing his work, and his decision reaches the bank, and it is returned. We also want the international judiciary to intervene to protect the Lebanese and protect the rest of their money. Is it reasonable for the political authority to prevent the judiciary from moving, How will we return the citizens’ money if all political officials do not want to assume their responsibilities in the country at a dialogue table?
Those who refuse dialogue in particular refuse to find a solution to these three issues. The country cannot rise without an agreement on how to protect it, so that there is no dispute over a strategic issue of this importance. It is not possible to achieve advancement without reforming the political system in Lebanon, and people cannot be steadfast in Lebanon and their money is deducted in this way.
Whoever refuses dialogue refuses to solve these three important and urgent issues, unfortunately, for small political and electoral reasons. If his political and electoral interests are achieved, these problems will not be resolved. And we all know that. These problems will not be resolved through elections, regardless of who won or lost. We will not find solutions to it except by all of us sitting at a dialogue table, and with new representatives if there are new representatives in the Parliament. With one difference, which is the loss of time, more bleeding of people’s money, and more dismantling of state institutions.
Remember that we will all return and sit at the dialogue table, because we are forced to do so, so why waste time? Who profits from losing time? Only those who want the state to disintegrate more, and they want people to become more and more resentful, and for the price of the dollar to rise more and more in order to achieve their electoral interests.
I assured President Aoun that with the dialogue being held with whomever attended, it is possible that President Aoun will not adhere to our opinion, but whoever does not attend the dialogue table must bear the responsibility for that. All must assume their responsibilities in this matter because the results will be catastrophic.
I will remind you that President Aoun called on the eve of independence in 2004 for the Lebanese to have a dialogue with each other. I do not forget when he told them not to be arrogant, because Syria will leave Lebanon and we must ensure a smooth and orderly transition agreed upon between us. Let us have a dialogue on this issue. There was stubbornness and they refused the matter. He also sent a message to the Syrian President in which he affirmed our readiness as Lebanese to sit with the Syrians and dispel their fears of withdrawal, on the grounds that there is no conspiracy or coup, but rather on the basis of maintaining the best relations with Syria on the basis of preserving the freedom, sovereignty and independence of Lebanon. Since that time, perseverance took place, and a group of the FPM toured all the political figures to invite them to dialogue, and there was a rejection of it. What happened as a result of the rejection of the policy of dialogue? The assassination of Prime Minister Hariri, the Syrian withdrawal, the Quadruple Alliance, the July war, May 7, 2008, and all things to which the country was subjected.
Refusal to dialogue leads to the same catastrophic results, and those who refuse to participate in it bear the responsibility. May God protect Lebanon from these catastrophic results, and we will continue to insist on dialogue, and are ready to meet it at any time”.
Questions & Answers:
Question: Isn’t it more useful for the Council of Ministers to convene to discuss these issues when your ally, Hezbollah, is obstructing its convening?
Answer: “We do not blame him, and if we were to blame him, he would have changed his decision, and secondly and most importantly, there are issues that the Council of Ministers must deal with, and Hezbollah’s responsibility is primarily for its failure to convene, as it bears responsibility for all the outcomes that occur, he and the Shiite duo and others, and the Prime Minister who does not call the government, are all responsible. It is better that we do not have a government than that we have a government that does not work and that there is a second government that does. There are issues that we realize that the Council of Ministers will not raise now, such as the defense strategy, decentralization and reforming the political system. The Council of Ministers must work every day to solve people’s daily and living problems, and there will be a dialogue table that prevents clashes between the Lebanese and works to find great strategic and national solutions”.
On the timing of discussing the defense strategy in the last year of President Aoun’s term, MP Bassil replied: “President Aoun called for discussing this strategy in the past, and I remember that I spoke twice at the dialogue table in Baabda in the past about this strategy and I called for its discussion. But in the end you can’t speak alone, and the claim requires someone to answer it”.
And about the dialogue in the presence of one party, MP Bassil answered: “Let us not laugh at people and tell them that there is a majority while there are majorities, and there is a minority while there are minorities. We agree with some on issues and disagree on others. This is the Lebanese nature. Let us not portray to people that there are two parties and that the dialogue does not take place with one party. In defensive strategy there are people who have a point of view and others who have a point. We always talk about protecting and defending Lebanon only, nothing more. We talk about the neutralization of Lebanon, which the two sides do not agree with. If there is more than one point of view on more than one issue. We say that dialogue should take place before and after the elections, and if these elections produce new results or if the results remain the same. Do we solve problems by war and by clashing with each other, or do we engage in dialogue to avoid that?”.
In response to a question about the link between the lack of dialogue and fighting, he replied: “Let us not link things so that the matter is not portrayed as a threat, but this is the natural result when there is political, social and living pressure that turns into security pressure in light of the high crime rate and anger in the street, that dialogue can treat all these issues. Shall we fight each other tomorrow in the elections? Well, let’s have an exchange and see who screams and speaks better, but that will not solve the problem of the system in Lebanon. And the lie in saying that when we win in the elections the price of the dollar falls, does the one adopt the raising of the dollar, why do we cheat people with something that no party alone has the means to change. None of us has the majority, and none of the majority will. If some want to remove the governor of the Banque du Liban, the matter needs two-thirds in the cabinet, and the Minister of Finance accepts to bring the issue to the government and the prime minister to include the issue on the agenda, then they come and ask why you didn’t change. No one should pretend to have the ability alone. This does not mean that people are like each other, but common denominators can be found to find solutions. The alternative to finding solutions is more congestion”.
And about the judicial and political disputes in light of the information that spoke of the prime minister’s threat to resign if the governor of the Banque du Liban was harmed, MP Bassil answered, “Why is there always barter? The government must act. And they recorded this matter on me, it is not possible that the governor of the Banque du Liban will not take his punishment internationally, European and Lebanese. Stealing an entire people and insisting on continuing the coverage does not go unpunished, otherwise there will be no people. In this issue, matters are no longer related to the rights of a sect or group, but rather to the fatigue, life and livelihood of an entire people. It cannot be tolerated”.
Question: But he is sitting in his position?
MP Bassil replied “Let’s see if he will stay”.