The Lebanese Flag





by Elie Al-Chaer (April 13, 2005) | Visit: AlChaer Blog

Yesterday they had an excuse. What is their excuse today?

The Syrian domination of Lebanese politics for the past 30 years gave every Lebanese politician an excuse to blame “his” lot in life on the Syrian dominion in Lebanon. Whether “he” was a politician by breed or creed, successor to a family line or experienced on a demarcation line, representative of his people or appointed by his masters, a loyalist or in the opposition or somewhere on the fringes, the Lebanese politician always found a way to assign blame to others.

[The use of “he” in reference to the Lebanese politician is because Lebanon officially continues to ignore a feminine role in government; hence, office titles like deputy or minister which could be easily translated to their feminine form in Arabic when the holder is a woman, are used resolutely in their masculine form even when referring to a lady representative in parliament; of course the Arabic language allows such discretion and as Arabs we may be refractory to progress. A minor digression but perhaps of some significance].

In the past, when a Maronite president was unable to find (for lack of a better term) a cooperating Sunny candidate to form a cabinet, the Lebanese people were told that the system of confessional politics in Lebanon needed reform, hence the Sunni protest. When a nominated Sunny prime minister (PM) was unable to form the cabinet, one of the reasons thrown at the collective psyche was that he was awaiting a sisterly inspiration [an acceptable form of foreign intervention in Lebanon, that guarantees Syrian interests and disregards the Lebanese ones]. Subsequently, the country would become frozen in time every time, until the mighty will of the foreign regional power changes and its unholy spirit descends on the president with a name or on the nominated PM with a list of names. This is of course a personal read and others may see different excuses. Nevertheless, this tragicomic scenario repeated itself over and over in recent history, yet paradoxically not enough times to warrant a deeper examination of the roots of the problem. Whatever the old constitutional pretext was that prompted such behavior; it was presumably rectified in the Taef accord and the subsequent constitutional amendments. The proof of that is in the trilateral agreement among the president of the Republic (Lahoud), the nominated PM (Karami) and the president of the Chamber of Deputies (Berri) on the nomination of Mr. Karami. Presumably, Syria had nothing to do with that; for the troops and the intelligence services are on their way out; add to that, the elevated level of international scrutiny, which would have exposed such a flagrant intervention, unless we want to believe that Syria was secretly given anew a different mandate over Lebanon.

So was it really the Syrians who always held the keys of internal affairs in Lebanon after the Taef reforms? Nominating a PM, forming a cabinet and attending to the peoples’ needs? Or was it the inaptitude of succeeding Lebanese politicians and their unwillingness to level with the Lebanese people and to rise to the level of national duty in their political performance that required direct Syrian intervention from time to time, so many times, that it became a habit.

If it is not the Syrians who are preventing the formation of a new cabinet today, who is then? The question is asked of both sides: loyalist and opposition. Is it the leaders of the security systems in Lebanon? With all due respect to some members in the opposition movement, the opposition’s line on these individuals bordered on absurd and is difficult to swallow. It is hard to believe that corruption began in Lebanon with these six individuals rising to power with the implementation of the Taef accord, as it would be stupid to think that if Walid Beyk was a loyalist today in place of Lmir Talal, or ESheikh Pierre instead of Slayman Bayk, their demands would be nobler and more relevant to the plight of the Lebanese citizen.

“Perhaps the seeming inability to form a cabinet is a strategy of the loyalists to remain in power by forcing a delay of the parliamentary elections and extending the term of the currently seated members.” This is of course a line borrowed from many a member of the opposition who like to repeat it lately to impress upon their followers/readers their ability to think beyond their nose and anticipate the next move of the loyalists; oh, don’t you admire the strategic foresight of these opposition leaders? [Of course I say that with cynicism]. The fact is that the opposition leaders seem to be in disarray, hibernation or suddenly castrated [no offense to the ladies, but until a week or so ago, all opposition leaders seemed to have acquired “new balls” and sounded like born-again Christians in an evangelical revival ritual].

Perhaps the opposition leaders are debating among themselves issues not unlike those on the mind of Frangieh and Arslan, very vital to their personal survival and the survival of their blood line in politics. Apparently, they too were overwhelmed by the readiness of the Lebanese people for drastic change [demonstrated on March 14th in Martyr’s Square in Beirut], and wanted to slow down the people’s movement for fear that the people wash them away in a swift revolution.

Where is Parliament in all that? Isn’t it the legislative body who presumably has oversight to ensure proper function of the administrative branch, yet it remains astoundingly quiet. Can it intervene as a body to rescue the country from this administrative stalemate and save the people from this unending childish saga? Did the Taef accord and the amended constitution give the people (represented by Parliament) enough powers to hold accountable the administrative branch? The Taef accord has presumably reformed the Lebanese system of government in a manner satisfactory to its negotiators; did it take into account the Lebanese people? The answer to these questions must be NO; for if it is yes, then we are faced with a worse scenario than we thought we had on our hands. For then, the legislature, the last constitutional bastion, would have fallen into the abyss of corruption, abandoning its duty to the voters and to the nation [but for a last minute extension of its term, of course].

How can we hope then to build a modern, reformed and democratic constitutional government with the corrupted institutions of a decaying one?

Perhaps we should not even attempt.

Let this dying republic go into the dim pages of history and let us venture to build a new one based on secular principles and fair representation, based on qualifications for office and accountability to the people.

Let us do away with this archaic system of personal and tribal interests and replace it with a new one, one that puts the national interest above all other, one that redefines politics in Lebanon into a service not an entitlement for all generations to come.

It will take an extra-constitutional maneuver to do that and a new transitional government to head the reform. Our history is living proof that we were never short of good and decent leaders who are willing to sacrifice life and limb for their country. Let us do it now once again for the right cause. Let us do it now for the sake of posterity. Ours is a rare chance in history to make the right choices, let’s not desert it; lest we want our nation [Lebanon, for those who think it is Syria or the Arab world] to be shattered into the oblivion of confessional and tribal fragments and into the inferno of unending wars simply to preserve the entitlements of a few confessional lords [Amirs, Bakawet & Masheyekh].

Elie Al-Chaer

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