Hanna Saleh

What is Enough Reason for a Minister to Resign?

The Lebanese political class’s performance has changed significantly since the October 17 revolution, and much of its behavior changed after the Beirut port blast. The deals they used to make in secret are not made in the open. They speak of Lebanon’s need for around 20 billion dollars to launch its recovery, betting on the IMF providing around 3 billion. Meanwhile, they squandered over 24 billion dollars, most of which were seized from citizens’ bank deposits. The disingenuity of reform claims has been exposed, as has the impossibility of this political class taking any initiative or decision to suggest it is trying to contain the ongoing collapses and save the country.

Their plunder and subordination have accelerated the implosion and exposed the parties to the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime and made it obvious that they are not concerned with the public interest in the slightest. The government led by Hassan Diab succumbed to the plot to drain deposits and walked back on its “monetary and financial recovery” plan, covering for smuggling and squander to fund monopolies and the Syrian regime’s militias.

The “counter-revolutionary” government led by Mikati did not deviate from this course. Indeed, it went further, removing all subsidies without ensuring alternatives. Is it not destructive that cancer patients await their deaths because they cannot find the medicine they need or a hospital to receive them? Is it not a travesty that death haunts the victims of the port blast and continues to claim the lives of those whom it injured 20 months after the fact? These facts affirm that the authorities have abandoned their responsibilities and are preoccupied with other matters. They do not care that the country went from being prosperous to poor at record speed or that it has become uninhabitable.

Three decades on from the law that granted amnesty for the crimes committed during the war, which goes up against the constitution and makes light of wartime atrocities, as well as entrenching the spoil-sharing regime, the political class seeks to pass a law granting amnesty for financial crimes, calling it “capital control!” This law should have been passed the moment the collapse began in 2019, but it wasn’t. Instead, the political class opted to grant bankers and large depositors the chance to smuggle their money out of the country! They thus discussed with the IMF a bill that would lead to a social explosion, as it protects the political banking cartel and the Banque du Liban, prevents their prosecution, legalizes plunder, and writes off $65 billion in citizens’ savings, including the savings of retirees and professional syndicates (doctors, engineers, lawyers and others...) destroying what remains of social security!

Seventeen years following the expulsion of the Syrian regime’s army that had been occupying Lebanon, the country’s people are extremely disappointed because their aspirations to restore the modern state, the constitution, justice and the rule of law have not been fulfilled because their subordinated tyrants prioritized their own interests and governed arbitrarily. Thus, Hezbollah seized the country’s decision-making and wealth, subordinating the Presidency of the Republic, which provided it with legal cover for its illegal weapons. Its task was facilitated by the cover and support provided by Hariri and his team under the pretext of “deescalating tensions,” and their facilitation persists with the decision to “suspend political action.” The Lebanese thus find themselves besieged by poverty, despair, and destitution, which has driven many of them to try to escape in the hope of finding a new lease on life behind the seas! They went aboard “death boats,” not because they are dreamers but because Lebanon has forced them out, and the displaced have certainly outnumbered the immigrants!

The calamity of the “death boat” drowning in the early hours of April 24 after departing from Tripoli placed Lebanon at the most dangerous turning point in its history as corpses, including those of children, were removed from the sea. We can be sure that no parent would put their children on such a boat unless the sea was more dangerous than their country. Nevertheless, the calamity did not change the officials’ actions in any way, standing like an observer as they pretended to search for the corpses and treated the victims like mere figures: 7, 9, or 14, and no government body has announced the number of passengers on the “death boat!” It decided to bribe the witnesses into silence instead of granting them their rights and working seriously to address the fury overwhelming broad segments of society. It did not admit to any mistake or apologize, overlooking its responsibility for the deaths.

To put things on the right track, the real perpetrator of the crime must be exposed, the party behind the plot to uproot Lebanon and turn it into an extension of the axis of resistance. It has grabbed the country by the throat and turned it into a slaughterhouse, imposing hollowness on its institutions and hindering the emergence of the truth about the port blast by deliberately obstructing justice! Hezbollah calls the shots. It has taken over the presidency and parliament, as well as forming all the country’s governments since 2011. It is responsible for Lebanon’s isolation, the evisceration of its borders, and its transformation into a hub for the export of poisons. It is pursuing a project to perpetuate its hegemony by impoverishing and oppressing the Lebanese people and suffocating them by starvation or drowning. It was among the primary beneficiaries of the “amnesty for war crimes” law, and through the “Qard al-Hasan” (Islamic bank controlled by Hezbollah), it will be among the primary beneficiaries of the law granting amnesty for financial crimes!

In any country governed by the rule of law, we would have seen official resignations fall like dominos from the top of the pyramid to the bottom. However, in places with law and order, families don’t throw themselves into the water, hoping for mercy from strangers across the sea. Let us remember that if it weren’t for the amnesty law, the many crimes perpetrated during the war and its collective graves would have been exposed. Those responsible would have been held accountable, and Lebanon would have avoided “Special Tribunals,” “immunity,” and impunity. The forensic audit would have been completed, and “banking secrecy” would have been suspended to expose webs of corruption. Riyad Salameh, who is being prosecuted by several countries for fraud and money laundering, would not head the central bank and squander depositors’ money with the protection of the state. No one accused of a serious crime would have dared to run for office!

The grounds for resignations are there, but we must acknowledge that Lebanon’s tyrants, in general, are in their positions thanks to laws that rigged elections, and they do not feel the pressure to resign. Nonetheless, the popular mood is changing despite dirty money’s influence on Lebanon’s politics, the “preferential vote” and the “threshold,” which tie voters’ to candidates in sectarian rather than national terms, which is constitutional. Because the flame of this revolution continues to burn, the anger of citizens is pushing them to cross sectarian lines, and with the availability of alternatives in almost every district, punitive votes can provide people with the chance to avenge those who starved and humiliated them. October 17 is an initial spark that will not fade, and May 15 will be a turning point on the path to crystallizing a political alternative that expels the corrupt who have racked up misdeeds and turned Lebanon into a society of paupers!