News from Beirut May 23 1997 ...Search

Hariri Government- Vote of Confidence

A parliament general debate on government policy was set for 28 and 29th May. The general debate was originally devoted to discussing the government policy and inquiries-responds by government to the many questions raised by MPs. The significance of this debate is that for the first time since June 21. 1994 , since the present parliament was elected, a vote of confidence in the entire government, or perhaps in some of the ministers, is seen as an open possibility, in case some MPs requested the speakership such voting. Speaker Nabih Berri affirmed that on the second day of a plenary session that started May 21.

Raising such voting at present, while the government is preoccupied in preparing for the provisional by elections, seen linked to the general atmosphere created by the Constitutional Council's verdict nullifying four parliament members seats. Some observers think that fixing such a rapid date for the general debate may be aiming to boost image of the parliament, after the verdict and nullification breach it, recalled that thesis of the council on nullification could be applied on so many other cases.

There are varied speculations on the possibility of a vote of confidence. MP Najah Wakim would suggest voting, recalled that he asked a voting on last April 2 and 3 on the basis that the government breached the pledge to hold municipal elections. However, Mr. Wakim did not so far submit a written request on voting and said he will take a decision on that during the general debate. Another speculation said the vote of confidence will be only on three ministers not the entire government, in view of the council's verdict. The three ministers include

1. Interior minister Michel Murr, who was directly blamed, according to the verdict of the council, of the violations that took place during the elections, as a direct responsible of administrating the elections, additional to his personal violation, according to statement of the judge Selim el Azar who called for the nullification of Murr and Raji abu Haidar parliament membership

2.Minister of culture and high education Fawzi Hobeich who's parliament membership was nullified and its not anymore justified to maintain his ministerial post which was allocated to him being an MP  

3.State minister for finance Fouad Seniora, for different considerations that relate to the social, economical, and financial situation, and which necessitate new policies.

Parliament Plenary Session

- Lebanon parliament after two days plenary session closing noon May 22 endorsed a draft bill labeled urgent and adopting the caza as constituency for Byblos area upcoming by elections and for one time only. The election law of 1960 has been amended to allow caza constituency in order to avert any future challenge at the council.The parliament postponed electing substitutes of the constitutional Council outgoing members to July 7. The parliament at last endorsed a bill on the creation of the industry portfolio, also two bills on the ISF reserves promotions and exemption of  construction license of certain charges in case of ideal specified designs. A draft bill on exempting youths born 1975 and backward of the military service was referred once again to parliament committee in charge for further discussion. Out of the agenda, a bill on obligatory elementary education was endorsed.


-Hizbullah Shawra Council member Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek in the funeral of two resistance men in Baalbek, attended by Mps and massive crowd, also for the first time by school boys of both private and public schools, said the resistance men defeated Israel and its allies with their martyrdom and Jihad, not through conferences and speeches.

- Hizbullah former S.G sheikh Subhi Tufeili, interviewed at his home in Haret Hreik close to residence of sayed Mohammed Hussein Fadallah and the many offices of Hizbullah, was angry of the government policy and the three presidents, not excluding too Hizbullah MPs. Tufeili said the Hizbullah policy is disturbed and deficient. He said the Baalbek-Hermel is the most deprived in Lebanon and people are hungry there saying they offered blood and sacrifices but now facing starvation. He said he was trying to act in past in the framework of a front and tried hard not to act individually but things are not tolerable anymore.

Tufeili said the attitude of the government is that as long the region is politically represented by Hizbullah it will be deprived of almost anything. He admitted that Hizbullah is the political representative of the region but most of the other groups supported his "revolt of the starved". He said he was trying since years with Hizbullah to deal with the starvation case but unsuccessfully, and since the situation is intolerable anymore, he told Hizbullah he can't stand idle and called for a meeting at Baalbek mosque on May. Tufeili said he offered himself to bear consequences of contacting the people but Hizbullah leaders told him "they don't want to meet people, go by yourself and we will not intervene". He said he did not want to hold Two Ashouras and the Hizbullah brothers were mistaken in their stand, and he is not willing to split Hizbullah anyway, but Hizbullah is confused, hesitant, and frightened. He said it is frightened of not responding to the people and the confusion in Hizbullah political conduct is clear enough during the past years.

Tufeili said he did not meet the Syrians neither before nor after announcing his move in Baalbek, "but the Syrian brothers definitely do not want us to starve or be humiliated". He asserted that his move has nothing to do with Iranian elections and saying he represents the hawks in Hizbullah and the hard-liners in Iran is not correct. Tufeili said he walked barefoot because this is his own custom in the 10th day of Ashoura and not related to the day of anger. On the next station on 4th July, he said a civil rebellion was declared and new phases of escalatory moves will be announced, additional to the burial of the state, and will continue the way to Beirut if the authority not respond to the demands. He clarified that civil rebellion means not paying electricity, water, and not to pay charges of construction licenses and taxes. He outlined the demands saying it include free education, ensuring hospitalization, lowering taxes on low earners, exempting the poor of the electricity and water fees, buying the agriculture products etc.

He said his case is the starvation which is different from politics, and frankly who thinks to use force against the starved will make a mistake, as they should bring back answers not weapons and bullets. Tufeili criticized the political conduct of the Hizbullah MPs, saying they joined the government elections tickets and accepted to extend the president term. Tufeili denied the slogan that the Bekaa people are angry of the Hizbullah present leadership because south people are in the leading posts, he said "this is satanic slogan". He said speaker Berri is highly regarded by his supporters because he offered them chance of money and post and he is not regarding himself responsible of Bekaa which is others responsibility. Tufeili said sheikh Mohammed Mehdi Shamseddine is an instrument in the hand of the authority.

News In Brief

- Patriarch Sfair, speaking to visiting students from Zouk Mikhael, urged them to start as from today to bear their responsibility toward themselves and the country. He told them that the whole world have watched the Lebanese believers, namely Christians, who are proud of their Christianity. He said Bishop Chedid who came from USA reported scenes televised by the media and it was live, joyful, and showing people of faith, sentiment, and appreciation in Lebanon. Sfair said "sticking to religion is what will preserve us". He also said the way to salvation is to maintain values, traditions and faith. The Patriarch discussed with delegations including Gen.Aoun loyalists, National Bloc, and member of Christian-Islamic dialogue committee issues related to the apostolic guidance and ways of implementation. He received also the central bank governor and Italian delegation.

-Lebanon's foreign ministry was informed of a visit next week to the M.E. including Lebanon by UK state minister for foreign affairs.

-The Constitutional Council verdict was carried in the official Gazette edition no 23. Further comments on the council's verdict are still sweeping. Hizbullah parliamentary bloc said the verdict was a result of a political compromise and not merely judicial rulings, something shook down the credibility of the last of constitutional institutions. The bloc said the council was not successful in the test of the challenges.

- MP Issam Fares argued if holding provisional elections in summer is also harming the summer season. Fares said the present methods of holding elections in Lebanon, which is primitive and manual, should be modernized, and the malpractice of the public administration has led to the decisions taken by the Constitutional Council.

- MP Riyad Sarraf said it was better that the candidates who won nearest vote numbers to replace the nullified membership instead of holding elections during the process of repatriating the displaced and tourism which brings revenues to the country.

- Other comments said the council's rulings, though relatively shy and including only four members, but was a bright image in the Lebanese judiciary history and shook down the throne of those who administered the elections. Legal viewpoint said the council's deputy head cannot issue decisions after the head of the council objected and resigned in protest of the pressures. Comments also said the council is a new phenomenon and experience in Lebanon.

- Former member of the military government under Gen. Aoun minister Issam Abu Jamra described in Paris the council's decisions as white coup. He said in a statement by fax from Paris "without the foreign and local forces that are dictating and pressuring the people, the following could have happened

1. The prime minister would have resigned immediately

2. The interior minister removed from office and put to trial

3. The security officials, in the constituencies where result of the election was nullified, were put to trial

4. Those responsible of the polling stations wherever violations took place could have been under trial

5.The entire parliament would have been nullified and the elections held again under a national unity government. Abu Jamra questioned "where are we of such real democracy and sovereignty.

- The Lebanese -French SOLIDA association defending Lebanese detainees in Syria called for a symbolic gathering in Paris 7th June to protest the present conditions of the Lebanese hostages in Syria as it said. It renewed the call to president Hrawi to reveal identities of the Lebanese detainees, urged the Syrian authorities to release those prove to be out of any charge, and transfer the others to Lebanese prisons in compliance with international agreements Syria signed. It recalled that P.Hrawi declared Nov. 25. 1996 saying 210 Lebanese are in detention in Syria. The association said it has obtained information saying the two brothers Morkos from Zikrit in north Metn who were kidnapped in Nov. 1984 are now in one of the Syrian prisons.

- Lebanese Forces political bureau in an open letter to the Pope regretted that Samir Geagea was not in the lead of those who welcomed his pontiff on May 10. The bureau said "it is regretting too that hundreds of our comrades who are forcibly displaced out of their country and scattered in the world, were not participant in the event, together with thousands of the comrades who welcomed his pontiff in Lebanon". It pledged to stick to the apostolic guidance and work for its implementation, together with all the Lebanese groups, and put it in effect in its civic and religious aspects, regarding it a complementary program which requires contributions of all the Lebanese society. The bureau appealed his pontiff to pray for Lebanon the message, and to inspire those in power now to maintain justice, balance, and real final interest, so that a state of law and institutions can be restored, and Lebanon returns a stronghold of freedom and democracy as a sovereign independent state.

- Representatives of the Lebanese audio-visual reserved the Lebanese Journalists Association's memo to prime minister on advertisements. They urged the government to settle the pending file of the audio-visual, allow the stations which were refused to be given licenses to correct its application files, and expedite the guiding plan on frequencies and channels which would clear the number of licenses that could be given.

- Lebanese press columnist criticized today series of interviews with Lebanese civic and religious figures in the Arabic TV network Orbit because the interviewer Imad Eddine Adib questions and topics he raised are provocative, reviving past, and introducing a disputable conflicting Lebanon. The columnist said its "a bad timing of a good topic". The bad timing is that the interviews came amid a historic visit by his pontiff and amid an apostolic guidance which Adib is trying to damage.

Palestinians in Lebanon

-Canadian head of the refugees committee of the multi peace talks Andro Robbinson visited yesterday together with members representing the donors countries the Palestinian camp of Nahr ekl Bared in north Lebanon. Robbinson said the donor countries are well informed of the UNRWA financial difficulties and it is an aggravating one. He said they have no magic solutions but they are well acquainted with the problem and mostly concerned of the political status of the Palestinian refugees. Robinson said the final solution is through solving the entire refugee problem. The Palestinian refugee representatives in north Lebanon camps presented a list of demands which outlined the hardships of 50,000 refugee in north Lebanon.

- PLO leadership in Lebanon said its first meeting was held in Lebanon under an invitation by the S.G of PLO Lebanon leadership Col. Sultan Abuleinein and in presence of the representatives of PLO's groups, in compliance with the PLO central leadership decision, aimed to form a framework of these groups in Lebanon. The conferees discussed the shaky peace process, Jerusalem case, which is regarded as a red line for the Palestinian leadership and people, dialogue with the Palestinian other groups, the hardships facing the Palestinians in Lebanon, and urged the USA to play an honest partner role, also considered the Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian cohesiveness enhancing the Arab solidarity. The PLO-Lebanon appealed the Lebanese government to adopt "the civil and social rights', "rethink the decision on entry and exit visas", also allow entry of construction materials to the camps, deal with the Palestinian displaced same and equal to the Lebanese displaced. The PLO-Lebanon reemphasized the importance of the UNRWA role namely its social role and cautioned of declining its services namely health services.

Sports Round Up

- Nijmeh football team, before a rest time until 15th June, is to play today with Tripoli Shabab team at Burj Hammoud stadium.

- The last week basketball match between Hikmeh and Riyadi Beirut, both contesting for the championship, was a chance for Hikmeh to beat Riyadi for the first time in two years. The unfortunate incident between one of the Hikmeh fans and an ISF officer was another alarm on the many security incidents observed during basketball matches.

- Lebanon sportsmen demand that Beirut sport city (Camile Chamoun city) should be rebuilt same as before with stadiums for the basketball, volleyball, cycling, swimming, etc., because after the Arab 8th tournament none of the officials will remember the bad need for such facilities.

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