HERMEL, Lebanon: Six members of the municipal council of the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal announced their resignation Friday, protesting the mayor’s “hostile” attitude which they said was isolating the town.
Antoine Sleiman, the governor of the Bekaa Valley, approved late last month the resignation of Mohammad Atrash, Abdel-Wahhab Hujeiri, Zahri Jibawi, Abdel-Ghani Rayed, Khaled Ghadada and Salah Ezzeddine.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Abdel-Wahhab Hujeiri said that “reckless” comments made by Ali Hujeiri, the mayor of Arsal, have segregated the town from surrounding villages.
Tensions have marked Arsal’s ties with surrounding villages since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011. The mayor of Arsal, a mainly Sunni town, and the majority of its residents are backers of Syria’s uprising. The village hosts thousands of Syrian refugees. But inhabitants of most villages surrounding Arsal are mainly Shiite and back Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Hujeiri said that the mayor and his deputy Ahmad Fliti had devoted their attention to providing aid to refugees rather than developing the town, adding that the number of Syrian refugees has reached twice that of Arsal residents.
He added that the mayor and his deputy were not consulting other municipal council members over their decisions and said there were suspicions circulating in the town that the two were stealing funds and in-kind aid destined for refugees.
But speaking to The Daily Star, Fliti said the only reason for the move was the opposition of the resigning members to the mayor remaining in his post. But he said a solution had been reached prior to the announcement of the resignations.
Fliti said the 21-member-municipal council would continue functioning and that the resignation of six would not cause it to collapse.