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Lebanon News

Severe electricity cuts give rise to protests across country

Protesters in Aley hold a sign bearing Bassil’s picture and reading “You have no solution – resign, resign, resign.” (The Daily Star Archive)

BEIRUT: Severe electricity cuts fueled several protests Friday as residents and lawmakers staged a sit-in in the mountain town of Aley and small groups of protesters blocked roads in the south of the country. Civil society groups and local officials from the districts of Aley and Upper Metn gathered near Aley’s Serail to protest severe power cuts and inadequate supplies of diesel in the region.

Aley MPs Akram Shehayeb, Henry Helou, Fadi Habr and Fouad Saad along with mayors, mukhtars and prominent figures from the area were on hand.

Shehayeb demanded that power cuts be applied fairly rather than targeting certain areas, highlighting the need for a “clear [electricity] distribution program.”

“This area has been completely deprived for a long time. We raised our voice today and this is part of a wider action that will take place on power cuts. We hope that people in charge will respond positively,” Shehayeb added.

The MP also decried the difficulty of securing diesel in “this cold weather.”

“Red diesel disappeared [from markets] when subsidies on it were lifted [Wednesday],” said Shehayeb. “But suddenly, over the same night, 8 million liters of red diesel in Tripoli’s refinery were distributed to [political] supporters and traders who made a gain of LL 2.5 billion at the expense of the treasury,” added Shehayeb.

Red diesel, which is often used for household heating, was subsidized by LL3,000 for 20 liters.

“Where is the transparency, change and reform when school students and people in hospitals suffer from severe cold weather in the mountain, and central and northern Bekaa?” he asked, in reference to the Free Patriotic Movement’s Change and Reform Parliamentary bloc. Energy Minister Jibran Bassil is the son-in-law of FPM head Michel Aoun.

But the Energy Ministry said in a statement that additional diesel fuel was distributed by the Tripoli refinery after bad weather diverted diesel fuel bound for the Zahrani refinery to Tripoli Wednesday.

“The administration asked all companies that receive diesel fuel from the Zahrani facilities to get their share from Tripoli and supply the south and Bekaa which depends on Zahrani [for diesel oil],” said a statement by the ministry.

A delegation from the protesters went to the office of Mansour Daw, Aley’s qaimaqam, to present a letter of their demands.

Later, young men briefly blocked Shweit-Aley international highway.

Separately, a number of young people mobilized a protest via Facebook to block the road connecting Zahrani to the rest of the south, but failed to attract any supporters.

Sources told The Daily Star that a politician who has strong influence in the area intervened to prevent the action, fearing that it might escalate.

Also in the south, dozens of young people from the village of Doueir in the qada of Nabatieh blocked the main road at the intersection leading to Doueir, Sharqieh and Ansar to protest electricity rationing in their village.

The group of comprised mostly of young men urged officials “to end the punishment imposed by Electricite du Liban; we get electricity for 45 minutes every 12 hours.”

Protesters also blocked the road near the border-crossing of Arida between Lebanon and Syria in protest of power rationing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 21, 2012, on page 3.

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