Lebanon News

March 14 raps Cabinet over Hezbollah’s telecoms network

BEIRUT: The March 8-led government is drawing criticism from members of the March 14 coalition following the alleged attempt by Hezbollah to install a private telecoms network in the Baabda town of Tarshish.

Days after Tarshish residents and officials from the town’s municipality allegedly prevented Hezbollah’s personnel from expanding its telecoms network, several MPs lashed out at the government, accusing it of neglecting the issue.

Metn MP Sami Gemayel criticized a number of ministers for being unaware of the controversy, despite the media’s coverage of the matter.

“The cables that were used in the work in Tarshish belong to Hezbollah’s private telecoms network, which aims to connect different regions in the country from the Bekaa to Mount Lebanon and Beirut to south Lebanon,” said Gemayel.

Gemayel also said that town residents have expressed fear that Tarshish is being placed in a confrontation with a non-state entity that is exploiting the absence of state authority.

Gaby Semaan, the mayor of Tarshish, said over the weekend that Hezbollah members tried to install 4 kilometers of cable in the town, connecting it to a hilltop telecom post in the Kefarselouan area.

In a letter to the Parliament speaker’s office Monday, Gemayel questioned the government on the nature of the work Hezbollah is carrying out in Tarshish.

“Does a non-state organization have the right to use public property and install a private telecoms network?” asked Gemayel.

Gemayel directed the questions to Telecommunications, Public Works, Energy, Interior and Defense Ministries.

In a statement over the weekend, Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui said it is illegal to use state property for any other purposes.

“It is illegal for any party or a ministry to use the Telecommunication Ministry’s networks as a base for its own private networks,” said Sehnaoui.

No ministry has directly commented yet on the incident but parliament’s bylaws require government officials to respond to MPs’ questions. According to Parliament’s Article 124, a minister must answer all questions within 20 days from the date an inquiry.

“Who protects the residents of Tarshish from such violations and threats? What are the measures that the government will take to stop the installation of private networks?” Gemayel asked the government, also warning that inaction would leave the residents in a state of confrontation with Hezbollah.

In a statement Monday, the Zahle parliamentary bloc condemned Hezbollah’s attempt to install its private telecoms network in Tarshish.

“Hezbollah’s military network in Tarshish and other parts of Lebanon undermine the state’s authority,” said the bloc in a statement.

Zahle MP Elie Marouni called the events “unfortunate,” adding that they were insulting to state sovereignty.

“This is not only a provocation of Tarshish’s residents, it also constitutes a danger to the people in the town during any future Israeli aggression,” Marouni told The Daily Star.

“Placing such a private network in the town would allow Hezbollah to tap into people’s communications and would make the town a target for Israel,” said Marouni.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 25, 2011, on page 3.




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