DIMAN, Lebanon: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai accused Lebanese politicians Wednesday of serving foreign powers, saying that they lacked independence to make their own political decisions. The patriarch also renewed his call for declaring Lebanon a neutral country to steer clear of regional or international alliances.
“They [Lebanese politicians] take orders from abroad. All of them take orders and no one can decide on his own. Each one of them has his own people to answer to,” Rai said during a meeting with reporters at the Maronite patriarch’s summer residence in the Bsharri town of Diman.
He stressed that national unity and the return of Lebanese in the diaspora were the key to the country’s salvation.
“Lebanon is a country that is its own entity and its value among all world states. Therefore, loyalty to Lebanon is required in the first place. Lebanon needs to be friendly with all states. We do not have any interest in being hostile to any state,” Rai said.
By virtue of its social, geographic and historical composition, Rai said “Lebanon is open to all the world without being subservient to anyone.”
“Here lies Lebanon’s value. We hope that Lebanon will be declared a neutral country whereby it does not get involved in the policy of regional or international axes, but is committed to all Arab and also international issues,” the patriarch added.
Noting that Lebanon has been known for its democratic system, public freedoms and religious coexistence, Rai said Lebanon should be involved in regional issues, while staying away from regional entanglements.
“This is why the country is paralyzed – because it has been linked to [foreign] alliances. Lebanon must play its leading role in the Arab environment, especially since the Arabs say that they need Lebanon.”
Referring to Arab and foreign countries vying for influence in Lebanon, Rai said: “We respect everyone and establish friendships with them. But we shouldn’t be subservient to anyone, so that he can decide for us our own fate. [Foreign] states work to serve their interests and Lebanon must work to serve its interests.”
He lamented decisions by some Arab Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain – to advise their nationals against traveling to Lebanon because of the unstable security situation following a series of deadly clashes in the north and Beirut.
“This summer the Arab world is boiling while our doors are closed to Arab tourism. Instead of Lebanon enjoying security and peace and serving as a location for tourists, we cut off roads, burn tires and set up sand barricades,” Rai said.
He added that such a situation would discourage expatriates and foreign tourists from visiting to spend the summer here, criticizing the political cover enjoyed by protesters who blocked roads with burning tires.
“The Lebanese must unite and declare their allegiance to the state. No one has the right to impose his opinion on the other,” Rai said. “We live in a democratic country and we will not accept dictatorship.”
Rai said those who have carried out political assassinations since 1975 have not been arrested because they were protected by “political cover.”
Asked to comment on the return of the phenomenon of political assassinations following last week’s abortive attempt to kill Batroun MP Butros Harb, Rai said: “This is the result of the absence of loyalty to the state and the proliferation of arms with large quantities everywhere held by the Palestinians, Hezbollah, parties, militias and people.”
“The question is: who is responsible for this country? A citizen leaves his home and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to return.
“Did we ever find out who assassinated those who were assassinated in the past? Since 1975, has anyone learned who assassinated them? The reason is that all those who carried out the assassinations enjoyed political cover,” he said. “Therefore, we have to return to the state rather than to parties, sects, communities or leaders.”
Harb, a leading March 14 official, was the target of an assassination attempt last week following the discovery of explosive detonators on the ceiling of the elevator in a Badaro building that houses his law office.
In April, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea escaped sniper fire at his residence in Maarab. Last month, news emerged that former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had received warnings from regional and international parties that he may be the target of an assassination attempt. Metn MP Sami Gemayel, from the Kataeb Party, was advised by security sources in February to take precautions against a potential assassination attempt.
Rai said a committee formed by Bkirki from the March 8 and March 14 coalitions was still trying to reach an agreement on an election law. He said that although Christian MPs from March 8 and March 14 blocs last year supported the Orthodox Gathering’s electoral proposal which would allow each sect to elect its own MPs based on a nationwide district, they did not adopt it.
“The [Bkirki] committee is still continuing its work to form a new idea. Time is running out. We have the interior minister’s draft law. They [the government] eventually will have to find an [election] law that satisfies everyone,” Rai said.