BEIRUT: The March 14 movement will continue to work toward the “true independence” of Lebanon, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora vowed Sunday during the annual commemoration of the group’s founding at an event where activists, more than political figures, took center stage.
“After I listened to the speeches of the March 14 youth, I am confident that the March 14 movement will carry on with all of you until we reach true independence,” Siniora told the audience at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center in the Lebanese capital.
“March 14, this noble thought based on co-existence and other values ... we are holding on to it and we are holding on to defend freedom, independence and moderation,” he added.
“These are the values we believe in, with these young men and women, and we will hold onto them until we achieve the freedom we seek,” the head of the Future parliamentary bloc said.
Unlike previous editions, Siniora was the sole political figure to speak at the BIEL event, which instead featured a panel of activists, both young and old, who voiced the ideals of the movement and slammed the March 8 alliance which enjoys a majority of seats in the Lebanese government.
After opening the event with a tribute to the “Syrian people's revolution,” journalist Ali Hamadeh, a prominent figure in the opposition, said the March 14 date stood for the idea of a sovereign and independent Lebanon and said the coalition was the guarantor of a better future for Lebanon.
“We gather today to say, in the name of the martyrs and all the Lebanese, that March 14 is the protector of the country, its people and future,” he said.
The coalition was born when more than a million people rallied on March 14, 2005, in central Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square demanding the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon and shouting slogans in support of the country’s freedom, sovereignty and independence.
Over a dozen activists spoke at the ceremony, each voicing commitment to the principles of the nascent movement.
Some of the participants criticized attempts to divide the opposition group. Others said the opposition group needed to change.
“March 8 tried to distract us with thousands of pretexts ... they tried their best to bring us down,” activist Shirine Abdallah said.
“They [March 8] did not understand that we would not forget the commandment of martyr Samir Kassir: ‘despair is not a destiny,’” the activist said.
She warned however that unity was needed to overcome continued attempts to splinter the movement.
“Eight years have passed and despite all attempts to divide us, I tell you nothing can impede the idea of March 14 if we maintain our strength and solidarity,” she said.
Magaly al-Hajj, another activist who spoke at the event, said changes were needed in the movement.
“March 14 needs change and the entire scene in Lebanon needs change,” said Hajj, adding that Lebanese citizens had the right to live in a sovereign and independent state.
Hajj also praised the coalition for helping rid the country of Syrian’s dominating influence and blasted those supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, accusing them of standing in the way of progress.
But she said Assad’s “loyalists” would never succeed in defeating the movement.
Activist Elie Fawaz took on the subject of the weapons of Hezbollah, which heads the March 8 coalition and backs Assad.
He said the opposition would continue to demand the disarmament of the resistance group.
“It is difficult for Hezbollah to hand over its arms, but it is not impossible,” he said.
He also called for unity in Lebanon, saying the country could not cope with divisions.
“ Lebanon cannot bear divisions and we need to work hand in hand to build a better country,” he said.
George Droubi, for his part, said the March 14 had united the Lebanese and devoted itself to a civil state to resolve the country’s confessional politics.
“March 14 diagnosed the major disease in Lebanon, which is sectarianism, and it has also found the cure, which is the civil state,” said Droubi.
He said Lebanon’s salvation lay in the end to sectarianism.
“Independence and freedom can only be genuine if we get rid of the demons inside, if we free ourselves from the sectarian shackles dividing us,” he said.
Also addressing the audience at the complex, March 14 activist Lana Mansour pinned her hopes on the youth to make a change in the country.
“We, the youth, will be able to make a change and the future is ours,” Mansour said.