Crime on the rise

Policemen arrive at the site of an armed robbery outside a branch of Societe Generale de Banque au Liban in Kfar Shima, south of Beirut, Tuesday, July 3, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Another day, another spate of robberies and shootings in Lebanon – with the odd kidnapping and road blocking thrown in – as the authorities and government appear increasingly incapable of dealing with the security situation in the country.

The Lebanese may be divided over many issues but they are united by one thing: violence. No group is immune. Over the last few days both a sheikh and a monk have been murdered. Robberies, carjackings and kidnappings have targeted Lebanese of all backgrounds and religions.

The authorities publish a monthly list of how many people have been arrested each month, but as the situation continues to deteriorate this no longer suffices. Information on just how many crimes are committed, and how many go unpunished, should be released.

Citizens deserve to be treated with honesty and respect, and have a right to know about just how bad the situation is. This apparent tacit decision, at the highest levels, to act as if security is under control is not fooling anyone.

All this talk of Lebanon being a safe haven in the midst of a tumultuous Arab Spring, whether for nationals or foreigners, will no longer do.

When it seems that the airport road is blocked with burning tires more often than not, and when every other day it appears that yet another country has issued a travel warning against Lebanon, it is time to face facts.

No matter how much the Tourism Ministry tries to insist otherwise, the events of recent months have done untold damage to Lebanon’s reputation. But trying to cover this up, or deny the state of affairs, is not helpful either.

When long-standing fears about reliable water or electricity supplies seem quaint worries of yesteryear, because people are legitimately more concerned with getting to work and home again at the end of the day without encountering a road block or becoming the victim of a theft, then it is time for the government to take stock.

And this must happen immediately; otherwise the government risks losing the complete respect of its populace, rather than just the majority. This Cabinet has already been given countless chances to redeem itself. Admittedly Lebanon occupies a unique political-geographic position, but the government has yet to face up to the challenges this poses.

Giving the Lebanese false hope and pretending the situation is under control with gimmicks such as “security month” are no longer enough.

And it follows logically that when one admits such failings, that one recognizes it is time to quit. Likewise this government perhaps should now do just that. It is unlikely that whoever comes next could do a worse job.

To much of the world, Lebanon now seems like a failing state. It seems the only solid things that remain are the banking system and Army. Things have got to change before even those are in jeopardy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 28, 2012, on page 7.




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