Ruffians’ paradise

FILE - Internal Security Forces, backed by the Lebanese army in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

The security incidents across the capital Monday evening were a blatant reflection of the widespread lack of respect for the authorities. This impotence has been openly admitted to by these same institutions, as Interior Minister Marwan Charbel promised this week to launch a crackdown for a month starting Wednesday.

This laxity has led to some 2,000 outstanding arrest warrants, with many individuals having several dozen against them. When the stage is reached where one individual can have some 50 arrest warrants against his name, and not fear retribution, there is something very wrong with the system.

It is the absence of executive decision-making that has led to this lacuna of control, and it must be addressed immediately if the situation is to be rectified – for a departure from a time where people can literally get away with murder.

In a country as small as Lebanon, it is not easy for people to disappear. And often, the addresses of those with outstanding arrest warrants are known by the authorities: The lack of action is not due to a lack of ability on the part of the Army or the Internal Security Forces, it is due to intervention somewhere along the line, whether that intervention is motivated by tribal, sectarian, religious or political ties.

Parties across the political divide claim that they no longer want to offer protection to any citizen. It remains to be seen whether this reality will transpire, as this has been promised before.

Charbel’s crackdown is no reinvention of the wheel; it is merely the authorities doing their job. But for it to succeed, the government will have to ask the authorities to implement the rule of law. The laws are there, they are just being ignored.

The overwhelming majority of Lebanese want to live in peace. They want an end to the shootings, the kidnappings, the road blocks and the tire burning. They want to be able to go to work in the morning, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to make it safely home that evening. They want to share what is beautiful in this country, to welcome tourists. They want these echoes of a pre-1975 atmosphere to vanish. There is no legitimate excuse for the authorities not to provide all of this.

If any political party attempts to impede this security clampdown in any way, let it be known. It must be exposed, for the Lebanese have had enough. Underpinning all of this is the haphazard possession of arms among individuals of every political affiliation. Serious efforts to confront this fact must be made.

This government has failed in every area. And the first people to have realized this were those within the Cabinet themselves. Any failure now to tie up the security crisis may just prove the final straw in its own undoing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2012, on page 7.




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