BEIRUT

Editorial

Law and disorder

FILE - Members of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

The first day of a so-called “security month” crackdown on various types of illegalities in Lebanon was largely overshadowed by huge doses of insecurity in several parts of the country.

While some policeman were busy handing out fines to drivers who failed to wear seat belts or had tinted windows, the depressing fact is that blocked roads and gatherings of angry people intending to cause disorder were the watchword of the day.

The interior minister was busy taking a public tour of Greater Beirut, promising that the efforts of the Internal Security Forces, the army and General Security did not represent a one-time campaign, but a constant effort.

However, the events of the day were far too rapid for Minister Marwan Charbel to keep pace with.

A roughly 24-hour period saw two shootouts between angry members of clans in the southern suburbs of Beirut, and one incident reportedly involved a dispute over loyalties to football teams. Meanwhile, the Justice Palace in Baabda saw a tense standoff between the police and outraged inmates, angry because they form the majority of the prison population – those who have yet to stand trial.

The arrest of a suspect in the attack on Al-Jadeed television earlier in the week continued to have reverberations, as those angered by the arrest made several moves to block roads in the capital.

Security officials gathered at Baabda Palace to discuss the situation and make solemn pronouncements that the “closure of the airport road is no longer permitted” – hours later, in the city of Sidon, supporters of a Salafist preacher blocked the northern and southern entrances to the city to protest against Hezbollah’s arms.

Rather than use burning tires, the supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir staged a mass lie-down, perhaps in a bid to avoid provoking the authorities.

The end result is this: the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati failed to do its homework before announcing its ambitious “security crackdown.”

Certain groups that are represented in the government have failed to lay down the law to their supporters, and the public continues to hear news bulletins talking about which road has suddenly became unsafe.

The simple fact is that authorities fail to follow through and arrest trouble-makers, who obviously feel they enjoy the political support to act the way they do.

Charbel and other leading government officials have taken to repeating the mantra that there is “no political cover” for what is going on, but the opposite is obviously the case. Too many people will feel, until further notice, that they do have this right – until the authorities actually crack down and detain the people behind all the incidents that continue to plague the reputation of Lebanon as a place where on any given day, citizens have the right to take the law into their own hands.

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

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