Lebanon News

Protesters rally at Jiyyeh plant over severe power rationing

The protesters gathered outside the Ogero headquarters to voice their opposition to plans to privatize the company.

BEIRUT: Dozens of people headed to the Jiyyeh power plant Friday, on the 58th day of the nationwide uprising, to protest the lack of consistent electricity supplies and the air pollution emitted from the facility’s smokestacks. The protesters, chanting the famous “hela ho” ending with the words “where’s the electricity, handsome?” blocked the main highway in Jiyyeh with burning tires later Friday.

Protesters from the nearby town of Barja said that they had only been receiving two hours of state-provided electricity in recent days.

Lebanon’s electricity sector is hugely inefficient almost 34 percent of electricity is lost via technical losses in the grid and nontechnical losses such as theft, according to the Energy Ministry.

In Beirut there is generally state-provided power for 21 hours per day, but this can sink to as little as 10 hours a day in other areas of the country, leaving residents to rely on diesel-powered generators.

Protesters tried to enter the Jiyyeh power plant Friday evening, but were prevented from doing so by the security forces. At least one person was injured in ensuing scuffles.

Meanwhyile, state-run telecoms company Ogero has opened an internal investigation into Friday’s clashes between protesters and employees at the company’s headquarters.

A group of protesters stormed the Ogero headquarters in Bir Hasan Friday morning, chanting against the company’s head Imad Kreidieh. A violent altercation with employees ensued. Videos circulating on social media appeared to show employees and security at Ogero beating and kicking protesters.

Demonstrators were protesting a government proposal to privatize Ogero and the telecommunications sector more widely. They have said they will be pursuing legal charges.

Ogero’s media spokesperson, Karim al-Rifai, issued a statement saying the company’s administration “regrets” the incident and would open an internal investigation.

“We regret that things have reached this point, as these workers are serving the Lebanese people,” he said, adding that Kreidieh had called on Ogero staff to treat demonstrators with respect.

On Friday morning, protesters blocked a main highway in Jal al-Dib, north of Beirut, and clashed with soldiers from the Lebanese Army.

A video circulating on social media showed four soldiers pushing a man to the ground after the Army reopened the road, kicking him as cars passed by. In another video an officer is seen attempting to stop the person filming.

The Army did not respond to requests for comment on the incident.

At least six people were detained and later released at around 10 a.m., after their friends and families protested outside the Sarba barracks.

The state-run National News Agency identified the detainees as Carl Karam, Carl Ghaleb, Youssef Bou Sleiman, Joseph Asmar, Joseph Ibrahim and Wael Khaddaj.

In Tripoli, a demonstration was held outside the Tripoli Serail and protesters demanded the resignation of North Lebanon Gov. Ramzi Nohra, accusing him of corruption.

“We will not leave the streets until we remove Nohra. He is corrupt and did not do anything for the city,” one protester said.

Security forces have consistently deployed to prevent protesters from blocking main roads since nationwide protests against the ruling class began on Oct. 17.

They have at times, however, been criticized for failing to protect protesters from violent attacks by partisan supporters.

Lebanon has been without an active government since Saad Hariri’s resignation as prime minister on Oct. 29.

Protesters have demanded the formation of a technocratic government to address the country’s dire economic situation. Political parties, however, continue to squabble over the shape of the new government as the country’s financial situation worsens.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 14, 2019, on page 2.

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