On the eve of Lebanon's 78th Independence Day, President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, delivered the following address to the nation:
My fellow Lebanese ladies and gentlemen,
Here comes Lebanon’s seventy-eighth Independence Day, and the nation is still drowning in a sea of successive crises that prevent us from celebrating joyfully, but do not keep us from living its meanings.
Lebanon and the Lebanese have paid a heavy price to turn Independence from a mere commemoration to a festive occasion, and it is the right - rather the duty - of all of us to hold on to it and seek to fortify it.
For the State, Independence means free decision and the protection of the nation’s interest while preserving the best relations with all States.
As for the citizens, independence means empowered and trustworthy State institutions that protect them and ensure their rights while they ensure in turn their obligations towards these institutions.
This independence needs a daily strife to preserve it and recover what we have lost, to make a clean break with an exhausting reality against which our nation and our people are struggling. It also requires an honest cooperation between all components of the nation, groups and individuals alike. As for the political exploitation of crises, it will only generate further deterioration and fragmentation.
My fellow Lebanese,
Forty percent of this presidential term passed without a government, because the formation processes were stalled by artificial obstacles and clashes, which delayed treatments and exacerbated crises.
After a strenuous gestation, and under pressing circumstances, the “Together for the Rescue” government saw the light, with tremendous and thorny challenges ahead: an unprecedented financial and monetary crisis, a stifling livelihood and sanitary crisis, an economic atrophy and an increase in unemployment, migration and poverty rates. The cabinet has committed to a realistic program that puts Lebanon on the path out of the tunnel, and as soon as it started to grope its way, it stopped due to a new crisis in which the judiciary, security and politics got mixed up.
The exit from the present crisis is not impossible, it was provided to us by the Constitution, specifically paragraph “e” of its preamble, which stipulates that the Lebanese system is based on the “separation of powers” principle. Shall we all abide by the ceiling of the Constitution and "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's", in order for the Government to resume its duties under these pressing circumstances? Or shall we allow the noose to be further tightened around our parents and children, threatening their livelihood or security? Are we really aware of the extent of harm caused to our society by the paralysis of the government?
The current situation must not go on.
Another crisis has emerged with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of Gulf States, troubling the relations between them and Lebanon, and leading to negative repercussions at many levels, including the governmental reality. Here, I wish to reiterate Lebanon’s keenness on establishing the best relations with the brotherly Arab States, in particular the Gulf countries, based on the need to draw a line between the positions of the Lebanese State and the possible statements of some individuals and groups, especially that the democratic regime in Lebanon guarantees freedom of opinion and speech. I am pursuing my endeavors to solve this emerging crisis, and I do hope a solution is reached soon.
My fellow citizens,
You want accountability. You want to see those who wreaked havoc in the country and those who embezzled or squandered your funds pay for their abuses, and you always ask the obvious question: “why has no one been put behind bars yet?”
No one has been put behind bars yet because accountability belongs to the Judiciary, and everything else is mere media accusations that may be right or wrong, and no one can be incarcerated without a judge’s sentence.
I therefore address you, Judges of Lebanon,
Accusations are numerous and so are the accused. Everyone has made themselves judges, prosecutors and attorneys; everyone accuses and everyone is accused. This mess of accusations which threatens now, in some of its instances, stability and even civil peace, would not have happened if our Judiciary had not failed to do its job, if it had been kept off limits for politicians and non-politicians, and if its independence had been consolidated by a law that has not yet seen the light.
Today, the Judiciary can still take the lead, if it manages to dissociate itself from interference and abide by legal provisions that govern the work and independence of the judicial branch and correct any infringements that may obstruct its performance.
Let everyone keep in mind, politicians, spiritual leaders and judges alike, that if the Judiciary is fine, the nation is fine.
My fellow Lebanese,
My message to you today is: soon, you shall have the opportunity to change. Turn the ballot box into a weapon against corruption, the corrupt and those who were brought up in their school. It has been proven, throughout the past thirty years, that they are deeply rooted and shielded with all sorts of redlines.
This is your chance and the nation’s real chance. Do not allow them to return with new masks and imported clothes, supported by political finance that will bring you no good or favor, but will rather sabotage the election’s credibility and try to control key positions by filling them with people who are pliant to foreign will.
Corruption is entrenched indeed in all junctions of the State; and its lords seek, jointly and severally, to undermine any rescue attempt. What has happened and is still happening with the forensic audit in the accounts of the Central bank bears testimony to that. Indeed, this self-evident procedure which marks the beginning of any reform process in the various State agencies and which aims at unveiling the reasons behind the collapse and defining responsibilities to pave the way for accountability and recovery of rights, has been subject to all sorts of obstacles, way before it had been adopted at the Council of Ministers and till the moment; and we were untying the knots consecutively, one after another…
I call on you to watch vigilantly and spot the blockers once masks have fallen off: it is the same corrupt establishment, and you will soon have an opportunity to deter it. Don’t waste this opportunity!
My fellow Lebanese,
Internal concerns, no matter how numerous, cannot make us forget about the real confrontation to defend our sovereignty, liberate our remaining occupied territories, and protect our rights in our waters. Our first choice has been and still is to engage in indirect negotiations for the demarcation of our Southern maritime borders, knowing that positive signals have begun to emerge to reach an agreement that guarantees Lebanon’s interest and sovereignty over its waters and natural resources, thus leading to the resumption of the oil and gas exploration operation.
My fellow soldiers,
You come from this people and I am one of you. I know well the situation of the institution and the repercussions of the economic and livelihood crisis on it, but I am confident that no matter how tough the crisis gets, it cannot nail your upbringing and your doctrine, and you shall keep shouldering the responsibility vested in you no matter how heavy it may be.
Your role today and every day is to preserve security and stability, and I have faith that you have been and shall always remain the security valve and the object of confidence of your fellow citizens.
My fellow Lebanese,
Do not let despair sneak into your hearts. I share the scale of your suffering and I am sparing no effort to mitigate it. I am convinced that the beginning of the solution of today’s crisis lies in the cooperation with international institutions, and its preparation has started indeed. As the input of these institutions is organized, the practical phase begins, marking the actual beginning of the way out of the crisis.
Restore your confidence in your State and its institutions, because there is no alternative for them, and those who bet on their fall and rejoice about it are slaughtering the nation and its people.
Beware of extremism and the rejection of the other.
Beware of the rhetoric of hatred which becomes inflammatory with the approach of electoral seasons.
Beware of the propaganda conducted by some media to sow division and undermine mutual trust between you.
Remember that you are the children of one nation, and that after the closure of ballot boxes you will go back to living together.
You must remain as one united coherent entity to work for the rescue of Lebanon.
My fellow Lebanese,
On the eve of Independence Day, and in my last address to you on this occasion, may your faith in your country be greater than any skepticism, because this country has faced throughout its history many events and calamities, but it got out of them sound; and it must embrace, once more, the path of recovery no matter how tough hardships can get.
Long live Lebanon!"
Source: National News Agency