Friday, October 14, 2005

The Faces of Change: A Paradigm Shift

To all of those who are not noticing the change in Lebanon. What is happening?

I've been wanting to write a post since yesterday morning, but I got swamped with work; so here's my piece of mind:

We are starting to see the first glimpses of change in Lebanon, despite the turmoil, the silent unrest, and the wait-and-see attitude everyone is taking.

First, weren't you all shocked to read/hear what our Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said about his meeting with U.S. State Department official David Welch? It was for the first time a pretty amicable press conference, especially coming from a minister who is backed and blessed by Hizbullah and Amal. He started the press conference by saying, "We did not disagree on any point with the Americans." Then he extolled Lebanon's relationship with the U.S., historically and strategically. I was amazed and couldn't believe what I was hearing. I guess for the first time, we are truely listening to the real Lebanese foreign policy line.

Second, today in the news President Lahoud stated (of course through his favorite mouthpiece, former Minister Wadih Khazen) that he has full confidence in PM Seniora's wisdom to handle the Palestinian security issue. Wow! Again, another exclamation. PM Seniora indeed has proven to all of us his wisdom: he not only has broken the ice with Lahoud and defied all odds and sat on one table with him to hash out pertinent issues away from political polarization and for the sake of Lebanon's interest, but he also has handled the recent Syrian and Palestinian issues in such a surprising way. He has disproved many who said that Seniora and his Cabinet cannot accomplish anything with Lahoud's presence.

It has been always understood that the Sunni Prime Minister in our recent history is an advocate of everything Arab, especially on the issues of the Syrian involvement/tutelage and the Palestinian question, of course to the resentment of the Christians. This time around, he not only has put a limit to and drew a thick red line on the Palestinian militancy/threats on Lebanese soil, but he also has outstandingly spoke for all Lebanese when he snubbed Syrian threats towards him and Lebanon. He said to the press, "I have never heard of the Tichrine newspaper (official Syrian newspaper) and have never read it." And then when asked what his thoughts were regarding Kanaan's suicide, he simply said, "Allah Yirhamoo" (May he rest in peace). And this is why we see, and I have the feeling, that PM Seniora has gotten the buy-in from most Lebanese (of course, but for a number of groups, especially the Hizbullah/Amal faction).

One more striking note was the scene in the Parliament two days ago during the government accountability session. For the first time we see Ministers and the Prime Minister explaining and justifying to Parliament (and the public) their policies and decisions pertaining to the issues that MPs were inquiring about. For the first time, we see a Prime Minister standing in front of everyone explaining in details and figures the consequences and impacts of this or that policy move (such as subsidies, impact on budget, etc.)

MPs might not have been satisfied with the Ministers' responses, but we should at least note that yes there has been a paradigm shift, a holistic change in the way things are done. Even House Speaker Nabih Berri, I felt at least, was jealous of such transparency and dynamism that he tampered with the agreed protocol letting MPs ask questions on the spot, as opposed to submitting their inquiries ahead of time to the cabinet to prepare its response adequately. And he also cut the session short, 1.5 hours.

We cannot deny it; Lebanon is on the right track. Ministers are starting to reflect a true Lebanese policy line and the Parliament is reflecting more of what the poeple want to know and has regained its stance as an equal partner with the Executive branch.

Thanks to FPM and Aoun's parliamentary bloc for pushing forth the government accountability demand and thanks to PM Seniora for accepting this request whole-heartedly and for complying with it. What we need right now is a President who can show us a new face for this new and emerging independent Lebanon.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am really happy and grateful for the Israeli withdrawal, but Hezbollah is getting on my nerves these days. It's spoiling the political capital that it earned through the blood of its fighters.

What happened to this Shia national gathering that was created in May?

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of Mr. Seniora. I go further and say in Lebanon's recent history he is an exception. I hope that his performance will set a standard for other politicians. It is about time they exercise their responsibilities in a business like attitude towards the affair of the state and steer away from the tribal, feodal way of doing politics. It is about time they put the interest of the state and of the people before their personal vendetta.
Hopefully this change you described becomes a norm in Lebanese politics and necessary legislations are defined to set the relationships and responsibilities of various authorities of the political system. I am referring here to Mr Seniora comment on division of authorities. I believe without a clear definition and separation of authorities there will always be the risk of this deadlock that Lebanese politis experienced in the last a few years. Let's be hopefull for the future.

Ghassan said...

I agree with what you have posted and also with the two comments below with one exception that I will leave to the end of comment.

It is the first that we have a kind of separation between the three branches of government (not complete but a good start). It is the first time that we have MPs and ministers speaking freely and not afraid of any consequences. The Syrians are not waiting outside and also the factions are settling their differences by talking not by guns!

Regarding the Palestinians issue, I think Mr. Seniora handled it very good for several reasons. One, the situation is different. The Palestinians don’t need guns outside the camps (one day they must give them up). Fighting Israel? They can’t even approach its border because the south is Hizbullah land now! Second, the group of Palestinians who started showing off their muscles don’t have the support of the Palestinians in Lebanon (I am talking about the weapons outside the camps) and neither the Sunni’s support. The Sunni had had enough of the Palestinians childish acts and disrespect of Lebanese sovereignty and its government. The Sunni is the only group who never stopped supporting the Palestinians since they came to Lebanon. Christians despise them (it was the start of the civil war) and the Shiites don’t like them. They just give them lip service but deep inside they don’t like the Palestinians. I just want to remind the readers of the flowers and rice that were thrown on the Israeli Army when it invaded Lebanon and also of the Camps War when the camps were surrounded by Amal (Shiite) and Hizbullah did nothing to stop the killing of the Palestinians.

It is the first time that we have a strong (although not well equipped), united, and does not get involved in the dirt of politics and politicians military forces! Thanks to the General Suleiman!

I am VERY optimistic about Lebanon and look forward to go again there next year (I never visited Lebanon two years in a row).

The thing that I don’t agree with you is giving credit only to the “FPM and Aoun's parliamentary bloc for pushing forth the government accountability demand”. I think they deserve credit but not all the credit. We, Lebanese, need the cooperation of all sects to build an independent, sovereign, free Lebanon. May God Bless Lebanon!

Doha said...

Ghassan,

I do think that FPM did push particularly for the issue of government accountability this time around, at least during the elections. That's why I'm giving them credit. Of course, I didn't give ALL the credit, because many of us out there have had this demand as well and perhaps have pushed for it in one way or another.

Anyways, what's important is that this accountability demand did not fall on deaf ears and was incorporated into the cabinet's procedures.

What's really striking here is how the Opposition (FPM, Aoun's parliamentary bloc) is contributing in a way in moving the country forward.

And of course it's a choice that politicians and leaders make, to either criticize constructively with the hope of building anew or to tear down and rant for personal reasons such as vendettas and ego.

Raja said...

doha,

i also noticed what you articulated on your post, and am pretty excited about it. Watching a sincere parliamentary discourse that was not hollow because everyone participating in it knew that decisions were made elsewhere is one of the best tangible outcomes from the Syrian withdrawal.

Seriously, forget all of the problems that we face as a country and society; the sight of parliamentarians and government officials hashing things out in Parliament in a civil and relatively educated manner makes me very pleased and proud. Where else in our God forsaken region can you witness a similar process?

Anyways, lets not get too giddy! We need to start seeing economic rewards pretty soon, as well as a cessation of terrorist acts. Unless these two developments materialize, those positive political steps that were mentioned in this post will simply fizzle away.

acrobat said...

i agree that saniora has shown himself a proper statesman and provided surprising manoeuverability.
but i will only believe in a paradigm shift when i see him throwing out that ridiculous jumblatt out of his bloc. can you believe his speech over ghazi kannaan!?!? thanking him for the old days and thanking him for "ending the tamarrud" of aoun in 1990! this guy is still living in the past, and he is a dangerous trojan horse to any change.

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JoseyWales said...

Debate is great and very useful of course.

It helps bring out light (solutions) and reduces demagogy and idiocy.

We need more of it in parliament but also elsewhere. The press needs to get in on this more seriously (see my latest post on Joumblatt and his incoherent destructive statements)