/ Independence Movement President and resigned MP Michel Moawad stressed that with every passing day, we become increasingly aware that we are dealing with a corrupt, criminal and conniving regime, indicating that bold confrontation is required, as is the avoidance of getting caught up in their antics and their marginal battles, which are meant to distract us in the first place. He also called for the formation of a bold, capable and united opposition front.
Moawad added: “Safeguarding dispositors’ money requires a capital control law that stops their ongoing depletion and serious efforts for forming a government, the implementation of serious reforms in order to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund, and lifting subsidies, which are funded through dispositors’ money. For anything else is part of internal battles aimed at tricking and distracting the Lebanese, thereby destroying the judiciary.”
During a press conference held in his residence in Baabda, Moawad said: “Today they are districting us with the framework for forming the government and waging battles amongst themselves to heighten sectarian sentiments. They are distracting us with politicized judicial soap operas meant to make us forget the fundamental goal, liberating the state and our institutions from the criminal authorities’ grip.
They have deceived us enough over the past thirty years. They convinced us that squander and corruption do not come at a cost, that they are services provided to the people. They had us believe that clientelist employment and the mismanagement of all matters, from oil to electricity, education, and garbage collection, is no big deal that these practices would not come back to haunt us. They tricked us into thinking that budget deficits and discrepancies between monetary and financial policy come free, that the Lebanese can thereby live without working by relying on high interest rates and subsidies. They peddled illusions that the country could go on without the development of economic plans and a productive economy. They also told us that handing the country’s sovereign decision-making power to a party or militia and Iran would be a source of strength, as though Iran is a charity and the statelet and the state can co-exist without costs. Of course, this all came under broad slogans that start with resistance and protecting Lebanon and end with battles in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Africa and South America. Smuggling becomes resistance, and those are not my words but those of a Hezbollah official. So, what has the result been? The result is that the Lebanese have paid the price, and today we are living through the collapse of our state, borders and country.
Yes, it is the Lebanese people paying the price, a steep price. We are paying the price with our life’s savings, changes to our lifestyle, and our transformation from a free people to biological beings begging for subsidence. We are paying the cost with our declining health and our dashed ambitions or even dreams. The last thing we needed is the Captagon smuggling controversy. The last thing Lebanese farmers- who are struggling to survive and live with dignity- need is to be shut out of foreign markets, and added costs are the last thing that legitimate exporters, transportation companies and all the service and industrial sectors associated with this file needed. We are talking about 270 million dollars in losses from sales to Gulf countries. The last thing we needed was having our reputation tarnished because of the Captagon’s arrival to the Gulf, Italy, Greece, and Europe. Everyone who works in the export sector in Lebanon is paying the price today. The Lebanese people are no longer granted visas, and the Lebanese passport has become worthless around the world. Despite all of this, they still raise slogans promoting a productive economy. Doesn’t this productive economy need markets and internal stability; what does it mean to have a productive economy?
He went on: “During my visit to the Saudi ambassador two days before the announcement, our discussion was centered on continuing a previous examination of the successful model presented by the René Moawad Foundation in partnership with the Netherlands for exporting agricultural products (potatoes, avocados, grapes, and cherries) to Europe. I had been working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to replicate the same experience with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, whereby Lebanese farmers would be able to export new types of agricultural products that we had been working on developing so that they comply with Gulf standards. After months of working to ensure this initiative’s success, I was surprised to hear that Kingdom had been preparing to ban Lebanese agricultural exports because the country is being used as a hub for exporting drugs to Saudi Arabia and other places. Compare our concerns with theirs; look at the state we now find ourselves in. The experience we went through at RMF is undergone every day in the private sector by every industrialist, businessperson, and successful Lebanese who could have succeeded abroad but has chosen resistance over leaving the country because of their faith in this country.
Moawad continued: Reform from within and relying on this clique’s ability to fix itself is an illusion. The battle begins with the retrieval of our decision-making and sovereignty; that is, taking back control of our foreign policy, as Lebanon’s transformation into an Iranian-controlled site is not merely a slogan. Let us be clear; the battle is not between those with and against Iran, those with and against Saudi Arabia, or those with or against the West or East. The fundamental question is who is with or against Lebanon. With all due respect to all of these countries, our foreign policy should be based on whom is with and against Lebanon, who is with Lebanon and the Lebanese’ interests. This not a theoretical question. If we want to stop the hemorrhage and overcome the collapse, we need a free, sovereign foreign policy based on four pillars. First, restoring our international friendships in order to allow for access to the support, we need to get past the collapse. For with all the plans put forward- despite all our differences over approaches- if we are unable to secure 30 billion dollars worth of investment in Lebanon over the next five years, we will not get past the collapse regardless of the number of solutions put forward. Second, protecting Lebanon from external aggression by ensuring that it has an Arab and international safety net. Third, ensuring sustainable internal stability that is not based on fleeting and circumstantial power balances, but the stability we need in order to guarantee that Lebanon is not turned into an arena where others fight their conflicts. Fourthly, ensuring that we have the requisites for economic growth: gaining access to markets, making agreements, and giving the Lebanese passport back its value. The last objective’s realization fortifies the position of Lebanese diaspora communities around the world; for if it were not for the $ 7 billion that the expatriates sent to Lebanon in 2020, we would find have found ourselves in a worse situation than Somalia, and we would not have had food security, so we have a duty to protect these communities in their countries.”
Following up on this point, Moawad asked: ““In what way do we benefit from being part of an axis; how do we benefit from hostility to the Arabs, the West, and the international community? How do we benefit from getting involved in battles in Iraq and Yemen or supporting Venezuela or any other country? How do we benefit from exporting militias, missiles and drugs? How do we establish a productive economy? How do we protect the Lebanese abroad?” He adds: “Restoring sovereignty also means restoring sovereignty over our borders, and this is the foundation of every state’s sovereignty. There are no friends or enemies. We have to protect our airborne, maritime and land borders in the south, east and north in the same way. Porous borders have a negative impact on the livelihood of every Lebanese citizen and thus hinders us from overcoming the current crisis. The best example of this the Lebanese’s deposits, which have been used to buy subsidized products that are smuggled across the borders, passing- protected- through every region in the country. Though cases have been exposed by the media, no one has been held accountable yet.
Moawad stressed the need for the Lebanese to realize that border control is among the reforms stipulated by the International Monetary Fund, adding that it hinges on a political decision, not a technical one. He asked: “The Ammonium Nitrate that killed us, displaced us, impoverished us, struck and destroyed our capital, was it not brought here as a consequence of our lack of control over our borders, which has allowed for the Port of Beirut to be used as an alternative port? Didn’t the shipment arrive because we have been turning a blind eye to smuggling and thus to the Nitrate’s delivery to Syria?”
Moawad affirmed that border demarcation also falls within the framework of sovereignty and porous borders, as tens of billions of dollars have been lost because of oil and gas and smuggling. He discussed the regime’s handling of the border demarcation negotiations, saying: “We started in the south with Israel without demanding all of our rights, and today they dragged us to a stage in which demanding our rights is equated with exiting the negotiations and realism demands that we waive our rights. As for the northern borders, the Syrian regime granted a block to a Russian company. This violation of our territorial integrity, which reminds us of the issue of the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills, after former US envoy Frederick Hof’s article claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in 2011, emphasized that these are Syrian territories, regardless of what had been said and whatever Hezbollah would do.
He added, “Ensuring state sovereignty also implies safeguarding internal sovereignty. Of course, if we want to carry out reforms, we must pass reform laws internally. Let us assume that the Holy Spirit descended upon the MPs that have yet to resign, and they ratified serious reform laws. How could we implement these laws without a sovereign state?” Reform, ratifying and implementing laws, and sovereignty require extending the Lebanese state’s authority over the entire nation’s territory. Sovereignty means the sovereignty of institutions that have become a commodity they exploit to serve their interests, of security services that have come to belong to one group or another, judicial bodies that have been tied to this or that faction, entire institutions that have become linked to individuals, most of all the judiciary. We cannot initiate the era of reforms and growth without an independent judiciary, which brings us back to the recent farcical series of events we saw recently. These developments constitute a dangerous coup against the constitution and our laws that could destroy what remains of the judiciary. Here, the battle is not between those with Judge Ghada Aoun and those against her. We refuse to get involved in such battles. Waging political battles through the judiciary, in any form, is rejected. It aims to distract the Lebanese, and we are against any political interference in the judiciary.
Continuing to discuss the link between smuggling and the depletion of depositors’ money, Moawad warned: “The Lebanese should be aware that this notion is misleading. For these actions to constitute “smuggling,” there must be a law that forbids them. These are the same people who had allowed big bankers and politicians to act with discretion at the expense of the Lebanese people by failing to introduce a capital controls law. For the record, between the eruption of the October 17 Revolution and November 17, at which point the banks had been closed, MP Michel Al-Daher and I contacted most of the substantial parliamentary blocs and demanded that they introduce a capital controls law to prevent depositors’ money from being smuggled once the banks reopened. We thus faced blocs that were either indifferent about the matter or opposed the law. These blocs continue to refuse to ratify the capital controls law to this day, and the law being put forward under the guise of implementing capital controls is a ruse to legalize smuggling. The main issue is that they refused to ratify the law and allowed banks to act at their discretion. As a result, there was no law to protect depositors, and those with influence were able to smuggle their money abroad under the protection of politicians who are now raising the slogan of protecting depositors’ money.
He added: safeguarding depositors’ money requires a capital controls law that stops the ongoing hemorrhage, serious efforts to form a government, the implementation of serious reforms that allow us to enter negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and ending the subsidies being funded through dispositors’ money. Anything else is part of internal battles aimed at tricking and distracting the Lebanese, thereby destroying the judiciary.
He concluded: “It is no longer acceptable that we pay the price for their corruption, conspiracies and criminality. The time has come to stand as one, and if we genuinely want an uprising, we need to form a clear, bold, and capable opposition front. Separately, we cannot realize our objectives. A clear project that presents an alternative to the mafia and the militia is required, as are people who are not distracted by details and are aware that the basis is the restoration of their state.