Statement from the movement: Citizens in a state

Beirut on 29/01/2021

The scene of clashes in Tripoli and other parts of Lebanon in recent days is very painful and very disturbing.

Painful, because the inhabitants of the city that has become the poorest along the Mediterranean coast are crying their pain, like the rest of their fellow citizens, in the face of an ineffective and failing authority, whose incompetence and dysfunction have reached a level of unhinged criminality. They cry out their pain, their hunger and their anger with the venom of a free rebel.

Nonetheless, it is disturbing, because the system of sectarian leaders, that is responsible for paving the path of collapse that we are witnessing, rejoices in the scene of confrontation, because it sees in violence the solution to difficult issues, even if the devastation is greater and the victims are more numerous.

We, the movement of citizens in a state, based on our clear maxim that politics means being responsible, we declare:

  1. This new chapter in the street, despite starting from the deep and realistic suffering of the people, its consequences and the risks of its repercussions, creates the necessary terrain for the violence that we have warned of since the beginning of the uprising, which can begin spontaneously, and of which nobody knows how it will develop or when it will end, and who benefits from it, domestically, but also abroad.
  2. Treating these confrontations simply as a “foreign conspiracy” and confronting them with repression is also an act of assertive criminality, that deliberately institute an internal war on sectarian bases and regional groupings that will accelerate the destruction of society as a whole and put the poor face to face with the poor and the desperate face to face with the desperate.
  3. Any presence in the street, whether as a sign of protest, confrontation, disobedience or any other form, unless it is associated with a clear and declared political project, and despite its sincere intentions, offers the means for the owners of actual projects, both domestically and abroad. Therefore, we invite Lebanese men and women to be present in the streets but under a clear political project. It is the responsibility of the serious political forces, that are, the responsible forces, to present their proposals and choices, and to seek to gather the people around them, not to shape and exploit the people’s innocent expression of pain and anger. In this very delicate circumstance, where confrontations on the ground occupy traditional media and social networks, we are confronted with a new, seemingly absurd and intrinsically dangerous scene: the 2021 budget.

The absurd thing in this scene is that the “Finance Minister” in the caretaker government, four months after the constitutional deadline has passed, proposes a budget project for a country from another planet, in which one dollar (USD) equals 1,500 Lebanese pounds, and tax revenues higher than last year’s revenues, as if there is no financial crisis, and no economic atrophy as a result of the local crisis and the Corona epidemic, nor a cessation of paying the public debt (that practically meant declaring the bankruptcy of the Lebanese state), nothing of all this … Business continues, and “everything is fine.”

What is dangerous, and more importantly, is the attempt to consecrate the legal structure to plunder the future of this society, with measures that seem to be technical in appearance, but whose essence is criminal, we mention two of them as an example, for their importance:

  1. Destroying the future of the Public Administration, by modifying the retirement system for public sector employees and depriving them from the last guarantees that help attract skills to the public service, such as the pension and the health coverage, replacing them with an end-of-service compensation in a currency whose value is diminishing, instead of generalizing the retirement system for all workers and health coverage for all citizens.
  2. Opening the door for commercial institutions (banks of course, but also Solidere and others…) to revalue their assets in Lebanese pounds, after their collapse, in exchange for the payment of a symbolic tax closer to a total exemption, which means in practice floating these institutions and falsifying the fact of their bankruptcy with accounting tricks that make them not bankrupt, even if the depositors’ money gets lost, rather than forcing the commercial institutions owners to cover the losses with their own funds.

This system of sectarian parties, where the parties are in crisis, dysfunctional, hostage to their domestic groups and the outside, and powerless, are preparing for two possibilities: internal conflict if the outside does not arrange a settlement that they follow, and the anticipation of the settlement if it occurs to come at the expense of the people and not at their expense. Without any foreign arrangement, they cover their incompetence by organizing the confrontation between the people starting with the poor among them. With an external arrangement or waiting for it, they steal the hopes and the money of the people.

The only matter that remains today is the tipping of the power balance in favor of a political system that establishes a state in Lebanon, a civil state, confident in its legitimacy, that deals with the society as it is, although the inheritance is accursed. And deals with the outside based on the knowledge and understanding of the outside’s interests and exploitive ambitions, so that the state aligns itself with the interests of the Lebanese people and relies on their abilities, all of them, to be citizens in their country.