Rear View – Lebanon in review (6 December 2020)
2 Dec: Maritime Talks with Israel Stall
Lebanon wants maritime border talks with Israel to succeed despite difficulties that surfaced in the last session, President Michel Aoun told a U.S. mediator on Wednesday, after the latest round was postponed.
The negotiations between the old foes were launched in October, with delegations convening at a U.N. base to try to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.
Aoun told visiting U.S. official John Desrocher that Lebanon wanted the talks to succeed to strengthen stability in southern Lebanon and allow for oil and gas investment.
2 Dec: Salameh Tells Lebanese No More Dollars
In a major breaking story last week, the Governor of the Central Bank advised depositors that they would not be permitted to withdraw money from their accounts in dollars only in Lebanese Lira, the national currency. He failed to specify at what exchange rate the Bank was setting the value of the Dollar. The Bank is continuing with its policies to bail out the private banks who have incurred substantial losses during the economic crisis at the expense of the people.
In the previous few years, the banks declared billions of dollars in profits for their owners who shamefully feel no need to support their own banks so as to reduce pressure on the poverty-stricken population.
2 Dec: Judge Orders Ongoing Seizure of Salameh’s Properties
Judge Faisal Makki, head of the Enforcement Department in Beirut, has ruled to maintain the precautionary seizure on a number of properties owned by Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, according to “The People Want to Reform the System.”
Salameh has been under investigation since July when the matter was first heard in count after the reform group accused him of embezzlement, professional negligence, and undermining the state’s financial standing. Salameh appealed the decision.
2 Dec: Eight Officers Charged with Illicit Enrichment
Judge Ziad Abu Haidar charged eight officers for the crime of illicit enrichment. The accused officers include former Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Jean Kahwaji, former Intelligence Director Brigadier General Edmond Fadel, and former Beirut Intelligence Director Brigadier General George Khamis. The date of the defendants’ first hearing has been set for next Wednesday.
The judiciary’s move follows a report by journalist Lara Al-Hashem, broadcast on LBCI on November 19, which revealed that some of these officers exploited their positions of influence and embezzled public funds with sums that exceed their salaries by millions.
3 Dec: Hunger Threatens Lebanon
Lebanon is on the verge of not being able to feed itself, James Cleverly, the British Foreign Office minister for the Middle East warned the UK Government on Thursday, as the Lebanon’s financial crisis hikes poverty and inflation, a Reuters report said.
Cleverly called it “a man-made problem which could have been prevented”, joining a chorus of voices who have blamed Lebanon’s ruling elite for failing to chart a path out of the crisis.
Since last year, the unprecedented meltdown has crashed the currency and wiped out jobs. Photos of people rummaging through dumpsters or selling their belongings online for food have circulated widely in recent months.
A COVID-19 spike and the massive port blast that killed around 200 people in August have compounded their woes.
3 Dec: 1000 Disability Cases Awaiting State Compensation After Beirut Blast
The Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union last week protested denounce the government for failing to respond to their demands in a timely manner and deliberately marginalizing them. The Union highlighted the need for improvements in the laws that relate to people with disabilities, the latest of which is the proposed law pertaining to those physically affected by the Beirut Port blast that does not provide them with any real compensation.
3 Dec: Landslide Victory for USJ Secular Club in Student Elections
The Secular Club at the Saint-Joseph University achieved a historic victory in the student elections. The club’s “Taleb” campaign won the presidencies of student bodies in the 12 faculties where it participated, with 85 of the club’s 101 candidates landing a seat. The club said in a statement: “This victory confirms the transformations in student public opinion in Lebanese universities since the establishment of secular clubs, which accelerated in the wake of the October 17 revolution.”
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