By Hassan Aleik – Al Akhbar
The war on General Michel Aoun MP continues. He is not allowed to make any achievements or implement any reforms, it is intended for the man who from outside the Post Taef regime to remain subdued by the pillars of the “Second Republic”. In the Government Administration and the projects proposed by his Change & Reform Bloc, it is prohibited that any achievement be related to the Aounists. Who benefits from the war on Aoun?
With full confidence and without any confusion, a senior politician from the Harriri movement speaks of the presence of a regional and international decision to break General Michel Aoun. This decision asks that he not be allowed to have any victory, achievement and to completely destroy him politically. Followers of the political scene do not need any proof of the existence of this decision; the signs are too many to count.
In electricity, the Change & Reform Bloc imposed on the “State” to regain its role in energy production. The equation is somewhat simple and “primitive”. The population is growing and their demand on electricity is increasing. The natural solution like any other place in the world, is to raise production and that means paying for the construction of power plants.
Since the era of former Prime Ministry Rafic Hariri and after 2000, the government stopped investing in power production. There was an obvious objective for Hariri’s privatisation plans; to bankrupt and debt laden Lebanon’s Electricity company (EDL) and build a case to sell it off despite the fact that on paper it apparently made a loss of only 1000 Lebanese Pounds (0.66 cent USD). The plan was to put the Lebanese in a state of despair in relation to government supplied electricity and that they would pay two power bills (one to the state and another to private generators that kick in when there are power outages) to a point that electricity privatisation will become acceptable since there would be no better option than this chronic reality. The battle that Aoun fought was by throwing Minister Gibran Bassil in both the Saad Harriri and Najib Mikati governments where it would be required to raise production, reform the process of distribution and modernise the sector.
The plan was to establish a power plant in Deir Ammar (and this would provide 5 hours per day of electricity for all the areas of Lebanon). Then to rehabilitate the dilapidated power plants in Zouk and Jiyeh; their rehabilitation is closer to rebuilding them such was their state of disrepair. In addition to this, there was a plan to install “smart meters” in homes, factories, offices and institutions that would allow the electricity company to improve money collection and increase distribution of electricity by 30%. If the plant in Deir Ammar produces its capacity, and the smart meters are where they should be, the Lebanese people would have been able to enjoy electricity for 24 hours a day except in emergencies.
The Hariri’s decided to oppose the project of the Change & Reform Bloc. There was not any slander left that wasn’t thrown in the face of Bassil. From accusations of corruption, commissions and theft…fairy tales but it stuck in the minds of people. They resorted to accusations without proof despite the previous President and Prime Minister (Mikati) spending much of their terms in power trying to find one piece of evidence to back up these accusations. But there was no proof, no evidence and not even an indication of misconduct. There was no basis for these accusations.
They delayed implementing the law to finance the project of energy production as long as they could and it was not until 2011 when Aoun brought the government to the brink of the abyss that they issued the finance. Then they moved to obstruct the project of bringing two ships for power generation. These floating plants would support the power grid and compensate for the downtime the Zouk and Jiyeh power plants would be offline for rehabilitation.
The Harriri’s were aware that there was no alternative to these ships nevertheless, they were determined to block every step in this project. They realised that the insistence of the Change and Reform Bloc for this project practically leads to the solution of the chronic electricity crisis suffered by the Lebanese People. One of the biggest political players back then said to his colleague (Harriri), the solution to the electricity crises “is a very significant achievement and it is too big to give to Gibran Bassil”.
So it was spite. Spite that pushed the Mayor of the Municipality of Zouk Mikhael Nohad Nawfal to prevent the start of the rehabilitation of the plant located in his municipality; under the pretext of EDL not having a licence from the municipality to undertake the repairs to the power plant. This is despite that such a licence never existed, not when the plant was built last century and since 2002 when Prime Minister Minister Rafic Harriri’s government issued a decree that the government would be allowed to defer having such a licence until after works commenced for the purposes of “Public Interest”. Nonetheless the structural rehabilitation of the Zouk power plant are at a standstill.
Another issue that has hampered the execution of Bassil’s plan; the daily strikes of casual employees (the supposed oppressed who represent the weakest link of the public service). Every strike delays the implementation of the Article of “Providing Services” that leads to the installation of the “Smart Meters”. These delays last months and up to a year.
Each strike ends with a political settlement with their “Godfather” Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri. It is remarkable that the “Ally of the Ally” did not empathise with Aoun. Minister of Finance Ali Hasan Khalil (part of Berri’s Bloc) refused to finance the payments allocated to the construction of Deir Ammar plant. He claims there is confusion in the legal text in relation to paying the VAT (Value Added Tax). The Court of Audits has issued two contradictory rulings in this regard and the situation remains as is. The company that won the bid is yet to receive the funds to commence construction of the plant.
All that has occurred falls under one heading: Michel Aoun is not allowed to accomplish any achievement that serves the Lebanese people. What they want is continual accusations hanging in the air pointing to Gibran Bassil being the offender. The Ministers who preceded Bassil were responsible for such a tragic state of affairs in the energy sector and the Lebanese bear the burden and suffering. The Ministers bear the sole responsibility for this and not Rafic Hariri. Many of those who inherited Hariri’s political legacy claim that he beared false witness to the conduct of the governments he formed.
The energy sector is damaged, the government is unable to manage it and there no solution but to sell. Whether for 1 dollar or 1000 Lebanese Pounds the buyers are companies whose owners are responsible for other corrupt companies like Beirut Duty Free, Sukleen, Port of Beirut, Port of Tripoli, Ogero and Cellular Network Providers etc…
Yesterday the war on Aoun spread to the telecom sector. The Egyptian company Orascom responsible managing one of Lebanon’s two cellular phone companies (known as “ALFA”) for over 6 years, discovered that one of its directors is under suspicion of being sympathetic to Aoun. The communication sector is one of Lebanon’s goldmines and it is forbidden for an “Aounist” to be anywhere near it. The result was company was excluded from the tender for ongoing management, because the deadline to get on the panel to tender was 31st of July.
On this day, the Orascom applied to the tender committee for the terms of the tender. Director Marwan Hayek paid the fees and was handed the terms of the tender along with an official receipt while having a coffee with the committee. Current Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb announced yesterday that Orascom has been distanced from the tender process. Why? Apparently, it had to apply and receive the tender terms prior to 4 pm meanwhile this conditions was kept secret until after this deadline expired. The company has now been excluded from the tender process. The subject of which: The destruction of Michel Aoun is required.
Just as it was with the oil and gas sector. It is forbidden for the Lebanese people to benefit from the wealth hidden beneath their land and sea. It is forbidden for the Lebanese people to benefit in their own country and no longer be humiliated by and be reliant on the Gulf Arab States for employment. It is forbidden for Michel Aoun to push for the development of oil exploration and put the country back on track.
Same as in the 1990’s where it was prohibited for Michel Aoun to any rights whatsoever. The Hariris practiced the policy of marginalisation and exclusion in the Internal Security Forces, the Council of Development and Reconstruction throughout the provinces and within the 70 governmental bodies that fall under the Prime Minister. In governmental appointments exclusion also emerged as a practice by Berri and Harriri. (Berri) The Ally of Aoun’s Ally stood in the way of calls for the appointment of a new Army Chief even if that meant a vacuum in the Military rejecting such demands.
Then the position of the Speaker of Parliament was worse than that of the Harriri being “I will not elect Michel Aoun unless…”. The role of the third partner opposing Aoun (in addition to Harriri and Berri), Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt (Druze leader). The dialogue between Rabieh (Aoun’s Residence) and Clemceau (Jumblatt’s Residence) did not liberate the Chouf MP from his historically held view that “every strong Maronite leader is an adversary of the leader of Moukhtara (Jumblatt’s stronghold) and must be prevented in having a strong voice in the Post Taef State”; the State whose cornerstones were founded by Jumblatt’s participation.
Rafic Hariri “Inherited” the Maronite political symbols: the castle of Bechara El Khoury in Kantari, lands in the Bekaa Valley belonging to Raymond Edde, the Castle of Camille Chamoun in Saadiyat and various other symbols of the “1943 Independence”. His heirs have laid their hands on the Maronite legacy politically and administratively by saying “What is ours belongs to us……and what is yours belongs to us and you”.