Delivering firm positions on a range of local and regional issues, Metn MP Nassib Lahoud marked the one-year anniversary of the founding of his Democratic Renewal Movement by calling for a “strategic partnership” with Syria and denouncing any political pressure or military action against Iraq or the Palestinian Authority.
The group celebrated its anniversary with a dinner at the BIEL hall in Beirut Central District Tuesday evening, drawing a score of high-profile political allies and friends, like former President Amin Gemayel, Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli, former Foreign Minister Fouad Butros and several members of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering.
Prior to Lahoud’s speech, organizers showed a video presentation outlining the movement’s founding and its involvement in a range of political and other causes over the past year.
Lahoud told the several hundred people on hand for the event that Lebanon faced a series of overlapping challenges, identifying five priority issues: freedom and democracy, reform and economic salvation, the South, the future of Palestine and the Arab world, and sovereignty and strategic partnership with Syria.
“Returning balance (to bilateral ties between Lebanon and Syria) will take place by reconsidering the two parts of the equation: What is particular to each state, which concerns sovereignty, and what is common between the two states, which concerns privileged relations and strategic partnership,” Lahoud said.
“Sovereignty is not the opposite of partnership, and strategic partnership does not take away from sovereignty. The starting point of sovereignty is that there are prerogatives and sectors that no state can relinquish or share with others, and if so, that state would cease to be a state.”
The MP said that the movement wanted relations with Syria based on “balance and trust, and not a balance of power and a security and military presence.”
With calls for correcting bilateral ties and the very question of sovereignty provoking a wide range of reactions in recent weeks, Lahoud said that his group was seeking a mid-
dle course, rejecting both
“sovereignty in confrontation with Syria” and “the blind interlocking of both countries without the slightest regard for sovereignty.”
Affirming the movement’s concern with Arab affairs, Lahoud said that while the Palestinian Authority did need political reform, “Palestine, before all else, requires a sovereign, independent state so that it can carry out reform and democracy.”
Lahoud condemned attempts to portray Israeli occupation for anything other than it is, and said the group adamantly rejected Western-led strikes on Iraq or violations of its sovereignty.
“The term ‘Arab Lebanon’ does not only mean identity,” he continued, “but a role our country plays in producing a new Arabism based on the highest degrees of cooperation, openness, reform, democracy, freedom, human rights and keeping up with” contemporary developments.
As for domestic economic reform to battle crushing debt and recession, Lahoud said the movement rejected official moves to correct one component of the situation without implementing a “single basket” of interconnected reforms.
“The problem isn’t just the cellular network, which is being subjected to the ugliest forms of political polarization among those in power. The problem isn’t just privatization, or administrative reform, or securing financial backing from abroad,” he said. “Getting out of this can only take place via a comprehensive restructuring process that involves an integrated basket of measures for the monetary, financial, tax, banking, administrative and political” domains.
Citing the failed attempts by the movement’s two MPs himself and Tripoli’s Mosbah Ahdab to raise this reform program in Parliament, Lahoud said the group still insisted on its being discussed.
“It’s no longer possible to buy time with money to solve the problem, as some argue, while attempts at partial reform at the expense of freedom and democracy, as others want,” he said.
“Reform and economic salvation and democracy are interlinked,” he said, “and treating one helps treat the other. There will be no confidence or investment without freedom and democracy,” he said.
Summing up the group’s call for reforming the state, Lahoud said all Lebanese should feel that “first of all, this state is a state, and second of all that it is his state, with (rights and responsibilities) to it just like any other citizen, no more and no less.”