LEBANESE Christian politician General Michel Awn addressed a mass anti-government rally of over 200,000 people in Beirut on Sunday 10 December.
He warned the government of Prime Minister Fu’ad al-Siniora that if it did not heed the opposition’s call for a national unity government, the opposition would announce an interim government in order to hold early elections.
Also addressing the rally, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Shaykh Na’im Qasim urged the prime minister to resign ‘out of your concern for Lebanon’s unity and for rejecting foreign trusteeship over it’.
Free Patriotic Movement leader General Awn began his speech at 1355 gmt, saying: ‘We meet today with the greatest popular mass in order to complete the process of change and to institute a new governing body that would understand the components of ruling, the meaning of democracy and the needs of the Lebanese people which have to be fulfilled to secure civil peace. These needs include security, prosperity and freedom’.
Awn said that the ruling party was ‘corrupt’ and that proof of this was that it had rejected ‘financial investigation’. He added that ‘they claim that they are a majority, but they stole the majority’.
He said: ‘What we hope today is for them to understand that their time is over and that the request to participate in government was the last thing we could request and accept.
‘For the past 18 months we have been addressing them with a moderate discourse, calling on them to participate. But after today it will be very difficult to accept participation.
‘We are awaiting a new government that would stem from new elections. In just a few days, we will end this stage, after which we will accept only a new stage that produces decent constitutional institutions, because they would represent the will of the people and would not be the result of an elections law written by Ghazi Kan’an (former Syrian interior minister and intelligence chief in Lebanon).
Awn then accused the government of doing nothing in respect to the assassinations which had taken place in Lebanon, noting that the government was using these assassinations for political purposes ‘by accusing the adversaries and accusing the Lebanese people and constantly intimidating the Lebanese people and us, the politicians’.
He concluded that ‘there is one solution. A few days from now we will categorically reject this government and we will announce an interim government to hold new and early elections’.
Awn’s speech was preceded by the address of Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Shaykh Na’im Qasim.
After greeting the ‘free and honourable ones’, and the ‘rejecters of the foreign US custodianship on Lebanon and the confronters of the Israeli occupation for the sake of making Lebanon a high, independent master with its honourable sons’, Qasim said: ‘You are the honest people, the great people and the holders of the flag of resistance.
‘By being present in these squares, you have proved that you represent right and the lofty Lebanese people, and hoist the flag of the homeland high and free in spite of the rancorous and hateful ones.’
Qasim added that ‘the most honourable, greatest and largest gathering in the history of Lebanon is your gathering.’ He said: ‘We tell those sitting in their palaces: Open your eyes and listen to the cries of the male and female mujahideen and the honourable ones on the soil of this homeland.
‘Enough clinging to the international support; by God, neither the support of the United States nor that of the Western states or some Arab states will be of any use to you. These people need their homeland, so leave them alone O thieves of the homeland.’
Qasim continued: ‘Does US President George Bush want a popular expression in Lebanon? Do the West and the Arabs want the voice of the people in Lebanon? Tell them: Death to America! Tell them: Death to Israel! Tell them: Glory to free Lebanon.’ The crowd repeated each call three times.
Addressing those ‘sitting in your palaces’, Qasim said: ‘You are no longer capable of tyranny and autocracy. You have tried to instruct your militias to harass the demonstrators and the participants in the sit-in, but you have been exposed to the world.
‘The noble sacrifice came through martyr Ahmad Mahmud (anti-government protester killed on 3 December), who is considered a sacrifice for the unity of the homeland and jihad against the enemies of Almighty God.
‘You have proved that you have come up with an exemplary civilised experience, but they wanted to tarnish the image. They tried to give a sectarian impression to the march, the sit-in and the demonstration.
‘However, today, the Muslim is alongside the Christian, the Sunni is alongside the Shi’ite, and the Druze is alongside the Christian. They are all together in Lebanon hoisting one flag, not different flags.’
He said: ‘Our action is a political one. So, if you think you can, then confront us politically. Say what you have on the political level. You want autocracy and we want participation. You want to advocate sectarianism in the country, but we want it to be the homeland of everyone.
‘You want to take power and we want power to serve the people. You want to bring the American and we want to expel him from our country.
‘You want to show the weak Lebanon and we want it strong. I tell you that after confronting the recent Israeli aggression and after resistance and internal solidarity, there is no longer any place for America in Lebanon.
‘This is a political action, not a sectarian one. This action is a popular action against a failing and unconstitutional government. It is not an action against any of the sects or religions. Regrettably, this government submitted to the US dictates.
‘What some of them said drew my attention, including (leader of the Al-Mustaqbal [Future] Current) MP Sa’d al-Hariri, when he said that he cooperates with the United States and receives aid from it.
‘We say that the United States is an ogre. It eats everyone and will never work in favour of anyone. It works to serve its own interests.’
Qasim continued: ‘This government receives aid from the United States and some big powers and some Arabs.
‘However, why do you consider yourself part of the US plan? They want a new Middle East. They want to devour Lebanon, and seek to serve the security of Israel. Why do you put yourselves in the circle of this hellish scheme? Is it not enough for Bush that he failed in the tests of the US Congress? Is it not enough for Bush that he has fallen in the Iraqi mud? Is it not enough for Bush that he fails one time after another? At least leave this worthless one and be with your victorious people in the arenas of jihad and the squares of Beirut.’
He then said: ‘O prime minister, you should resign for the sake of your honour, dignity and the dignity of Lebanon when the Israelis say that they want to support you.’
He went on to say: ‘They want to address the Arab world for the sake of inciting the Sunnis against the resistance. However, they have forgotten that the arenas of the Arab world are the arenas of resistance and the resistance men understand each other and like each other.
‘You will not be in the hearts of the Arab Sunnis, we are in their hearts, they are in our hearts, and we will be together, God willing.’
Qasim then criticised leading Druze politician and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Junblatt and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Ja’ja and asked the crowd ‘don’t you notice that Junblatt and Ja’ja are absent from these gatherings?’ He said that ‘the issue is clear. They want to play with the fate of the homeland by highlighting the Sunni leaderships and deluding the Sunni street so that they can achieve results through the blood, objectives and problems on a sectarian basis, specifically between the Sunnis and Shi’ites. We tell them: We will put the Sunnis in our hearts. By God, you will not be able to separate us.’
He then invited Lebanese Prime Minister Fu’ad al-Siniora to hold a news conference to announce to the Lebanese people that ‘out of your concern for Lebanon’s unity and of rejecting the foreign trusteeship on it, you submit your resignation to the squares of honour in central Beirut’.
He added: ‘We will then seek the permission of our great and honourable people to extend our hand to you and to those who are with you who want to build Lebanon as partners where no-one can cancel the other. Thus, we will have entered the partnership and independent Lebanon. It is up to you. Think carefully.’