PM Fuad Siniora’s speech at the Rotary Club Lunch in saida

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Distinguished Rotarians and Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

It gives me great pleasure to meet with you today in the City of Saida, the city that gave me the honour and the trust to represent it in the Lebanese Parliament. The city that is so dear to my heart. I sincerely thank Mr. Farid Joubran for his kind invitation to address this distinguished group of expatriates as well as resident Rotarians. You are gathered here today from 12 different countries in so far the oldest city in Lebanon that prides itself for its track record of tolerance, and openness to the world.

 

It is a great opportunity for me to be standing here to speak, among other things, about the City of Saida, while overlooking the Citadel. A standing reminder of years of invasion, but also a reminder of how the people of this ancient city fought battles to defend their independence, freedom and dignity. It is also a standing reminder of how this city insisted on staying a beacon of freedom, when it was invaded by several foreign aggressors over the past four millennia. It is important to learn how courageously it fought back. And in two instances, the Sidonians took the road less traveled, and opted to burn themselves inside the walls of the city than to give in to the threats of tyranny.

 

Ladies and Gentleman,

 

Just like its third largest city Saida, Lebanon throughout its long history, has been seeking to maintain its openness, and to continue to be a country of tolerance in the Middle East. Besides, a model of an enriching experience of living together in harmony and acceptance of the other in the whole world. Lebanon with its 18 different religious communities is just like a “mosaic” with pieces harmoniously attached to each other where, no color is ever dominant. In this sense, it has always provided a model of diversity and freedom within unity, freedom of belief, freedom of speech, and freedom of ownership. Lebanon was and remains a window of hope to other aspiring Arab nations. As Lebanese, we continue to play a crucial role of transmitting the values of diversity, democracy, freedom and tolerance to this region and beyond.

 

 

Our democratic system was designed precisely in order to deal with the issue of multiple religions and sects. A system that worked well, despite the major setbacks of the civil war, and foreign invasions, which were all brought about by regional and international shocks that were inflicted on the country or that mirrored the conflict and divisions of its surroundings.

 

The democratic political system and the liberal economy that Lebanon enjoyed over the past decades have always empowered this country with a high degree of resiliency to stand up to the challenges and quickly to overcome the various shocks that it endured. These challenges never cease to emerge in a very turbulent region, and that constantly put at risk our sovereignty and independence. Sometimes by bidding our sovereignty against our Arabism, and sometimes by bidding our freedom against our stability, and most recently justice against security, and other dilemmas that are constantly being created.

 

It is important to be crystal clear about our identity: we are proud to be true Arabs, and we are proud to be true Lebanese, and we want to stay sovereign, and free, and we will hopefully manage to foster this country’s democracy and stability and continue in the path leading to a strong, just, and capable State.

 

No doubt, the democratic model in Lebanon under the current circumstances is being tested once again. But it should be clear to everybody by now that there is no other alternative to the Lebanese other than to support the reemergence of a strong central democratic state, and the enhancement of the role of our democratic institutions.

 

We, the Lebanese have learned many lessons from our turbulent history of civil war and successive foreign aggressions. All our differences of opinions can only be settled through dialogue, tolerance, openness, and the acceptance of the other, and through compromise. This has helped in the past and will definitely help in the present and in the future, to bring peace, stability and progress and more than that to make all this sustainable.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Despite the many domestic regional and international challenges that we endured, the results were nothing short of impressive. In the last four years we stayed committed to the principles of a united Lebanon and to a free and democratic country. Accordingly, we have managed to successfully face the challenges of the international financial and economic crises and to achieve one of the highest economic growth rates in our recent history, and also one of the highest growth rates in the region. This was achieved in the midst of domestic political and security earthquakes, and against global financial crisis that saw global growth rates sink to their lowest levels since World War II. This was also made possible because of the prudent and pro-active economic, fiscal and monetary policies that were adopted, and as well due to staying the course of reforms, despite all hurdles.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

However, the situation in Lebanon and in the Arab world and to some extent the world beyond continues to be very much clouded and at risk. This is because of the continuation of almost seven decades of Arab Israeli conflict with no possible solution in the near future leading towards a comprehensive just and lasting peace in the region. To the contrary the prospects of peace are being obstructed by the continued Israeli arrogance and stubbornness in refusing to extend the moratorium on the building of further settlements on the Arab lands occupied by Israel during the war of 1967. Settlements that are being built in violation of UN and Security Council resolutions.  

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Putting things in the right perspective, we can clearly see that the Palestinian problem is a main cause of many of the problems in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Its solution is the key to unlocking many of the hurdles obstructing reform in the Arab World that simultaneously separate the hearts and minds of Arabs and Muslims around the world from the West. It is also the essential tool to destroy the wall of psychological separation between the East and the West; for in the end, it is the ultimate test of how truthful the West is to the values of freedom, justice, democracy and liberty, and human rights, values that should be applied universally, without recourse to double standards.

 

People without land, without an independent state, without hope, without a horizon is not only unjust, it is no longer acceptable. It is no longer acceptable for the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to remain hostage of a belligerent right-leaning Israeli government, and to remain hostage of the Western feeling of guilt towards the Jews, in the game of International Politics, and to remain as well hostage of Arab divisions and paralysis.

 

 An unresolved Palestinian problem is a waste of resources, and is an important reason for the lack of progress on political, social and economic reforms in our part of the world. This lack of progress will further widen the East-West separation and alienation. It will also reduce the ability of the East to be the worthwhile partner that the West needs and adding to achieve the common and general objectives of the world’s prosperity and human progress.

 

An unresolved Palestinian issue also risks throwing an already boiling region into more populism. And populism is a slippery slope towards more radicalism, which in turn widens the separation of the East from the values of moderation and openness, leading to a build-up of violence and risk of war.

 

The failure to find a just solution to this important and just cause still has and will continue to have repercussions not just on the region, but on the whole world.

 

When pressing issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict are left unresolved, they lead to a build-up of tensions, the break-out of violence and emerging crisis. Frustration, lack of hope at the level of the core problems, and continued loss of pride, humiliation and the painful feeling of lack of fairness and lack of justice have festered and pushed many young men and women to resort to extremist practices.

 

It is the duty of each of us and many others to stand up and voice our opinion loud and clear in the name of all the young generations of this region and of the world beyond who genuinely condemn war and aggression and truly want peace and want to live together in harmony.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Let me get back to Lebanon once more and be clear: stability and justice are not opposing objectives. The cause of justice should not and will not be at the expense of peace and stability.

 

We cannot shy away from the challenge of holding together our firm commitment to Lebanon’s stability and our search for justice. A justice that puts an end to impunity. A justice that is dissuasive to whoever might be tempted to commit similar crimes, and ultimately brings about a genuine reconciliation.  For we are well aware that seeking justice leads to durable stability and that any violence, and more specifically any expression of communal violence, exacerbates existing divisions and threatens our unity as a people and the very existence of a state that binds us together. It is not enough to warn against such violence, the ‘fitna’  or sedition as we often call it, but we are called on to strive together so that it does not occur. Communal violence cannot breakout in spite of us. It would explode, God forbid, because of us, and more particularly those of us who are tempted to oppose the right to justice with the resort to might.

 

This is a very important and vital message that you the Lebanese expatriates should clearly communicate to your colleagues and friends in Lebanon and in the countries in which you reside. All of you have a role to help in shaping up a future to your mother country Lebanon that the Lebanese have always dreamed of and aspire to live in, that is bright, just and hopefully prosperous. Don’t let the dark moments overshadow your beliefs and your judgment.

 

Be ambassadors of peace, tolerance, and freedom. Be Lebanese.

 

God bless you all and God bless Lebanon.

تاريخ الخطاب: 
07/10/2010