Lebanese continue protests for 6th day, unappeased with new promised reforms

BEIRUT, Lebanese proceeded with public demonstrations throughout the country for the sixth day in a row on Tuesday with many demanding “the regime ouster,” rebuffing a new set of measures promised by Saad Al-Hariri’s government.

The official National News Agency (NNA) said scores of activists have started marching to the Martyrs and Riad Al-Solh squares in downtown Beirut and Abdulhamid Karami plaza in the northern coastal city of Tripoli, some 80 kilometers from Beirut, in addition to cities and towns in the south, the east and the north.

They have continued chanting against corruption and demanding “ouster of the regime,” expressing no confidence in the government plan declared yesterday, including a series of reforms, slashing spending, payments of senior civil servants’ employees and allotting funds for low-income families. The “uprising” broke out after the government approved a tax on WhatsApp communications.

Though the internet fee may be viewed as largely insignificant and should not be met with such a huge public reaction, it is widely regarded as the spark that set off outrage of the people, haggard and weighed down with a pile of fees and taxes and quite limited income, while getting from the officials much rhetoric and little action.

Amid blockaded roads with burning tires and other hurdles throughout the Mediterranean country, banks, schools and universities remained shut. The public facilities’ paralysis is reminiscent to days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, who declared the new set of the planned reforms after an extraordinary meeting at the presidential palace, showed up at his office in downtown Beirut today, hosting a number of guests and visitors including the Dean of the Arab diplomatic corps, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdulal Al-Ginaee.

Kuwait, along with other GCC countries, has succeeded in evacuating scores of citizens, who were vacationing in the country, in the shadow of the wide scale protests despite quite difficult and hazardous0 conditions on the roads leading to Beirut International Airport.

There have been special features of the ongoing protests — the first time activists renounce leaders of parties, publicly accusing them of manipulating the public and often inflaming sectarian sentiments to maintain their popularity and hold on their seats, while “bagging lots of money from the public funds and transactions irregularly.” A former premier is accused of embezzling up to USD 11 billion.

Al-Hariri junior had masterminded a campaign to lure external aid funds to overhaul the ailing economy and succeeded in achieving a USD 11 billion pledge from international donors at a conference that had been held in France. However, the donors have linked money disbursement to serious and effective measures by the authorities to tackle corruption, over-spending, inflation and other features of the weak economic status.

Source: Kuwait News Agency