Chasing Corruption in High Places
By: Minister/Brigadier: Issam Bou Jamra
(Free translation by: Elias Bejjani)

No Lebanese should be hasty in commending the new Lebanese regime on its preliminary steps in fighting administrative public corruption. We know that all the influencial figures of the previous regime (Hrawi regime 1990-1998) are fully responsible for the widespread administrative corruption. It started from the top and then infiltrated into all the government institutions in accordance with a poem that says: "When the head of the house beats the drum, the rest of the family have to dance to the tune." That was the situation of the ex-regime figures, and this is exactly how they wanted their reign to be. Just a reminder: between 1998 and 1990 we were a transitional military mini government (General Michel Aoun’s government that took over in 1988 after President Amin Jomayal’s six year term came to an end and no president was elected because of the Syrian pressure). We received a state with a great deal of corruption, and after a thorough study, a serious decision for administrative reform was taken aiming to put things in order. Corrupters were prosecuted and referred to the judiciary, including a prominent ex-minister. After that, the administration was productive and efficient all through the period that we were in power, in spite of the war effects. We were successful in our reform endeavor because the government was free and not under foreign custody.
In 1990, Syrians invaded the liberated region of Lebanon and ousted our legitimate government. It handed over the power to their Lebanese installed president, Mr. Elias Hrawi, who instantly brought back all the officials that we had fired because of their conduct and he fired all those honest and devoted ones we appointed. He adopted a policy that says:
"All sins of those that work with us are absolved."
Things even got worse with Hariri being appointed Prime Minister. He adopted a disastrous principle that says: "Enjoy the money that I am going to borrow under the name and on the account of your people."
Accordingly the Hariri-Hrawi reign was significant in its financial corruption. It made the country bear a debt of 20 billion dollars, a debt the people of Lebanon has to suffer as its burden for years to come. It is an ideal act that His Excellency, General Lahoud, has been brave enough to declare war on corruption and not to be deterred by the corrupters intimidation and threats. But the question remains: Will the General be capable under the current situation to get to all the swelled heads, to confiscate and nationalize? Or ultimately will he find himself isolated and unable to exceed certain limits?
First: The General’s government is a civil one and its members could have been enthusiastic initially, but the challenge is horrendous. Some of them are involved deeply with corruption and other criminal atrocities, while the rest most probably will be frustrated soon. They will start to fear for their individual interests, future and even their safety and life because the targeted corrupters are merciless, without conscience, professional thieves, and in general belong to Mafia-like groups who are accustomed to threaten and intimidate.
Second: The double standard criteria adopted by those who control the imposed Lebanese regime and its appointed president will soon lead to the failure of the judicial pursuits and to termination once they reach certain boundaries. The Syrians are not going to abandon their puppets already forced on the state institutions and protected for the last nine years. A good example in this context is what ex-president Mr. Elias Hrawi did lately when he sensed his two sons could be persecuted in the oil scandal of embezzlement and thievery. Mr. Hrawi escorted his two sons to the Syrian presidential palace and addressed the Syrian president by saying:
"My master, these are your children"
At the same time Mr. Hariri who is on the verge of being charged with abuse of using authority, embezzlement, negligence and thievery is touring the Arab and some European countries asking for support and protection. Others involved are hiding behind those who forced them on the state and protected them.
Third: The threads of corruption were not limited to Lebanon and the Lebanese, but were spread extensively to the sister Syria and to a great number of its officials, their relatives, friends and partners. Knowing that General Lahoud in the domain of foreign affairs has a ceiling drawn for him by the Syrians, no one would doubt the presence of a similar ceiling in internal affairs that he is not allowed to exceed. The General will certainly reach a dead end once his war on corruption starts to shake the pillars of the Syrian regime.
Fourth: Although the war on corruption is vital for the success of administrative reform, its outcome will not be positive as long as the country isn’t independent and its decision making process is controlled by foreign powers. It is well known that corruption could be stopped easily, but it is not easy at all to reclaim confidence in the regime. This confidence is not going to be granted to the regime before it reclaims the confiscated independence of Lebanon, its sovereignty and free decision making process. Confidence is the cornerstone for reform, prosperity and stability, and without its presence all efforts will be in vain.
For all these reasons we believe the reform process carried on currently by the Lahoud regime is not going to be comprehensive or decisive because of Syrian custody and hegemony. The process will go on as long as it serves the Syrian agenda in maintaining and solidifying its occupation and expansionism. Once these objectives are met the whole charade shall be stopped and the always-ready justification will be resorted to: "the regional situation does not allow such a process to continue".
For all the above, and for the regime’s president to actually be in control and be able to practice his presidential role freely, we stress the need to end the Syrian custody and to depend only on the Lebanese forces. When the country’s decisions are free and the public invests its confidence in the regime, a successful administration reform process can be initiated. A war on corruption will be declared that will lead to implementation of laws for all Lebanese, equally and fairly. This war will lead to justice, peace, security, stability and prosperity. Then and only then, the regime and its president will deserve to be hailed and congratulated.

Long Live Free Lebanon
France, April 5/1999