Details of an interview conducted with:

His Excellency PM,General Michel Aoun
By Elias Bejjani/ Phoenician newsline voice

On Tuesday, June 2, 1998 and focused on Beirut’s coming election and the results of the municipal election in North Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani: General Aoun, what are your comments on the North Lebanon municipal and mayoral election that took place last Sunday, May 31/1998? Were the results achieved by the Free National Current acceptable, and did it succeed in its unofficial referendum endeavor on national and internal change issues?

General Aoun: The Free National Current did not intend to perform any kind of referendum on national issues through the municipal and mayoral election. Our declared purpose was to test the ability and the readiness of the people on internal, massive, social change concepts. We believe changes proposed can improve the kind of life our people deserve, and we did very well in this area. Needless to say, the Free National Current’s national concepts, beliefs, aims, objectives and goals are so courageous and advanced, no other group in Lebanon can compete with us in this domain. We are very proud of what we espouse, for what we have already achieved, and what we are struggling to accomplish. We have offered so many sacrifices to reach the present advanced national position, defending Lebanon’s dignity, sovereignty and independence. Our participation in the municipal and mayoral election aimed to lobby for advanced civilized social change through democratic means. Some of our allies on the national frontier come from political feudalism, traditional and familial religious backgrounds, and they felt threatened by our liberal stance for change, thought it might affect their own interests...but all of them support the Free National Current’s objectives related to reclaiming Lebanon’s free decision making process, its independence, dignity and sovereignty.

Currently there is an obvious struggle between Lebanon’s generations, the youth thinking and planning for the present and the future, while their elders are striving to hold on to inherited familial traditions. Lebanon is going though historical change on internal and national levels. Although the Lebanese may differ on internal issues, especially on concepts of social change, they all are solidly behind Liberation efforts, and support the struggle for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani: What results did your Current accomplish in last Sunday’s election in North Lebanon, and were those who won because of the Current’s support, from one religious affiliation only, and from specific territories?

General Aoun: Not at all: those who won because of the Current’s support in North Lebanon as well as in Mount Lebanon, were from all religious affiliations, from all territories, Muslims as well as Christian and from different denominations. Free National Current supporters, friends and members in general, run as independent nominees or on opposition electoral tickets, for safety reasons because of the occupation imposed status-quo. We won in Akkar, Dennieh, Tripoli, Betroun, Zkarta, in villages and towns near the Syrian borders, in places where the Current is banned from having any known apparent presence, and won seats in almost all parts of the North and Mount Lebanon. Unfortunately we are not able at the present time to make the names of those who won public, due to safety and security reasons. As everybody knows, Lebanon is still under occupation and all patriotic Lebanese who struggle for liberation are facing threats, harassment and persecution, but in spite of this painful reality, we are present everywhere and the majority of our Lebanese people support us. It is worth mentioning that the Current’s nominee in Zkarta, Dr Renee Al Kareh, who is at same time the Current’s coordinator in North Lebanon proved that the Current is very popular in that northern influential city. He ran in the elections alone, facing two strong familial lists and was able to claim the highest number of votes among those who did not win. The winners won 21 seats, and he was 22nd. We consider this success a big victory even though he did not win a seat in Zkart’s municipal council. The state- controlled media in Lebanon is imposing a complete blackout on our Current’s success in the election. The names of our members, friends and supporters who won were identified in the media by their names only without any mention to their affiliation to the Free National Current. It is sad, pathetic to know that currently all TV and radio stations, as well as most of the big newspapers in Lebanon are either owned or fully controlled by the corrupt regime officials. We are satisfied with the results and ask our fellow Lebanese to maintain their support of the Current’s calls for change. We are not sectarian, feudal, religious or territorial in our striving for freedom, democracy and liberation: we are free Lebanese from all parts of Lebanon, working for all Lebanon and all its people. Our supporters are present all over Lebanon, a strength that none of the other Lebanese groups or parties enjoy and are very proud of this fact. Winning in the municipal election is important but not a major priority. Major priorities for the Current are to lobby nationwide with the concept of social change in Lebanese society. We want to prevent internal wars and disastrous incidents among our people, similar to those that occurred in the past and present centuries and still negatively affect our lives. We pursue deep changes in the Lebanese society through which the Lebanese can live freely in religious faith as a holy, private relationship with the creator, with no restrictions. And at the same time, live with fellow Lebanese a happy, peaceful life in accordance to a civilized social contract governed by fair, modernized Lebanese laws and regulations without sectarian, denominational, or territorial discrimination. The Current’s ultimate goal is to nurture a civilized, peaceful, tolerant Lebanese citizen who is able to admit, accept and respect the existing cultural, religious, social differences among the people of Lebanon, a citizen willing to abide by the state’s rules and regulations and be responsible for maintaining Lebanon’s distinguished national identity and respect for freedoms and human rights. We want Lebanon to be a civilized, peaceful, independent, free country just as Europe, Australia, USA and other democracies in the free world.

Elias Bejjani: General Aoun, what about Beirut’s election scheduled this coming Sunday? Have the Free National Current decided on the final electoral list and on alliances to face Mr. Hariri’s list that was formed from nominees representing all parties and groups supporting the regime, including some who were up till recently on the opposition side?

General Aoun: What is really funny and sad at the same time is the attitude of those groups and individuals who claim rhetorically to be in the opposition, while practically they support the regime. It became very clear that their opposition is merely manipulative, opportunistic and transient. Most of them sided with the regime, especially in Beirut. They used the opposition as a means to serve their own individual interests and gains , and they abandoned the opposition for what they thought was the right price. Winning a municipal or mayoral seat is important, but not as important as maintaining national dignity and patriotic principle. Anyway, the people of Lebanon are wise and will be able to make their own judgment and elect those nominees who best represent their national aspirations. The Free National Current is solid in its national speech, patriotic attitudes and courageously firm in its stances as well as in its call for social change. The Beirut opposition electoral list will be announced today. It is a coalition for all those who believe in change and the need to put an end to Mr. Hariri’s control over Beirut through money, real estate, power and corruption. Mr. Najah Wakiem is our ally in Beirut as well as many other courageous groups and educated individuals. It should be clear for everybody that Lebanon is an occupied country and that freedoms as well as human rights are not respected by the regime or by the occupants. Accordingly, there are too many restrictions on opposition nominees running for the municipal and mayoral elections. The very limited space of freedom allowed is proportional and differs from one area to another. What is allowed in Mount Lebanon is banned in the North and what is permitted in Beirut is forbidden in Tripoli etc., but in spite of all these barriers we are struggling to participate in the election in the best way possible. Results in the election could be faked but not beliefs and codes of ethics and faith. We are confident that our people trust us and have faith in the future of Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani: General Aoun, you are visiting Australia on the 6th of June (this coming Saturday). Could you explain to our listeners the aims of this visit, and are you planning in the near future to visit other countries like USA and Canada?

General Aoun: The visit officially starts on Saturday the 6th of June, and lasts for fifteen days. The schedule is intense. It includes delivering a lecture at the Sidney University, a series of meetings with top Australian officials, news conferences, TV and radio interviews with local, international and middle-east media, visits to all provinces, open meetings with the Lebanese community and many other activities, all aiming to lobby for Lebanese liberation. The Lebanese community in Australia is committed to the Lebanese cause and its members are very active in the struggle for liberation from all foreign forces and reclaiming the confiscated independence, freedom and democracy.

In relation to your inquiry about visiting Canada, it will be a pleasure to do so, provided the Canadian-Lebanese community is able to prepare the right milieu for the visit, similar to the milieu provided by the Australia-Lebanese community, and the same request applies to the USA and other Diaspora countries where Lebanese communities exist.

Elias Bejjani: Thank you General Aoun, and we will call you next week while you are in Australia, to comment on the Beirut election results and to update us on your visit.
God bless you, and long live Lebanon.