Lebanon's Diaspora &
the Siniora's Government
By: Elias Bejjani
Loudly and thunderously we declare our stance: There will be no credibility,
respect or legitimacy to any new Lebanese government, no matter who are its
members, if it does not endeavour authentically and fairly to rectify Lebanon's
relationship with its Diaspora communities. The approach expected is an official
one through which the Diaspora would be allowed to reclaim its full rights in
citizenship, especially for parliamentary - municipal voting and nomination.
Diaspora denotes here to Lebanese citizens who are currently residing outside Lebanon while still holding on to their full Lebanes citizenship credentials, and are in direct contact with their motherland and families on a regular basis. Most of them were forced to leave Lebanon during "the war of others" era against their country and people, especially the last 15 years of the Syrian Stalinist hegemony and brutal savage occupation. No one should ignore the fact that the majority of the Lebanese citizens that were forced to temporarily reside outside Lebanon did so because of the oppressive occupation that was imposed on their country for the last 29 years. A large number of them will be willing to return to their homeland, Lebanon, once decent means of life are in place.
The Syrian occupation is over and accordingly all previous obstacles of religious, denominational and hatred background that were vindictively resorted to in a bid to alienate the Diaspora can't and will not be tolerated any more. The Lebanese officials, parliament, cabinet, political leaders and clergy are now all accountable to set right the horrible infringements inflicted on the Diaspora, or otherwise all will be committing an unpardonable crime in depriving Lebanon's other half from its roots, heritage, identity and the fundamental right of citizenship.
One wonders how could Lebanon survive and progress if its other half, the Diaspora communities, are unjustly pushed away and shamefully prevented from executing their national duties towards the country and its people? Lebanon who is currently encountering very serious difficulties in economy, education, poverty, security, demography, history and identity needs its Diaspora communities with all their humongous resources, potentials and capabilities. It is estimated that between eleven to eighteen million Lebanese citizens live in Diaspora countries. Three to seven millions of them still hold dear to the their Lebanese citizenship and are more than willing to provide Lebanon with all that it requires to overcome difficulties and hardships that hinder prosperity and decent living conditions.
Most countries in the world, even the so called "third world countries" in the middle east, like Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia etc, all allow their citizens to cast their votes in parliamentary and presidential elections from wherever their residence location happens to be at the time of the election. Votes are cast through their countries' embassies and consulates. Meanwhile Lebanon is an odd exception in this domain because it fully deprives its Diaspora citizens from this right.
Successive Lebanese governments that came to office since 1943, have been envisaging Lebanon's Diaspora, as a mere "milking cow", a source for money and a means of political support, no more no less. They have been demanding from the Diaspora everything and anything, but when its members' citizenship rights are brought up, doors were always shut in their faces, while human rights' atrocities were and still are being inflicted on them mercilessly.
Lebanese governments that governed under full Syrian control since 1990 have come with several false-hearted projects addressing the Diaspora's rights, but none of them was viable or even serious enough to be considered, especially the "Diaspora Card", that rips the Diaspora of its Lebanese citizenship rights.
It is worth mentioning that in the eyes of all international covenants of human rights, laws and constitutions, citizenship provides the citizen with two legitimate unquestionable rights: The unconditional permanent right of residency in the country that he holds its citizenship and the right to freely participate in its public and general affairs without any kind of discrimination. The "Identity Card" scheme aims to steal these two rights from the Diaspora.
We strongly believe that what is applicable and appropriate to help the Diaspora exercise its voting right and does not require any kind of amendment to the "Lebanese Constitution" is the amendment of the "Electoral Law" to give the Lebanese Citizens in Diaspora the right to cast their votes in parliamentary and municipal elections from their current places of residency. This amendment would fulfill all the legalities necessary, has no judicial obstacles, and is very practical. Lebanese Embassies and consulates all over the world fall under the Lebanese sovereignty umbrella and are considered Lebanese soil in the eyes of International covenants of law. The Diaspora's communities can cast their votes in these embassies and consulates, while modern communication technology would facilitate and render this process easy and with very low cost.
Lebanese Diaspora stresses the fact that the new PM, Siniora government is going to face a real challenge from its first day in office, a challenge of credibility and integrity. It either proves to be for the welfare and rights of both Lebanon and its Diaspora or a replica of the previous government. Passing this test requires a clear clause in its ministerial statement addressing the means through which it plans to facilitate the restoration of citizenship rights to the Diaspora.
Both the New Lebanese Government and the Parliament have a Godly, national, and ethical obligation to pave the way for the Lebanese Diaspora to legally and practically exercise its voting right without any kind of hesitation or procrastination.
We strongly ask the Lebanese Diaspora organizations and individuals to be very alert on this matter, to state their related stances with national consciousness openly, courageously, and to wisely, firmly and faithfully hold on to their Lebanese citizenship rights.
God Bless Lebanon
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)