Monday, 13 February 2012

Commemorating Hariri: To Invite or not to Invite SNC

Commemorating Hariri: To Invite or not to Invite SNC

Published Monday, February 13, 2012

One day ahead of the annual commemoration of the Rafik Hariri Assassination, March 14 cannot get their act straight over the level of participation by the Syrian National Council in their much-touted political ritual.

“Without February, there would be no March, and without March, no Spring.” This is the slogan that the March 14 alliance has chosen for this year’s February 14 commemoration of the Rafik Hariri assassination seven years ago.

The March 14 forces, particularly the Future Movement, want this year’s memorial to be distinctive and that’s why they came up with such an elaborate slogan.

But in form, this does not distinguish the event from previous years. They are still playing on “February” and “March,” just as they have before.

In content, March 14 wants to say that the Arab Spring started in Lebanon in the days following the Hariri assassination.

The wave of uprisings then headed west to the country of Bouazizi, turned back east toward the children of Deraa, then the Pearl roundabout in Bahrain, and continued to the change squares of Yemen.

According to a March 14 source, the amount of time to be dedicated to express solidarity with the Syrian opposition during the event has been the subject of heated disagreement among members of the coalition.

The current organizers were convinced giving stage time to supporting the uprising would be a good idea, so they contacted members of the Syrian National Council (SNC). The allegedly got a positive response. The council reportedly agreed to attend, especially after they were assured that a time slot for a speech would be reserved for them.
Hours after the SNC agreed, everything suddenly changed.
This is what presumably took place:
Officials in March 14 asked some of their colleagues in the SNC not to send any representatives. They told them that a letter in their name, which will be read out, will suffice.

It looked like the March 14 leadership had abandoned the SNC, and the relationship between them had deteriorated.

March 14 negotiators have offered many explanations for their turnaround. The more serious among them was that “we cannot protect any [SNC] representatives when they come to Beirut.”
But this excuse did not convince the members of the council, especially when many of them travel around to different cities, Arab and Western, and often appear in the media. They are well-known and their homes are not hard to find.

It is more likely, according to discussions in March 14 circles, that the Lebanese opposition movement does not have the ability to secure the necessary political cover for the direct participation of the SNC in the commemoration.

This means that March 14 is unable to muster the necessary support to give the SNC the legitimacy it needs, prompting members of the Syrian opposition to raise questions concerning the commitment of March 14 to the uprising in Syria.

They went to March 14 officials and asked about the extent of their support for them and for the uprising in Syria. They specifically asked: “Are you afraid to recognize us publicly? Are you worried about providing a legitimate cover for the council?”

The SNC insisted that their participation should be direct and open, with no intermediaries. They proposed that a speech could be recorded and broadcast to the audience at BIEL, along the line of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s speech – although it has not been settled yet whether his speech will be live or recorded.
Sources have confirmed that Hariri was asked to contact the president of the SNC, Burhan Ghalioun, and that a call was made to him on Sunday evening. Ghalioun agreed with many of the suggestions made by Hariri. It was agreed that there will be a speech by the SNC and that it will be read out by one of the “activists” in the Cedar Revolution. Organizers, however, have refused to confirm this, leaving the door open for various possibilities.

The SNC’s point of view has been “suppressed” in favor of implementing decisions that have been “imposed” by the leadership of March 14. Politically, this can only be described as the semi-recognition of the SNC by the Lebanese opposition.

In short, March 14 has stuck to its usual pattern in dealing with events since 2005. They fear committing to action and are anxious about the repercussions of taking a hard stand. March 14 will release thunderous slogans but backtrack on carrying them out.

Otherwise, there is nothing new. The organizers of the BIEL event are not releasing the names of those giving speeches. But Samir Geagea (Lebanese Forces), Amine Gemayel (Phalange Party), and Fouad Siniora (Future movement) will each have a turn at the podium.

According to observers: “the search for a Shia representative is still ongoing,” to replace the ex-minister Muhammad Abdel Hamid Beydoun, who spoke last year.

But some Future Movement organizers of the event say this has not been decided yet.
The organizers want the event to last only two hours, from 4-6pm. The 4,000 expected attendees will probably be the polite variety – wearing neck ties and evening gowns, clapping on cue, and unlikely to call out slogans that will embarrass the leadership.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!

No comments: