BEIRUT: After eight days of protests, President Michel Aoun broke his silence as he finally addressed the Lebanese public.
The address, originally scheduled for noon, was postponed until later in the afternoon.
Although the address was claimed to be live by the network, viewers quickly observed differences in the background of the frame, a result of poor video editing. A series of pre-recorded clips were consolidated into one video address.
No resignation of any member of the government was announced.
The President, in his address, acknowledged an existing “lack of accountability” of those in power.
“We didn't hold accountable those that brought us to this point,” Aoun stated in his address. When he took office in 2016, Aoun had vowed to eradicate corruption across Lebanon's different institutions.
He also acknowledged that the 1989 Taif accords, agreed upon to end the civil war in Lebanon and return the country to a state of political normalcy, made it more challenging to swiftly tackle corruption and accomplish agenda items.
“After the Taif accord, the president needs the cooperation of all aspects of the government to get things done,” he said.
The President still claimed responsibility for the current situation in Lebanon, and his acknowledgment of limiting power was not to deviate from responsibility.
“I’m not saying that to divert blame, at the end of the day I am the President and I’m responsible,” Aoun said.
Aoun also announced that he has proposed a draft law to Parliament that will retrieve stolen public funds, and urged citizens to voice their support for the law to their relevant representatives in Parliament.
“You want to retrieve stolen public money? I am the one to put forth a law just to do that,” the President stated in his address.
There are several draft laws currently in parliament, including the creation of a committee to combat corruption and to lift banking secrecy and immunity from MPs and ministers.
The President stressed that time is a luxury Lebanon doesn't have.
“These laws should be passed as soon as possible,” he said.
Aoun concluded his speech by ensuring the highest level of security for any judiciary members pursuing stolen funds, complete transparency in government affairs moving forward, in addition to assuring the Lebanese people that their voices were heard.
“Your screams will not go to waste like all the screams before you that brought back all the liberties to Lebanon and I am willing to meet with representatives of the movement to exchange point of views."
Aoun's speech was largely rebuked by protesters, who continue to demand the resignation of the government to be replaced by a Cabinet made up of technocrats.
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