Lebanon pays tribute to late statesman

by Annahar Staff

5 January 2016 | 20:20

  • by Annahar Staff
  • Last update: 5 January 2016 | 20:20

Bishop Elias Audi heads a mass at Saint Nicolas Church in Achrafieh on Jan. 5, 2015. (Annahar photo)

Beirut: Lebanon bid farewell Tuesday to prominent statesman and former Minister Fouad Boutros, in a mass led by Beirut Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi. The mass was attended by politicians from across the political spectrum, in a clear tribute to the former Minister's unwavering professionalism throughout his political career.

Boutros was born in Achrafieh on November 5, 1917 and studied law at St. Joseph University in Beirut. Son of well-known banker George Boutros, Fouad had to work for a living after his father's financial institution went bankrupt during the Great Depression in 1929. He worked as a court's assistant in 1939 and then became a judge in 1942. He served as a judge in the Civil Court as well as a military magistrate, where he met then-Major General Fouad Chehab. Boutros went back to practicing law in 1947.

During his tenure at the military court, he strengthened his relationship with Chehab, who later assumed the presidency and appointed the young lawyer as minister of education in 1959. The ministerial appointment offered Boutros a strong political platform that allowed him to run for parliamentary elections.

He won his first parliamentary seat in 1960, representing the city of Beirut, and was also elected as Deputy Parliament speaker the same year. He was re-elected MP four years later.

Boutros became a prominent politician under Chehab's tenure and a strong advocate of the president's policies.

He was appointed minister of justice in 1961, deputy prime minister and minister of education and defense in 1968.

Even though he lost his parliamentary seat in 1968, he returned as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and defense in 1976, and held several ministerial portfolios until 1980.

Boutros remained involved in politics well after his ministerial appointments ended. In 2005, he was sent to Damascus by then-President Emile Lahoud to try and mend Lebanese-Syrian relations.

The same year, Boutros led the National Commission for an Electoral Law and was tasked with drafting a new electoral law. He advised the ratification of a law that incorporates proportional and majority-based representation.

In the memorial ceremony held at the church of Saint Nicolas in Beirut, Archbishop Audi recalled the late Minister's political achievements and the values he embodied.

"Boutros based his decisions on a high moral standard, and his loyalty to the nation was ever-present in his work, [traits] that helped him win the respect of his friends as well as those who disagreed with him," Audi said.

Audi added that in politics, Boutros sought greater public good rather than personal interests.

"A Cedar of Lebanon has fallen, a national giant's light has faded, and one of Lebanon's last pillars has been lost," he said.

"Fouad Boutros left us heartbroken over a nation he hoped would stand out in the region but turned out to be a playground for regional [powers], over a state he wanted to be strong and fair for all its children... but turned out to be weak, worn out, controlled by sectarianism, chaos, and nepotism, infested with corruption and bribery, driven by interests and opportunism, and reeks of side deals and scandals, with no one to care for the nation or its citizens," Audi said.

Audi offered his condolences to the Lebanese people, voicing hope that someone "will follow in Boutros' footsteps," before wondering "what will become of Lebanon without Fouad Boutros?"

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