Lebanon FM opens Diaspora Energy Conference in Johannesburg

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Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil called for the representation of the Lebanese diaspora with six parliamentary seats.

“We should give the diaspora the required seating [in the Parliament], which is better than the seats that were given to [individuals] under non-Lebanese orders in some areas,” Bassil said in his opening speech at the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He said that the six parliamentary seats would represent the diaspora in each continent: Africa, Europe, South America, North America, Asia and Australia.

“Not only are the Lebanese in diaspora maltreated in the [current] electoral law, but also those residing in the country for not having a system that achieves equality.”

Lebanese officials are divided over the adoption of a new electoral law. Talks are ongoing among rivals to find common ground.

Millions of people of Lebanese origin reside abroad, including a large number of Lebanese Christians living in Latin America who fled Lebanon due to famine and war that ravaged the country during World War I.

“[In Lebanon] we are discussing the [new] vote law and reforms, and I insist on our demand to represent the diaspora with parliamentary seats.”

Bassil reiterated that Lebanese expats were an “added value” to the countries they reside in, urging the Lebanese government to properly implement the citizenship law, without which “Lebanon would lose its uniqueness.”

In November 2015, Parliament approved a draft law allowing foreigners of Lebanese origin to apply for citizenship. The Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Bassil, and the Lebanese Forces were major proponents of the law. Both parties represent Christian constituencies.

“We need your energy, expertise and creative ability to face all the challenges,” Bassil said, addressing the conferees.

The FM said that the Palestinian and Syrian refugees, terrorism, corruption and economic crises, were all challenges facing the Lebanese state.

“Many are seeking to melt our identity by restructuring the Levant by imposing foundations that abolish our uniqueness… but Lebanon should protect itself and its identity by merging with [other communities] while preserving its individuality and identity.”

Bassil announced that the upcoming Diaspora Energy Conference will be held in Beirut on May 4, 5 and 6 under the sponsorship of President Michel Aoun.

The last conference was held in Brazil in November 2016.

Six parliamentary seats should be reserved for expats

Minister Gebran Bassil Thursday called for the Lebanese diaspora to be assigned six MPs to represent them at the next elections. “[The government is] discussing a new electoral law and reforms, [I am] reaffirming my ambition for six parliamentary seats to be allocated, from the [current] 128, for each continent,” the foreign minister said at the Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in the South African capital of Johannesburg.

Bassil was heading a delegation to launch the conference that included the Economy Minister Raed Khoury.

The foreign minister said he lamented the lack of proper representation for the diaspora under the current Lebanese electoral law. “Not only are the Lebanese in diaspora maltreated in the [current] electoral law, but also those residing in the country do not have a system that achieves equality. We should give the diaspora the required seats [in Parliament], which is better than the seats that were given to [individuals] under non-Lebanese orders in some areas.”

Lebanese parties are currently debating the formation of a new electoral law to replace the controversial 1960 majoritarian system before this year’s upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for May.

Bassil went on to praise Lebanese expatriates for the adding value to the countries where they reside. He urged the Lebanese government to properly implement the citizenship law because without it, “Lebanon will lose its uniqueness.”

In November 2015, Parliament approved a draft law allowing foreigners of Lebanese descent to apply for citizenship. The Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Bassil, and the Lebanese Forces were major proponents of the law. The two parties arguably represent two of the biggest Christian constituencies.

Bassil called on the audience to apply their energy, expertise and creative ability to tackling challenges in Lebanon. He touched on the current crises facing the country, including the impact of the presence of Palestinian and Syrian refugees, terrorism, corruption and economic instability.

“Many are seeking to erase our identity by restructuring the Levant by imposing foundations that abolish our uniqueness … but Lebanon should protect itself and its identity by merging with its surrounding communities while preserving its individuality and identity.”

He also said terrorism and Israeli aggressions were a threat to stability. “We suffered from tyranny and slavery [previously] and now we still suffer from aggression on our land by Israel and … terrorists.”

The upcoming Diaspora Energy Conference will be held in Beirut between May 4 and 6, under the patronage of President Michel Aoun. The previous conference was held last November in Brazil.

Millions of people of Lebanese origin make up a global diaspora, including a large number of Christians living in Latin America who fled Lebanon due to famine and war that ravaged the country during World War I.

Source: The Daily Star