On the eve of Lebanon's Independence Day, President Michel Aoun just addressed the Lebanese nation in a televised speech, marking the 76th independence of Lebanon amid ongoing mass protests, and discussing current development.
The President started by addressing the Lebanese women and men, saying: "Today is not the right time for speeches and celebrations. It is time for hard work because the challenges we face are big and dangerous."
"The [new] government was supposed to have been born and started its work, but the contradictions that control Lebanese politics have forced us to wait in order to avoid the worst and to reach an effective and productive government because challenges ahead are huge," he said.
He went on explaining, "Seventy-six years have passed since Lebanon became an independent homeland, during which it experienced harsh phases where its independence was jeopardized. And with every ordeal, we are increasingly certain that maintaining independence is more difficult than attaining it."
He stated that the real independence is a "free and independent national decision, which is not subject to any form of trusteeship, explicit or convincing, and this is what we cling to today and always, with all our determination and strength, whatever the cost is."
"The deals and compromises that are prepared for our region, and attempts to impose them, threaten not only the independence of the countries concerned but also their existence," he said without naming or clarifying.
Speaking about his emphasis on the independence of Lebanon, he explained that it does not mean an antagonism with any state or to anyone, "but we seek a sincere friendship and deal positively with those who befriend us, but based on our free decision and peer-to-peer relationship, and accept the proposals that suit our country, and reject what is harmful to it [...]"
During his speech, the president came across the corruption topic, saying that "the fight against corruption has become a marketing slogan that is evoked whenever needed, especially by those who are steeped in it."
In this regard, he addressed the Lebanese people, asking for help. "No one else is able to make all the lines available and no one else is able to press for the implementation of the existing laws and legislate what is needed to recover the looted funds and prosecute the corrupt."
On the topic of the protests, the president called the demonstrators to the dialogue again. "I reiterate my call to the demonstrators to see closely their actual demands and ways to implement them because dialogue alone is the right way to resolve crises."
He also pointed out, "The popular movement has broken some of the previous taboos, toppled some protectorates, pushed the judiciary to action, and motivated the legislature to prioritize a number of proposals of anti-corruption laws."
"Highlighting corruption in the media and in the squares is healthy and helpful, as well as providing information and documents available to the judiciary," he said. "But if the media, the street, and the political debate become a prosecutor, a judge, and a prisoner, it is the most harmful thing to the anti-corruption process."
In his speech as well, President Aoun considered that "indiscriminate accusations, sentencing, and circulation may criminalize innocent, but they certainly do not know the real perpetrator and allow him to escape, and also continue with his activity in corruption." He addressed the judges to abide by their oath and do their duty honestly in fighting corruption.
He also revealed the following: "In 2017, I referred to the judiciary more than 18 files related to corruption cases. To date, no verdict has been issued, and any delay in dealing with cases of corruption is an unintentional encouragement of corruption."
He stressed that he will be an "impenetrable dam" to protect the judiciary and prevent any interference according to his oath regarding the Constitution and laws.
Addressing the Lebanese again, he said: "We find ourselves held hostage by a severe economic crisis resulting from wrong economic policies, corruption, and waste in management for decades. Let the coming year be a year of actual economic independence, by changing the economic pattern into a productive economy."
President Aoun also pointed out that "independence is achieved by liberating us from our sectarian conflicts, and by initiating the necessary steps to establish a civil state."
Addressing the Lebanese military, he said: "You were and will continue to be the shield of the homeland, the protectors of its independence, and the fence of its unity."
President Aoun concluded by addressing the Lebanese people, especially the youth, with the following: "Hate speech in the street is one of the biggest threats to the nation and society. Do not forget that, after the end of this crisis, you will return home to your neighborhood, school, university, work, and live together."
"Don't demolish with hate speech and incitement because demolition is easy, but construction is hard, and don't destroy the foundations of our society, which is based on respect for the other and on freedom of belief, opinion, and expression."
"Your ancestors have suffered the woes to preserve their free existence and independent existence, and your parents knew all kinds of suffering in a devastating internal war that destroyed most of their dreams." With that, President Aoun concluded his speech.