Speaking to reporters in Baabda Palace on Friday, President Michel Aoun showed firm rejection of having an international probe of the massive Beirut explosion that devasted the once vibrant city.
“Lebanese sovereignty will not be touched during my mandate,” he said, as the reason for his refusal. For us common people, it’s really hard to comprehend the connection, in whatever angle we try to see it.
Point is, what has an investigation by neutral experts to do with the sovereignty of Lebanon?
After all, we have had the same type of investigation in the past. The UN International Independent Investigation Commission was called to assist Lebanese authorities in conducting their investigation into the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.
It didn’t affect nor touch or change anything to the sovereignty of Lebanon.
Because of the blast, which happened during this mandate, over 150 lives are lost, more are missing, at least 300,000 people are now homeless, and a big part of the capital is destroyed.
Various political party leaders, including Saad Hariri, Walid Joumblatt, and Samir Geagea, have called for an independent investigative team to assess the cause of the deadly explosion.
Citizens also do not trust the current government to be independently impartial, and its appointed investigative committee to do its job objectively, or that the outcome would be revealed to the public in all transparency.
The people have long lost trust in their government as an independent political authority and, with such darkness surrounding this criminal blast, they would rather have independent, unbiased, apolitical, non-governmental experts handle the investigation.
One would also think the leader of a nation would want to get to the bottom of this catastrophe with the absolute best investigative teams, especially if the country is full of untrustworthy officials with personal and political agendas.
From his point of view, President Aoun believes an international investigation would conceal the true cause of the blast rather than reveal it.
He refused to internationalize the investigation, saying, “If we are unable to govern ourselves, no one can govern us.”
Again, what has a neutral investigation to do with the governing of the country?
And have we really been able to govern our country’s affairs? As much as we want to take pride in that, the long compounding crisis collapsing the country scream of total misgovernance for years.
Years of unpunished corruption and billions of dollars lost do not speak of good governance. The country sinking in poverty is neither an indication of able governance.
However, Lebanon’s president does believe that the current local investigation is doing well enough.
According to him, it is now focusing on how the large quantity of ammonium nitrate got in the warehouse (which we all already know), why it stayed so long (which we also know already), and whether negligence led to its detonation (most likely) or if it was an enemy attack.
Clearly, he did not deny the possibility of an attack, which should be more than a reason to call for multiple investigative teams working together to present and exchange evidence to efficiently uncover what happened.
So far, over a dozen individuals, including the manager of the Port of Beirut, have been apprehended by the military police for interrogation. A weighty arrest was made on Friday, that of the head of Lebanese Customs, Badri Daher.
On Tuesday, the committee was given five days to submit their findings, and the time is ticking.