Lebanon minister Manal Abdel-Samad resigns amid 'will for change' after Beirut blast

Lebanon minister Manal Abdel-Samad resigns amid 'will for change' after Beirut blast
Minister of Information Manal Abdel Samad arrives for the inaugural cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda east of capital Beirut on January 22, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 August 2020

Lebanon minister Manal Abdel-Samad resigns amid 'will for change' after Beirut blast

Lebanon minister Manal Abdel-Samad resigns amid 'will for change' after Beirut blast
  • Manal Abdel-Samad apologizes to the Lebanese public for failing them
  • Explosion killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s information minister resigned on Sunday as the country grapples with the aftermath of the devastating blast that ripped through the capital and raised public anger to new levels.
The resignation comes comes after a night of demonstrations against the ruling elite, blamed for the chronic mismanagement and corruption that is believed to be behind the explosion in a Beirut Port warehouse. Hundreds of tons of highly explosive material were stored in the waterfront hangar, and the blast sent a shock wave that killed at least 160 people, wounded nearly 6,000 and defaced the coastline of Beirut — destroying hundreds of buildings.

 


Manal Abdel-Samad said in her resignation letter that change remained “elusive” and she regrets failing to fulfill the aspirations of the Lebanese people.
Her resignation comes as about half a dozen lawmakers offered their resignation in protest over government performance. Local media also reported that another minister, and a close adviser to Prime Minister Hassan Diab, was also expected to resign. Diab met with his Cabinet reportedly to discuss the resignations Sunday, but there were no comments after the meeting.
“Given the magnitude of the catastrophe caused by the Beirut earthquake that shook the nation and hurt our hearts and minds, and in respect for the martyrs, and the pains of the wounded, missing and displaced, and in response to the public will for change, I resign from the government,” Abdel-Samad wrote.

 

 


In the country where civil war raged for 15 years, few, if any, have been held accountable for it and most of the warlords remain in power or leading powerful political factions.
On Sunday, France’s ambassador to Lebanon said his country is taking part in the investigation of the Aug. 4 blast. Bruno Foucher tweeted that 46 officers are operating as part of the judicial investigation. That probe was started by a French prosecutor after a national of France, Jean-Marc Bonfils, was killed in the blast and others injured.
It is “a guarantee of impartiality and speed” in the investigation, Foucher tweeted.
The disaster fueled angry demonstrations Saturday where protesters set up gallows and nooses in central Beirut and held mock hanging sessions of cut-out cardboard images of top Lebanese officials.
Demonstrators held signs that read “resign or hang.” The protests quickly turned violent when the demonstrators pelted stones at the security forces, who responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. One police officer was killed and dozens of people were hurt in confrontations that lasted for hours.
Protesters also fanned out around the city, storming a couple of government ministries. They briefly took over the Foreign Ministry, saying it will be the headquarters of their movement. In the economy and energy ministries, the protesters ransacked offices and seized public documents claiming they would reveal how corruption has permeated successive governments.
Five of the parliament’s 128 members have also announced their resignation since Saturday — including three legislators of the Christian Kataeb party, a member of the Socialist Progressive Party and an independent.

 

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The resignations add to the challenges facing Diab, who took over in January and has since been beset by crises.
The government, backed by the powerful militant Hezbollah group and its allies, announced it is defaulting on Lebanon’s sovereign debt and has since been engaged in difficult, internally divisive talks with the International Monetary Fund for assistance. The coronavirus restrictions deepened the impact of the economic and financial crisis and fueled public anger against the new government. Lebanese have criticized Diab’s government for being unable to tackle the challenges, saying it represents the deep-seated political class that has had a hold of the country’s politics since the end of the civil war in 1990.
Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned even before the blast, citing an absence of “effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform” and competing leadership.
In a televised speech Saturday evening, Diab said the only solution was to hold early elections. He called on all political parties to put aside their disagreements and said he was prepared to stay in the post for two months to allow time for politicians to work on structural reforms.
The offer is unlikely to soothe the escalating fury on the street. It is also expected to trigger lengthy discussions over the election law amid calls for introducing changes to the country’s sectarian-based representation system.
The information minister’s resignation comes ahead of an international conference co-hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres aimed at bringing donors together to supply emergency aid and equipment to Lebanon. Previous offers of aid have been contingent on carrying out significant government reforms to tackle corruption.
Britain and Germany pledged $28 million to help Lebanon in the wake of the blast. Britain said $26 million it is pledging will go to the World Food Program to provide food and medicine to the country’s most vulnerable. Britain is also sending specialist medics and a Royal Navy survey ship to Beirut, to help assess the damage from the blast.
Meanwhile, France is sending a helicopter carrier and a cargo ship loaded with aid and supplies to Beirut, in addition to eight flights that are bringing in experts and rescue workers as well as other supplies. The helicopter carrier has a hospital onboard and is carrying medical equipment and staff, engineering forces, construction materials and food aid.


UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began
Updated 19 January 2021

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began
  • UAE says 2,990 have recovered over the past 24 hours
  • Kuwait records 467 cases and 1 death, Oman reports 221 cases and 2 deaths

DUBAI: The UAE on Monday recorded 3,471 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic, and six deaths.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said the total number of cases since the pandemic began had reached 256,732, while the death toll rose to 751.
Some 2,990 people had recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours. The total number of recoveries is 228,364.
The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources issued a circular to all ministries and federal entities amending the procedures for dealing with the pandemic to be implemented from Sunday. All government employees, as well as outsourced or public service companies, are required to take a PCR test every seven days, if they have not received two doses of the vaccine.
As part of its national campaign to inoculate 50 percent of the population by April, the UAE said it has vaccinated 1.972 million people, with almost 90,000 in the last 24 hours.
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said it is organizing a series of virtual seminars aimed at raising awareness on the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for the priority groups.

Dr. Hind Al-Awadi, head of DHA’s Health Promotion and Education Department, said the campaign targets employees of government departments and institutions in Dubai to explain the importance of the vaccine, the procedure, its symptoms and its role in strengthening the body’s immunity, especially for those suffering from chronic diseases.
Dubai Municipality announced it had intensified its inspection campaigns and said it closed down 18 businesses and issued 18 fines and 45 warnings to others for failing to adhere to anti-COVID-19 measures.
The Department of Social Services in Sharjah said it received more than 300 requests to provide home vaccinations for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and their families since the initiative began on Saturday.
“Starting from the beginning of this week, 12 mobile units started visiting the homes of senior citizens and providing vaccinations for COVID-19, the department’s director Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mayel, said.

He added that they are working “to increase the number of mobile units in the coming weeks to ensure that the largest number of people are vaccinated.”
Ajman Medical District launched a new center to administer the vaccine, with a large turnout on the first day of opening.
Hamad Tarim Al-Shamsi, the district’s director, said: “Our health plans are based on making medical services accessible to all members of society and we are currently focusing on providing services, examinations and vaccines to the most needy groups, especially senior citizens and people with disabilities, and medical teams have been formed to communicate with them in their homes.”
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 467 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number to 158,244. The death toll rose to 948 after one coronavirus-related death was reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 221 new cases and two deaths, bringing the totals to 132,011 and 1,514, respectively.

In Bahrain, no deaths were reported, keeping the death toll to 360, while 333 new infected cases were confirmed.