BEIRUT: Lebanon will on Tuesday ditch its traditional military parade for 79th Independence Day celebrations due to the continued presidential vacuum in the country.
Army chiefs said the decision had been made with the “national interest” in mind and to maintain “security and stability.”
Addressing troops on Monday, army commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun, said: “Our country is going through exceptional circumstances that require everyone, officials, and citizens, to be aware, wise, responsible, and cooperate for the sake of the supreme national interest while waiting for the political situation to be rectified and order to be restored.
“Independence is the fruit of the honorable struggle waged by the Lebanese, just as it is the fruit of the fateful challenges they faced and overcame with their unity and determination, leading to building a homeland on solid foundations, so we must preserve and protect it.”
He pointed out that the recent maritime border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel had been “an important step” toward the nation’s recovery and an investment in its natural wealth.
“This achievement needs state institutions to protect and accompany it, for the benefit of the country and the Lebanese.
“Amid the presidential vacuum and the prevailing political tensions, maintaining security and stability remains our top priority. We will not allow any violation or destabilization of civil peace for certain objectives.
“Our mission was and will remain to preserve Lebanon, its people, and its land,” Aoun added.
The general praised soldiers for their discipline during the country’s ongoing economic crisis. “You have maintained your morals in dealing with all the events and incidents that our country has experienced. With your oath and vigilance, you protected Lebanon and will continue to protect it until the last drop of blood.”
He said the army would continue to coordinate with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon to maintain stability in the south.
“The confidence of the Lebanese and the international community have in you is proof of the importance of your role, so do not weaken in the face of dangers, and do not tire of campaigns of profiteering and false accusations,” he added.
In February, Aoun warned that soldiers were suffering from the same economic hardships as Lebanese civilians, and he directly criticized the political leadership for its inability to address the situation.
Arab and other countries have since donated food and medical aid for Lebanon’s military personnel.
Also addressing the military, Director General of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said Lebanon had never experienced such levels of sectarianism and regionalism, along with the ruination of state institutions.
“We need to be ready for what might happen, especially as we are responsible before the Lebanese to preserve and protect the homeland,” he added.
Ibrahim noted that states were not based on individual guarantees, but on constitutional institutions and a commitment to apply laws.
Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, director general of State Security, told troops: “Power vacuum does not at all mean a security vacuum. Our top priority is to protect the country from the Israeli enemy, terrorism, and corruption.”
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian urged MPs, “to take an initiative on the occasion of Independence Day by agreeing to elect a new president who has the characteristics that remind us of the independence leaders who fought and sacrificed for their homeland.
“The situation in Lebanon will not be corrected except by electing a president, forming a government, and restoring Lebanese-Arab relations, especially with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Otherwise, we are only wasting time.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, and following the Beirut port explosion, Lebanon stopped holding the Nov. 22 Independence Day military parade on the capital’s waterfront.
In 2021, a symbolic military parade was held at the army headquarters in the Yarzeh region, in the presence of former President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
The economic crisis in Lebanon has placed unprecedented pressure on the operational capabilities of the army, leaving soldiers with low morale and minimal pay, while political tensions have continued to mount, and crime and poverty rates have soared.
Ministers in the caretaker government on Monday laid wreaths on the tombs of the independence leaders.
As the Lebanese flag flew at half-mast over the presidential palace, schoolchildren also celebrated Flag Day, which falls the day before Independence Day.