According to constitutional principles, a state is ruled by law. However, this is not the case in consensual democracies created by sectarian, factional, and tribal alliances. In this form of governance, state institutions recede to the background while local leaders, militias, and street thugs assume power. Applying the law becomes a sort of social luxury that the state coordinates with other de facto powers to achieve.
The notorious Roumieh Prison in Lebanon offers a typical example. The prison is controlled by the Fatah al-Islam group, which turned it into an Islamic emirate.
The place is supposed to be a secured facility in which drugs, weapons, and communication devices are not allowed, but this is not the case. The state needs mediators to access building “B” and arrest a murder suspect. Detainees demand the replacement of officers and prison administrators and the state complies while no minister takes any action.
Yesterday, there were negotiations to open the Mirouba-Harajel road and partisan mediators interfered to make sure a murder suspect is peacefully turned in and to stop other criminals from terrorizing and threatening the lives of personal civilians. Before that, the state was negotiating with highwaymen to prevent Sheikh Ahmed al-Aseer from reaching skiing spots. We all remember the time when the interior minister visited Sidon to negotiate with Aseer himself asking him not to block roads and threaten others.
The airport road is another story. Tourism was dealt a fatal blow at the time and the army and security forces were not able to re-open the road except through mediation on the part of de facto powers in the Southern District.
State must defend citizens
We are not demanding that security forces kill or antagonize the people, but rather to sympathize with them. It is also unacceptable that the state bullies the poor, tax payers, and citizens who abide by the law to flex its muscles at their expense while it curries favor with criminals, murderers, and outlaws and negotiates with them instead of applying the law to them.
The government needs to steer clear of short-sighted electoral calculations so that it would be capable of applying the law. If this is not possible, the government has to resign immediately and another one that does not contain any parliamentary candidates needs to be formed so that parliament membership is separated from ministerial positions because geographical and sectarian calculations never build a nation.
This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on Jan. 28, 2013.
Nayla Tueni is one of the few elected female politicians in Lebanon and of the two youngest. She became a member of parliament in 2009 and following the assassination of her father, Gebran, she is currently a member of the board and Deputy General Manager of Lebanon’s leading daily, Annahar. Prior to her political career, Nayla had trained, written in and managed various sections of Annahar, where she currently has a regular column. She can be followed on Twitter @NaylaTueni