Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
| || || Interview: Dory Chamoun |
President of the National Liberal Party (NLP), Mayor of Deir al-Qamar
Dory Chamoun, the eldest son of former President Camille Chamoun, is the head of the National Liberal Party (NLP), a secular nationalist political movement established by his late father in July 1958, and mayor of Deir al-Qamar, a village in the Shouf district. Ziad K. Abdelnour interviewed him earlier this month.
There has long been a divide in the Lebanese opposition between those who demand the immediate withdrawal of Syrian forces from the country and those who believe that openly contesting Syrian authority, particularly amid regional tensions, will make Damascus less inclined to pull out. Toward which perspective do you lean?
I am for Syria's immediate military withdrawal from Lebanon and an end to its domination of our political scene, which is leading to the complete destruction of our national institutions and democratic system. The adoption of Syria's autocratic system of police rule is ruining Lebanon in all respects - moral, legal, political and economic.
There is no excuse for the prolongation of Syria's stay in Lebanon, whether regional or otherwise. In order to face any regional development, Lebanon should decide its own fate and not be forced to accept Syria's dictate, which can naturally only be in Syria's favor.
You are a founding member of the Qornet Shehwan Gathering. How
successful has this bloc been in unifying the Christian opposition
currents? Do you believe it will play a role in bringing about a Syrian withdrawal?
The Qornet Shehwan Gathering is the first serious political platform since the Lebanese Front, back in the seventies. Its creation was the fruit of many long and exhausting efforts to reunite a society that was shattered and brought to its knees by internal strife and the occupation of Lebanon by more than one foreign army. Qornet Shehwan is today the only valid unifying force which is bringing together the Lebanese within Lebanon and in the Diaspora in order to confront the dangers Lebanon is facing.
If we Lebanese cannot in unison demand our right to exist, no one else will care about our existence. The only way for Lebanon to regain its sovereignty and independence and secure a Syria withdrawal is by being firmly united. As of today, only Qornet Shehwan has offered an adequate political platform to undertake such an initiative.
The Qornet Shehwan Gathering recently decided not to hold a public demonstration without permission from the authorities. Do you agree with this position?
We sought a permit to demonstrate in accordance with the law, knowing perfectly well that the authorities would not allow it, especially after their informers reported the possibility of a very large attendance - around 50,000 people. We wanted once more to test our base of support and the resolve of the authorities.
However, this doesn't mean that we have abandoned our right to demonstrate, nor does is mean that there are no more reasons or causes worth demonstrating for. But for the time being, we are postponing this type of action while activating and exploring other tactics and venues.
You were one of the key members of the opposition present at the
International Maronite Congress held in Los Angeles in June of this year. What are your impressions regarding the Lebanese Diaspora?
Yes, I was in Los Angeles for the Congress and would like to congratulate the Diaspora for the new dynamics in uniting their ranks and for their efforts to help Lebanon get back on its feet again. They should not give up and must continue creating the kind of lobby required.
What about the Lebanese-American community in particular?
The large number of Americans of Lebanese decent is on the increase and their concentrated presence in certain states can become an influence to be reckoned with, where every candidate is seeking Lebanese voters.
What is your position on the Syria Accountability Act?
With regards to Syria Accountability Act, I have certain reservations. Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 with the full approval of both the United States and Israel. It is becoming more obvious as time goes on that the Syrian presence in Lebanon has a mission: to satisfy certain interests in the region. When and if this mission is concluded, then Syria's role and presence in Lebanon will end.
The Syria Accountability Act is, in my mind, only an instrument to exert certain pressures on Syria in view of the current situation in the Middle East and has, in reality, very little to do with the Lebanese and their aspirations.
Many have said that you played a role in facilitating the gravitation of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt toward the nationalist camp over the last two or three years. Earlier this year he suddenly reversed himself and is now criticizing the Qornet Shehwan Gathering and other mainstream opposition currents. Why did he do this?
Mr. Jumblatt has an atavistic and traditional method of practicing politics: Never let your right hand know what your left one is doing.
The main problem between Mr. Jumblatt and us is exactly in the interpretation of what can be qualified as nationalistic policy. In Mr. Jumblatt's terminology, nationalism can often go way beyond the frontiers of the Lebanese nation.
What is the status with the National Liberal Party today? What are your aspirations for the future?
The National Liberal Party is fine and in good health and widely regarded as a party who's only concern is the well being of Lebanon. This patriotic stand meets the aspirations of all the Lebanese who are more and more worried about Lebanon's future. Whatever happens we are here to stay and shall continue in the footsteps of Camille Chamoun, who was one of the main artisans of an independent and sovereign Lebanon.
Our youth and student bodies are in full bloom and are one of the main unifying factors within our young society. Throughout Lebanon, we are reasserting our presence despite all the pressures that are exerted on our party members and the measures taken by the authorities to undermine our activities. The Ahrars1 in the Diaspora will remain, as they have always been, a uniting factor in the service of the old country.
Notes © 2002 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.
1 A term meaning supporters of the National Liberal Party, derived from its name in Arabic, Hizb al-Wataniyyin al-Ahrar.
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