In a long awaited speech, President Michel Aoun’s first address to the nation since demonstrations broke out across Lebanon happened on the eighth day of the protests.
The President tried to assuage demonstrators’ concerns on Thursday, indicating that their calls “will not go unanswered.”
“Protests prove that the Lebanese people are alive and capable of voicing out their demands and express their freedoms,” Aoun said during a televised Press Conference.
“I did all I can to achieve reforms and revive Lebanon but there are many obstacles along the way hindering the process, controlling people’s minds,” Aoun blamed corruption and sectarianism for destroying the country.
“Corruption has no religion or sect. Those corrupt should be exposed and referred to the judiciary,” he said.
“Everyone who embezzled public funds should be held accountable. Politicians must recover looted money as they are the ones responsible for it,” Aoun stated.
“The streets are not the proper place for a regime change”
“Reform is a political act at its best. It is time to reconsider the current governmental situation so that the executive authority can carry out its duties”
“The suggested economic reforms are the first step towards saving Lebanon from financial and economic collapse,” he indicated, assuring that another draft bill is proposed to lift political immunity and banking secrecy from parliamentarians, government officials and presidents.
President Aoun called for passing anti-corruption laws, emphasizing the Parliament’s responsibility in doing so.
“It is true that Freedom of expression is a respected and safeguarded right for everyone, but so is the freedom of transportation. Being able to move from one place to another is a citizen’s right and should be respected and provided,” he suggested.
“I am ready to initiate a constructive dialogue with your representatives to discuss practical measures so as to reach the best results,” Aoun addressed protesters.
“Dialogue is the best way for a solution”
Aoun called on people to keep an eye on any delay in implementing reforms, pointing out that the streets will always be here for them to oppose any attempts to put off improvements.
“I heard many calls for the government’s resignation but the government cannot be changed overnight. It must happen through constitutional reforms,” Aoun declared, expressing no wish to step down.
Protesters were not satisfied with the President’s speech, shouting “All of them means all,” Lebanon’s main protests’ slogan.