Rita Samra: "We want to have a sovereign and democratic Lebanon"

Posted in Broader Middle East | 19-Apr-05 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Rita Samra, Chairwoman of International Affairs in the Lebanese American Coordination Council: "Muslims and Christians are now asking for liberty, independence and freedom of choice"

Rita Samra is a freedom activist and Chairwoman of International Affairs in the Lebanese American Coordination Council.

WSN: What is the motto of the Kataeb (Gemayel) youth cell?

Rita Samra: Definitely "Liberty, Freedom and Independence!" We have long waited for this to happen and now it seems that we are achieving this goal. These words were pronounced over and over again by thousands of Lebanese at Martyr's Square, ever since former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was murdered in what we call a terrorist attack that was meant to destabilize Lebanon completely.

WSN: How would you describe relations between Lebanon and Syria?

Rita Samra: For years, we have lived under the Syrian mandate and the command of Syrian intelligence. Thirty years ago, they came to Lebanon in order to stop the civil war, but instead they took sides with certain parties and worsened the situation. Then, they began to interfere in Lebanese politics by appointing parliament members, forming governments and even appointing the president of the country. As all of this was not enough, they also amended the existing laws in order to gain more power and influence in the country. The fact that they were running our political and the judicial systems led to the interruption of Lebanese policy at all levels, replacing it with Syrian-imposed measures.

WSN: What were the immediate consequences of this large-scale interference?

Rita Samra: At the economic level, we have been confronted with unemployment and a high level of emigration that had never happened before. Many young men left the country, because here they were not able to build a future for themselves and their families. This particular element affected the demographic balance.

WSN: What about the people who challenged Syrian dominance in Lebanon?

Rita Samra: All those who opposed what the Syrians were doing landed either in jail, were exiled or murdered and unfortunately, we have plenty of examples for each category.

WSN: What can you tell me about the relations between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples?

Rita Samra: We have many things in common with the Syrians with regard to history, geography and culture. However, what we want from the Syrian government is that it stays in Syria and governs only Syria, not Lebanon. In the future, we can establish diplomatic relations based on mutual respect between the Lebanese and Syrian governments, if the Syrians think they can respect our sovereignty. Lebanon is the first Arab state to adopt a democratic ideology and we would like to continue the tradition. It is also true that we are a country with various religions and sects, but we have managed to remain unified. In unison, Muslims and Christians are now asking for liberty, independence and of course, freedom of choice.

WSN: Does the Kataeb party support the idea of an international investigation into Hariri's assassination?

RS: Of course. We demand to know the truth; we want to know who masterminded the plan, who executed it and who brought us into this situation in the first place. We need the international community's help in order to uncover the truth.

WSN: What about the clause in UN Resolution 1559 that demands Hezbollah disarms?

Rita Samra: Hezbollah is a matter that should be solved at the national level. The Lebanese will deal with this problem through discussions with Hezbollah's leadership. Hezbollah claims that it is going to free the South of Lebanon, namely the Shebaa Farms, because it is Lebanese land. Should it be proven that Shebaa is not Lebanese, as the UN decided a long time ago, then we will ask Hezbollah to give up its weapons and remain active as a political party.

WSN: In the last few weeks, the Christian areas were targeted and as of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Do you think that these bombs may toss Lebanon into a second civil war?

Rita Samra:The ones who are setting off the bombs believe they can stop us from protesting against Syria or that they can prevent stop us from asking for a democratic regime in Lebanon, but they are wrong. We are more eager than ever before to have a regime change, to hold elections on time, to have a parliament that represents all Lebanese people. We, the Lebanese people are committed to achieving our goals and nothing and no one can stop us. We want to have a sovereign and democratic Lebanon.

WSN: Thank you.