BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities began removing concrete barriers around the country’s parliament building on Monday after former protesters were elected as MPs.
The security measures were put in place during the outbreak of massive anti-government protests in 2019. They are to be eased following the election of a dozen reformist newcomers to the 128-member legislature, some of whom had taken part in the movement of protest. .
Some of the new MPs had called for the restrictions to be eased before attending the first session of the new parliament.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi attended the start of the works yesterday afternoon.
The cleanup will be completed before the next parliamentary session is held, a statement from the office of House Speaker Nabih Berri said.
This decision comes after the election of 15 deputies from the Forces of Change group, which was demonstrating in the streets around the parliament, in addition to a number of independent deputies.
Beirut MP Ibrahim Mneimneh, of the Forces of Change, said: “There is no need for barriers placed around the house of the people because it is for the people. These are unnecessary barriers.
He said that the measures decided by Berri were the result of the traditional ruling forces realizing “the decline of their popularity, so they decided to respond to popular demands”.
MP Waddah Sadiq, a former protester, said the fences around parliament are a separation wall. “Today the parliament represents the people who demand change, so they decided to relax the procedures,” Sadiq said.
Sadiq said the economic and life crises are “getting worse and people can turn to a state of rejection again. We need pressure to respond to it.
He said the previous government did not take any effective treatment measures.
The plan approved by the government did not include any stimulus or savings, the MP said. “Therefore, we are entering a difficult phase and we will be on the side of the people.”
MP Elias Jarada, an ophthalmologist from the southern city of Ibl Al-Saqi, called the “doctor of the poor”, said that “parliament is the house of the people, and there are no barriers that can separate the representatives of the nation and citizens.
He said all barriers preventing people from entering Nejmeh Square must be removed before MPs are invited to a session.
Ali Hamdan, the media adviser to the Speaker of Parliament, told Arab News that “these measures are not a sign of overconfidence. On the contrary, elections were held and the results brought representatives of the protesters to parliament.
He said: “These people represent part of the street, and you can call them a movement, an uprising or a change.”
He said the president had decided to take a measure to reduce security measures, but that they “won’t be completely lifted around parliament”.
He said some in Lebanon still fear security setbacks.
“There are crises after crises, including the customs dollar crisis and the rise in telecom prices, and we have seen what happened in Greece and Cyprus.”
The area around the building had been transformed by concrete walls that blocked all roads leading to Nejmeh Square.
Hotels in the area have closed due to damage they have suffered in each wave of popular protests targeting Parliament since October 17, 2019.
Institutions, businesses and businesses all left the area after it became difficult to reach them. The area has turned into a ghost town following power outages and no people.
Parliament meetings were suspended there after the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which damaged the building.
The parliament has temporarily moved its meetings to the UNESCO Palace, which is at the west-south end of the capital.
While the temporary location offered a spacious room, comfortable seating and the social distancing required during the pandemic, it did not provide electronic voting for MPs or an electronic list for MP attendance.
Bechara Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, said he was concerned about “the continuation of sterile debates as the crises become more complex”.