Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, chaired on Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Serail a meeting devoted to combating monopoly, stockpiling, and smuggling. The meeting was attended by Ministers Ramzi Musharrafieh, Michel Najjar, Raymond Ghajar, Hamad Hassan, Marie-Claude Najm, and Ghada Shreim, in addition to PCM Secretary General, Judge Mahmoud Makkie, Appeal Attorney General in Beirut, Judge Ghassan Al-Khoury, LAF Commander, General Joseph Aoun, ISF Director General, Major General Imad Othman, Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, Acting Director General of Customs, Raymond Khoury, Director of Intelligence, Brigadier General Antoine Kahwaji, as well as PM Advisors, Khodor Taleb and Hussein Kaafarani.
At the outset, PM Diab stated that the country was going through a very critical stage, with and severe complications that cannot be resolved with a caretaker government, adding that “Governments come and go; however, the State is always there and has the responsibility to protect people, their security, livelihoods, as well as social and economic situation.”
Diab added that the daily scenes in the streets were frightening and provided an example of the state’s absence, pushing people towards filling the void, which has disastrous consequences, for it paves the way for the idea of self-security, leading to organized chaos and fragmentation.
Premier Diab stressed on the collective responsibility, which falls on the administration, the judiciary and security services, in the context of the failure in Cabinet formation.
“The country is besieged and there is an external decision not to help Lebanon, blocking the way for any country trying to help Lebanon. Thus, solutions to the country’s crisis are becoming extremely difficult, especially in the absence of a full-fledged government. Therefore, we are seeking to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the people, without leaving them to their fate”, Diab added.
Premier Diab highlighted the need for cooperation the administration, the judiciary, and the security services to cooperate in order to confront the greed of some merchants who are seeking to accumulate big profits, calling on relevant services to remain in a state of extreme alert, to search for medicines, children milk, gasoline and fuel, and to severely penalize all monopolists and smugglers.
“Incapacity means resignation and the State must be present, whether a government is formed or delayed. State agencies must be present to do their part. As of today, we must leave no stone unturned before anyone who monopolizes, hides and smuggles products is held accountable”, PM Diab concluded.
After the meeting, Minister Musharrafieh read out the following recommendations: “In the inter-ministerial, security and judicial meeting chaired by PM Hassan Diab, we deliberated on the crisis of gasoline, diesel, medicine and children milk, as citizens are struggling to secure their needs of these materials. The relevant ministers and security serviced briefed the interlocutors on these crises, in addition to the circular issued by the Public Prosecutor regarding the prosecution of smugglers, monopolists and stockpilers. Practical and objective suggestions were put on the table to alleviate the crisis on citizens. The meeting took several measures, in addition to a set of recommendations that can be summarized as follows:
– Requesting the judicial authorities to adopt strict judicial procedures against smugglers and manipulators, whether in terms of stockpiling or monopoly.
– Requesting all security services to intensify their patrols in all areas, and to carry out raids on all places suspected of storing fuel, medicines and basic needs of citizens.
– Requesting all relevant ministries to intensify control over pre- and post- import, distribution and storage.
– Strict application of the transit system and schedule between Lebanon and Syria, pending the transfer of the border checkpoint to the nearest place from the Syrian checkpoint.
– Requesting customs to control the transportation of fuels, medicines and foodstuffs.
– Engaging municipalities in monitoring fuel stations.
– Warning those illegally storing oil derivatives that any material or physical harm resulting from their acts will ensue legal and material consequences.
Then, Minister Hassan said: “I was satisfied with the statement of the Banque du Liban, and I hope that it will result in serious and organized procedures, and not just an advertising media campaign. Based on this decision, I consider that all warehouse assets of importers of laboratory reagents, supplies and medical implants must be distributed as of tomorrow morning to hospitals, pharmacies and laboratories. As for medicine, it cannot be approached or linked to the political reality, and we must delink this issue from any media circulars without coordination, for this would undermine confidence in the pharmaceutical sector. We are currently subsidizing drugs in accordance with MoPH lists, starting from July 2, as for the drugs that used to be subsidized before, these are the drug importers’ right, and the bank must announce how it will paid them back.”
Minister Shreim also made the following remarks: “Today’s meeting was marked by firmness to confront the monopolists and illegal stockpilers of fuel derivatives, medicines, infant milk and foodstuffs. We urge citizens to engage in fighting monopoly and stockpiling by reporting any suspected storage, especially with regard to oil derivatives stored in the warehouses of buildings and homes, which turn into time bombs that can cause explosions and serious harm to residents of the buildings and their surroundings. Therefore, we urge citizens to report such events and make sure firm measures are taken to put an end to their suffering as soon as possible.”