President Michel Aoun on Wednesday described the protests that engulfed all Lebanese regions on Tuesday as legitimate, as he asked Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to explain why the Lebanese pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar.
“The president of the republic, General Michel Aoun, has been following with great concern the protests that have been rocking some Lebanese regions since yesterday evening, after the U.S. dollar exchange rate reached LBP 10,000,” the Presidency said in a statement.
“In this regard, President Aoun asked Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh in a meeting this morning at the Baabda Palace to identify the reasons that led to the rise of the dollar exchange rate to such levels, especially during the past few days,” the Presidency added.
Aoun also called on Salameh to “inform the Lebanese of the outcome of the investigation that is being conducted by the Special Investigation Commission for the sake of transparency.”
He also asked him to “refer these results to the public prosecution so that the culprits can be prosecuted should it be proven that there was illegal manipulation of the national currency by individuals, institutions or banks.”
Moreover, the president asked Salameh about the course of the forensic audit requested by the government, after the Alvarez and Marsal firm “told the Finance Ministry that it has not provided it with sufficient answers to the questions it had submitted to the central bank as a precondition to enable it to perform its missions.”
“He emphasized that this audit must be conducted, after the elimination of all reasons and claims that have delayed it,” the Presidency added.
Aoun also underlined that “the main concern remains the recovery of the funds of depositors and the rights of the people, which cannot be wasted through illegal transactions or suspicious transfers abroad.”
Commenting on the protests, the president said “these practices are what led to the loss of a large part of the deposits, which caused a financial and social crisis that pushed the people to rightfully raise their voices and take to the streets.”
“This is a legitimate thing, because any human cannot tolerate to remain silent over his rights or to stand idly by as his money is being stolen,” Aoun told Salameh.
He also stressed that “the right to protest is sacred,” while noting that “security forces have a duty to protect protesters, public and private property, and the people’s right to movement.”
“These rights are enshrined in the constitution,” he said.