Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher

Former British Ambassador to Lebanon

Part of UK in Lebanon

24th May 2014 Beirut, Lebanon

An Apology, and a Lebanese Manifesto

Today I visited the Presidential Palace to thank President Sleiman for his leadership. Throughout his mandate he has led Lebanon with great dignity and wisdom, and worked tirelessly for unity and consensus. He has just left the building.

In theory, a new President should be preparing to arrive, making the last adjustments to his or her inauguration speech, setting out a vision for the future of the country, deciding how to implement his or her manifesto. This should be a moment of democratic renewal, hope, unity.

Instead the chair is empty.

I’d like to make an apology. We built our support for the election on the idea that if we helped to remove external obstacles Lebanese leaders could pick a President made in Lebanon, on time. Yet sadly the campaign has been ‘No, You Can’t’, not ‘Yes, We Can’. We were wrong.

Lebanon needs a President to take this country forward. To provide the balance its institutions require. To  confront massive humanitarian, economic and political challenges. To lead much needed dialogue, as President Sleiman has worked so hard to do. Lebanon needs a President chosen because of what he or she can offer the country, not what they offer regional or local allies.

The international community needs a President too, as a partner for the support we want to give for stability. We need someone on the other side of the table.

In recent weeks, we’ve been asking Lebanese citizens what they want from their next President. It’s not a scientific poll, but we have spoken to people from different parts of the country, Tripoli to Tyre, Choueifat to Chatoura.  At the moment at which the chair in Baabda falls empty, here – in their words – is what they have told us is their manifesto.

“We want security. We need continued action to prevent car bombs and sectarian clashes. We need a strong army and police service. We want to have confidence that the government and international community have a strong plan to handle the pressures created by hosting so many Syrian refugees.

We want neutrality. We have had enough of other people’s wars.

We want justice. We are fed up with lack of equality under the rule of law. We deserve to have reliable courts and an end to protection of the corrupt. Our politicians should be accountable to the citizens of Lebanon, not to unelected leaders. We want a constitutional settlement that protects our right to be different, but does not define us by it.

We want opportunity. Our kids need the right education to build this country. We need reliable 24/7 power to run our homes and businesses. We want to have confidence that future oil and gas revenue will be invested for the benefit of future generations, not a few. We think more power should be decentralised to local levels, so we can take greater control of our own lives. We need our youth and our diaspora to feel that Lebanon is their project too. We want our country back”.

I don’t know who will be the next President. That is a question for Lebanon. There is no magic international fix – it is a dangerous illusion to wait for one rather than taking the tough decisions necessary.

For now, it is vital that Lebanon’s leaders let the state institutions continue to function. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. Lebanon has come through tough times before, and – with the right spirit of responsibility and compromise – can come through this.

The failure to elect a Lebanese President is not a failure of the Lebanese people themselves. It is not the fault of the millions of Lebanese working so hard every day against the odds. We must ensure that they do not pay the price for it.

So the UK will continue our effort to get textbooks to every child in Lebanon, to give the army the ability to keep the war outside Lebanon’s borders, to build a professional and trusted police service, to ensure that Lebanon is not left alone to deal with the refugee crisis, and to do the business that our two economies badly need. And we will continue to hope for a leader who can promise, and deliver, the security, justice and opportunity that the Lebanese people want.

7 comments on “An Apology, and a Lebanese Manifesto

  1. Well said , unfortunately it is just a drop of water in the Lebanese thirsty throats.
    After all the social media is an effective tool, and one idea to push forward this message is as the population to elect democratically their president , via the internet , and not through the parlement. It is not the Lebanese people that are rejecting the democratie it is their deputies .

  2. Sorry, Ambassador Fletcher. No one can deny your goodwill and your deep interest in Lebanon, for which we shall always remain deeply grateful. Still, we realize, after carefully reading your manifesto, how diplomatically you have omitted and brilliantly sidestepped the main issue that is responsible for most of our miseries in Lebanon, the latest of them, but not the least, being the current void at the top of the pyramid.
    Allow us to call things by their true names, Mr. Ambassador. Security, neutrality, justice and even opportunity, are not God given rights. The Lebanese citizens have been wrongly led to believe that they are entitled to them, no matter what, just because they happen to be born in this country. It is, in fact, such misconception that lies at the root of most of our problems in Lebanon.
    What the citizens and the Authorities in our country fail to perceive is that these are not rights but rewards.
    They are rewards to the State Authority for treating all its citizens fairly and without discrimination and favoritism. They are reward to the citizens for obeying the rules and behaving accordingly. They are rewards to all of us, for sticking together, in the face of adversity, whether in times of war or peace.
    If we make, in all sincerity, our “examination of conscience”, can we declare, without blushing, that we have fulfilled these obligations? And here I am equally addressing the citizens and the Authorities.
    If we do not enjoy security, neutrality, justice and opportunity, it is simply because the Authorities and the citizens have never worked openly hand in hand to achieve them. Each partner has played by his own rules with the results that we witness nowadays.
    I shall go so far as saying that, if the country is presently split in two main political blocs that do not converse with each other, both are equally to blame there, because they refuse to enter into an open and frank dialogue. And if such a large chasm separates the citizens from the Authorities, the cause can be undeniably attributed to the mutual suspicion and lack of trust that have never ceased to linger between them. Each side is playing at who can best cheat the other, and they are both keeping all the cards close to their chests.
    Nobody is playing by the rules, Mr. Ambassador, so why should we be surprised at what is befalling us? But, you may ask me, Mr. Ambassador: what is the way out of this dilemma, and what can we do to help there?
    Kindly allow me to suggest that you and your colleagues in the European Union can do a lot in that domain, Mr. Ambassador. I have some concrete proposals in this respect and all that I am asking for is to be permitted to present these suggestions at your convenience
    Respectfully yours,
    George Sabat (ACMA)

  3. Your Excellency. Many thanks for your unmatched honesty. Yet the Lebanese youth are asking the question today: How can we make Lebanon our project, when the Lebanese state no longer considers us its project? While determined to invest in their own selves, investing in this country has become a question of feasibility for many of today’s young generation. Yet we hope things will change before losing more of our precious young men and women to immigration. Regards, Nader, Rotaract Club

  4. This is the story of our life. Unfortunately the lebanese are not learning the lesson, they keep on putting their life and the future of the country in the hands of the wrong people! We have to stop electing the fools and ignorants!

  5. Thank you Sir…enough said.
    Sometimes I feel like I lost hope in Lebanon…always searching for deepest fear is that I will never take my children and return to live in my homeland..
    My brother is a British citizen leaving like a decent human being along with his family, enjoying peace, security and genuine freedom..something I couldn’t experience living as an expat in the Arab world…

  6. Dear Mr Fletcher,

    Do you really still believe that ‘there is no magic International fix’. Believe me we all wish.

    Still counting on your support.

  7. I would like to thank HE Ambassador Tom Fletcher and the British government for all the support to our country, and hope with their help we can arrive to a stable situation and a New President will be elected the soonest.
    Also, big help is needed to all the Syrian refugees with big hope that Syria war will arrive to an end soon.
    Thank you again.
    Iman A. Alwan

Comments are closed.

About Tom Fletcher

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011. Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford…

Tom Fletcher was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic in August 2011.

Tom was born in Kent, and studied at Harvey Grammar School (Folkestone) and Oxford University (Hertford College), graduating with a First class degree in Modern History. He has an MA in Modern History, and is a Senior Associate Member of St Anthony’s College for International Studies, Oxford.

He is married to Louise Fletcher and they have two sons, Charles (born 2006) and Theodor (born 2011). Tom enjoys political history, cricket (Strollers CC), and mountains, and is the co-founder of 2020 (a progressive think tank).

Tom was awarded the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011 New Year’s Honours, for services to the Prime Minister.