Abdul Samad Quits in First Govt. Resignation over Blast


Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed at least 160 people and destroyed swathes of Beirut.

"After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government," she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The resignation comes as public anger is mounting against the ruling elite, blamed for the chronic mismanagement and corruption that is believed to be behind the explosion in a Beirut Port warehouse. Hundreds of tons of highly explosive material was stored in the waterfront hangar, and a blast sent a shock wave that killed at least 160 people, wounded nearly 6,000 and defaced the coastline of Beirut -- destroying hundreds of buildings.

Abdul Samad said in her resignation letter that change remained "elusive" and she regrets failing to fulfill the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

"Given the magnitude of the catastrophe caused by the Beirut earthquake that shook the nation and hurt our hearts and minds, and in respect for the martyrs, and the pains of the wounded, missing and displaced, and in response to the public will for change, I resign from the government," she wrote.

The disaster fueled angry demonstrations Saturday where protesters set up gallows and nooses in central Beirut and held mock hanging sessions of cut-out cardboard images of top Lebanese officials.

Demonstrators held signs that read "resign or hang." The protests quickly turned violent when the demonstrators pelted stones at the security forces, who responded with heavy volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets. One police officer was killed and dozens of people were hurt in confrontations that lasted for hours.

Protesters also fanned out around the city, storming a couple of government ministries. They briefly took over the foreign ministry, saying it will be the headquarters of their movement. In the economy and energy ministries, the protesters ransacked offices and seized public documents claiming they would reveal how corruption has permeated successive governments.

Six of the parliament's 128 members have also announced their resignation since Saturday -- the three legislators of the Kataeb Party in addition to Marwan Hamadeh, Paula Yacoubian and Neemat Frem.

Abdul Samad's resignation comes amid reports that two government officials -- the environment minister and the economy minister -- are expected to resign, adding to the challenges facing Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Diab took over in January and has since been beset by crises.

The government, backed by Hizbullah and its allies, announced it is defaulting on Lebanon's sovereign debt and has since been engaged in difficult, internally divisive talks with the International Monetary Fund for assistance. The coronavirus restrictions deepened the impact of the economic and financial crisis and fueled public anger against the new government. Lebanese have criticized Diab's government for being unable to tackle the challenges, saying it represents the deep-seated political class that has had a hold of the country's politics since the end of the civil war in 1990.

Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned even before the blast, citing an absence of "effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform" and competing leadership.

In a televised speech Saturday evening, Diab said the only solution was to hold early elections. He called on all political parties to put aside their disagreements and said he was prepared to stay in the post for two months to allow time for politicians to work on structural reforms.

The offer is unlikely to soothe the escalating fury on the street. It is also expected to trigger lengthy discussions over the election law amid calls for introducing changes to the country's sectarian-based representation system.

The information minister's resignation comes ahead of an international conference co-hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres aimed at bringing donors together to supply emergency aid and equipment to Lebanon. Previous offers of aid have been contingent on carrying out significant government reforms to tackle corruption.

Comments 6
Missing levant 09 August 2020, 13:42

Good riddance hizbi stooge. At least you had some shame.

Thumb gma-bs-artist. 09 August 2020, 15:06

Are William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power taking bets on who's next to resign LOL

Thumb tric.portugal 09 August 2020, 16:22

after the bomb against to the Cristhians the Governement gonna resign!!!??? Aoun must nominated a military catholic governement!!! paralisated Lebanon was the objetif of the Daesh atack

Thumb thepatriot 09 August 2020, 18:10

Aoun.. out!

Missing rabiosa 09 August 2020, 18:22

Why is there still a Ministry of Information? Total waste of government money. Now that she has resigned, the ministry should never ever again be operational and should be folded. Only dictatorships and Communist regimes still have Ministry of Information. The Presedency and the Serail already have press secretaries, so no need for Ministry of Info.

Close Ministry of Displaced
Merge ministry of Culture, Sport, Tourism under Ministry of Transport. There I eliminated 3 bureaucratic wastes of people's money.
Merge Ministry of Social services with health, becomes Ministry of Health & Social services
Merge Ministry of Economy to Ministry of Trade & Industry and rebrand as Ministry of economy, Trade & Industry

The size of government needs to be cut down for such a small country.

Thumb lebnanfirst 09 August 2020, 21:38

True all @rabiosa, current priorities should first dictate holding Aoun and Basil accountable for dragging us into an agreement with a party with who’s ideology we have NOTHING in common.
I so regret ever believing in Aoun who abdicated his country’s independence and self determination in return for being “appointed” president by the tip of a bayonet aimed at the heart and soul of Lebanon and all it embodies. Then there’s Basil, what more can one add? His name speaks for itself.
If their behavior is not considered treason, well maybe it should...