Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian resigns from parliament over blast

She joined four other politicians in standing down in the fallout from the explosion that left more than 150 people dead

Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian arriving at parliament in the capital Beirut ahead of a session to elect a new speaker last May. Anwar Amri / AFP
Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian arriving at parliament in the capital Beirut ahead of a session to elect a new speaker last May. Anwar Amri / AFP

Independent Lebanese MP Paula Yacoubian resigned on Saturday following the Beirut explosion that killed more than 150 people, becoming the latest official to quit in recent days.

She said she decided to resign after Tuesday’s explosion destroyed "a huge part of my city, Beirut".

Ms Yacoubian said she felt the peoples’ suffering and could not endure sitting beside parliamentarians who contributed to it. She said her resignation was the least she could do to bring some comfort to the people of Lebanon.

“I believe that my resignation has become more of a duty now," she said in a video posted on Twitter.

"Despite the fact that my presence inside the parliament made us expose those who were involved in corruption, and get hold of information that could help us expose those responsible for what the country has reached, I communicated with a number of MPs … independent ones and the members of Lebanese Phalange Party [Kataeb] with whom I discussed resignation. Some asked not to rush and wait a bit,” she said.

In an emotional speech during a funeral service for one of his senior party colleagues who was killed in the explosion, Samy Gemayel announced his resignation and those of two other MPs from his Kataeb party.

"Your comrades took the decision to resign from parliament," Mr Gemayel said, addressing Kataeb secretary-general Nazar Najarian, one of the 154 confirmed victims of the explosion at Beirut port.

When she saw that Katayeb MPs announced their resignation, Ms Yacoubian said she decided to tender her resignation as well.

“I wish that we could have been 10 or 12 liberal and independent parliamentarians to resign," she said on Twitter.

"I will try to contact as many MPs as possible to convince them to resign because we cannot continue to play the role of ‘false witnesses’ in this parliament that is unproductive and doesn’t convene,” she said in Arabic.

She complained about the banks imposing capital controls and complained about the economy.

The politician then said that during her two years in parliament, she repeatedly called for urgent meetings of the special parliamentarian committee in charge of environment issues to discuss the topic of polluted air that the Lebanese have been breathing.

“We have been dying slowly. Despite all my calls, nobody responded. The parliament has been converted to a political barrack. I hereby call on all our decent and fellow colleagues in the parliament to resign as well,” she said.

There is no hope whatsoever in making any reforms, according to Ms Yacoubian, who became an MP after she won the Armenian seat in Beirut. She said that even "if they plan to make the reforms, that would be formal just like the arrests made so far".

“Don’t trust them and don’t believe that there is change. Despite all the damages and what has happened so far they still come out and give us the same mottos and speeches,” she said.

There is one real opposition and that is the Lebanese people who perceive the ruling elite as an enemy, Ms Yacoubian said.

“I call on the biggest number of MPs, who want to do something for the people, to resign. Though a late step, but that is the best thing we could do for the Lebanese people.

"I call on the people to come down as one to Beirut and say we are the power, we are the administration, we are the ones who should rule and we should not be separated,” she said.

Lebanon's ambassador to Jordan also resigned in the aftermath of the explosion.

The blast happened when fire spread to a dockside depot where thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate were stored for years unsecured.

Evidence showed senior officials knew of its presence at the port and that safety procedures were knowingly and repeatedly violated.

The government has promised a swift and thorough inquiry, but public trust is low that an investigative committee chaired by senior officials will name those responsible.

Updated: August 9, 2020 11:50 AM


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