3 July 98:
conference on the long-running plight of the displaced is being praised for
pressuring the government to fund the return of the estimated 450,000 people
who were uprooted from their homes during the civil war.
Minister for the
Displaced, as host, will open the conference, followed by his director-general
Hisham Nassereddine, an official in the Jumblatt-led Progressive Socialist
Other will participate in three sessions over two days in
their private capacities and the closing speaker will be Phalange party George
The Phalange, National Liberal Party, Communist party, Syrian
Social Nationalist party, Hizbullah, Amal and the Baas each have one
representative, and Jean Harb of the Chouf-based committee of return will take
part in this conference.
The conference will serve two purposes: to justify
why there has been no return, and exert pressure for more money.
Only 10 to
25% of the displaced have returned to their homes, by the admission of top
officials, although the ministry alone have spent some LL777 billion up to the
end of 1997.
Advocates complain that at this rate, somewhere between
$4billion and $5billion might be needed for a complete return, in a time of
4 July 98:
fund for the Displaced has decided to distribute approximately LL30 billion
towards infrastructure and renovation works in Mount Lebanon, in which
political sources describe as "an attempt to deflate" a conference on support
for the displaced which opens today in Beiteddine.
The fund met on
Thursday, reportedly after Hariri contacted officials and requested immediate
movement on the payment of the fund.
The ministry source said that the fund
had directly contacted villages in Mount Lebanon to inform people that the
payments were on the way, but did not notify the ministry.
A source at the
fund expected that the LL30 billion would cover a two-month period. He added
that Jumblatt had opposed the decision on the eve of a conference apparently
designed to blame the government for delays in returning the displaced to their
The source said that the LL75 billion payments announced by ministry
director-general Hicham Nassereddine earlier in the year had been halted in the
run-up to local elections.
But the ministry source denied that the ministry
had been involved in the distribution of the payments, saying that the fund was
the sole body authorized to do so.
6 July 98:
A conference to
drum up support for the plight of the displaced was quickly overtaken by a
caustic war of words between prime minister Rafik Hariri and minister of the
displaced as two accused each other of massive waste of public fund.
Hariri's statement said the government had done its duty.
ceremony of the two-day conference at Beiteddine's Mir Amin Palace, saw
Christian groups and religious figures join officials from half a dozen
political parties, as well as Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist party.
begun with the government having already taken some wind out of it sails with
the central Fund for the Displaced, attached to the prime minister's office,
announcing the release of LL30 billion to hasten the return of displaced.
The war of words even overshadowed the political significance of the Druze
minister's growing rapprochement with the Christian parties that attended the
Analysts, said Jumblatt, have vested interest in securing
political ties with Christian parties, especially the Phalange, whose
popularity falls behind that of the Lebanese Forces and the National Liberal
party in the Chouf's Christian villages.
Analysts said the conference was
also a chance for the Phalange to boost its presence in the area, as convoys of
more than 200 cars carrying party supporters and flags toured the region
*The ministry for the displaced to
supervise the Fund for the Displaced and provide it with a continuous flow of
income from the budget "in order to avoid politicizing the issue";
*Establishing a fixed source of income for the return by imposing fines on
illegal ownership of seafront properties, on quarry owners as well as on
alcohol and cigarette advertisements;
*Hastening the establishment of a
national council of the displaced;
*Canceling the 1996 cabinet decision
which asks the security authority to implement court decisions on those who
occupy others' properties without differentiating between the displaced and
squatters, or referring to the ministry for the displaced;
to reconciliation between residents of the area of the displaced;
*Strengthening social, health, and educational services in these areas;
*Urging ministries involved with infrastructure work to step up their
*Setting up a work plan to solve housing problems;
up an institution for the support of the disabled, and the families of people
killed during the war.
7 July 98: Numbers and money
for eviction and rehousing compensation
Hariri compensation paid out
to 1,280 families in a village with only 280 houses is proof of unnecessarily
wasting funds allocated for the return of the displaced.
For Jumblatt it
was money spent on an unnecessary government hospital that has deprived the
treasury of funds for what is supposed to be the government's top priority.
What went wrong between the two politicians is that only around one-quarter of
the displaced have returned to their homes, with estimates ranging from 10%
according to the advocates of the displaced, or 30% according to the ministry
and sources familiar with its work.
The ministry had spent LL777 billion
($500 million) up to the end of last year on the return, with another LL318
billion ($205million) coming from "Solidere" for evictions in Beirut Central
District, in addition to donations from various European and private sources
for miscellaneous projects and needs.
Ministry director general Hashem
Nasreddine says that another $1.2 billion is needed to complete the return,
although critics say that at the current rate of squandering, anywhere from $3
billion to $5 billion will be needed for a task that was originally supposed to
require only $450million.
Out of 90,000 displaced families, or
approximately 450,000 people, experts predict that around 20% will not return
because their social ties to their homes have been irrevocably cut.
when a return has taken place, as in the case of Kfar Nabrakh, Chouf, serious
questions about the numbers have been raised. The ministry report says 277
families there received in June 97 a total of LL2bn for renovation work on
their homes. However, under a section on "eviction", LL8.4 billion in
compensation was handed out for 1,251 housing units in the same town, the
subject of the complaint by Hariri's press office.
Former fund president and Aley MP
Antoine Andraos complained about the ministry's "imaginary list of evictions"
and said Jumblatt had been accommodated long enough.
In Mazraat al Chouf, evictions from
1,055 units were paid for by the fund, although only 677 families received
money for renovations.
In Ammiq, the numbers show 1106 evictions but only
The ministry report said that out of LL777 billion,
a full LL420 billion had gone towards evictions, which LL170bn were spent in
Beirut outside the downtown area. "Solidere" spent LL318bn for evictions in
Beirut Central District.
Although the people displaced from the south and
Mount Lebanon, according to a 1992 ministry report, make up 86% of the 90,000
families, nearly one-half the total LL1,095 billion spent on the displaced has
gone to evictions within the city limits of Beirut, largely outside Jumblatt
sphere of influence.
The ministry report also noted that in the capital, a
family evicted from occupied homes or buildings received an average of LL8.5m
in compensation, while those squatting in areas reserved for public utilities,
like the government hospital or "Electricité du Liban", received an
average of LL33 million per family.
He also indicated a current
disagreement over the suggested payments for Dfoun and Arsoun, two towns which
did not hold local elections in May because the displaced have yet to
The ministry has asked the fund for LL4.5 billion for Arsoun, of
which LL1.9 billion will go for 240 evictions. Another LL6.23 billion is
proposed in Dfoun, for a total of 600 evictions but only 15 instances of
renovation are noted in the request of the fund.
It is said that the ministry and fund
were overseeing extensive works in more than 130 towns and villages, instead of
concentrating on 30 or 40 and finishing the job before moving
7 July 98:
war of words between Jumblatt and Hariri is likely to further delay the
campaign for the return of the war-displaced, a humanitarian cause involving
450,000 people that is now at the center of political bickering.
Wadih Akl, a Jumblatt ally, called the weekend conference on the displaced a
great success, and scolded the government for failing to ensure a return that
"would only cost $1 billion, while the public debt has reached $17 billion"
But minister for emigrants Talal Arslan, criticized the performance of both the
ministry and the Central Fund for the Displaced and called for a radical
treatment of the situation. But he added that waste in the ministry was "beyond
description", and said Hariri's first government had produced a figure of $450
million to complete the return. He said that up to now, $800m has been spent,
and only 20% have returned.
MP Chaker Abu Sleiman said the issue
of the displaced should not be part of political disputes and he fears that
Jumblatt's attacks would create more divisions that would further complicate
the problem of the displaced.
Prime minister Rafik Hariri vowed to
complete the return of the displaced to their native homes, despite his public
feud with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, the minister in charge of that
Minister of emigrants Talal Arslan,
Jumblatt's main political foe in the Druze community argued that the prime
minister had dealt diplomatically with the issue to avoid raising political
9 July 98:
Salim Hoss said that the abundance of complaints against funds for the
displaced being wasted merited an investigation by the state prosecutor.
added that a quarrel between Hariri and Jumblatt was proof that a large amount
of state funds have been squandered under the pretext of solving the problem of
He also criticized the government's rejection of his earlier
calls for allowing state auditing bodies to supervise the work of the ministry.
He added that the Hariri-Jumblatt feud shows that the Lebanese have not started
the process of building a state that is ruled by law.
10 July 98:
minister Akram Chehayeb, a politburo member of Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist
party, said that the money spent by the ministry went towards a national call
and cannot rightly be considered a form of squandering.
He accused the
fund, which is run by the prime minister's office, of "blocking the refugees'
return" arguing that it has used the issue of the displaced in political
disputes and has forgotten that it was a matter of national concern.
11 July 98:
affairs minister Talal Arslan accused Jumblatt of mismanaging the return of the
displaced and blamed the government for the delay in dealing with that issue.
"What has happened is that for six years people have been paying taxes
that have gone towards securing the $800,000 allocated for the return of the
He added: " We know that at least $600,000 has been spent for
the return of the displaced to Mount Lebanon. But only 20% of the people have
returned and they only use their houses for holidays."
He estimated that $5
billion would be needed to complete the return of the displaced if the ministry
continues to spend in the same way.
13 July 98:
the displaced Walid Jumblatt continued his withering attacks on Rafik Hariri by
accusing the "treacherous" premier of stabbing the Druze leader's supporters in
Addressing residents of towns and villages in the Chouf and Iqlim
el Kharroub, Jumblatt said there was resentment by the authorities in power
today against those who bore arms during the civil war.
Claiming to have
won the first round, Jumblatt said he and his supporters "have a bitter fight
The efforts to return the displaced, largely overshadowed by the
acrimony between Hariri and Jumblatt, prompted former Tripoli MP Hassan Rifai
to urge the government to abandon the soft option of reconciling the displaced.
Instead, he advocated punishing those responsible for the plight of the
displaced in the first place.
18 July 98:
observed a one-day strike to protest a decision by the central fund for the
Displaced to only inspect damaged homes in the Christian-dominated quarter of
The Phalange party praised the results of the Beiteddine
conference, saying it had had positive repercussions on the problem of the
displaced and the residents of Mount Lebanon.
The party praised the
cooperation with the PSP in preparing for the Beiteddine conference, saying
that it demonstrated the possibility of drafting a common strategy to deal with
issues of national concern.
The league of Greek Catholics expressed hope
that the government would pay the displaced compensation and solve their
problem before presidential elections scheduled for the end of
17 July 98:
Fund for the displaced's decision to resume compensation for those displaced
during the war received the go-ahead from prime minister Rafik Hariri. He gave
his approval at a meeting with the vice chairman of the fund, Abdel Hamid
Nasser, and other board members, after several weeks during which the fund has
analyzed its finances and the names of possible beneficiaries.
month, the fund's compensation payments came to a standstill. Two weeks ago,
the fund said it would resume payments amid a heated dispute between the
premier and the minister for the displaced, in which the two traded accusations
over delays in completing the refugees' return.
20 July 98:
fund for the displaced accused environment minister Akram Chehayeb of harboring
a political agenda in response to earlier statements
He made criticizing
the fund's performance in Aley.
The fund said Chehayeb wanted to control
the displaced issue after backing a strike in the town to protest a recent CFD
decision to only inspect damaged homes in the Christian-dominated quarter of
The strike came in the response to a call from the Progressive
Socialist party, headed by minister for the displaced Walid Jumblatt, and which
Chehayeb is a member.
Jumblatt has accused Hariri of withholding the funds
needed to complete the return, while Hariri has accused Jumblatt of squandering
It said the fund did not act unilaterally and would never
differentiate between regions. Besides it shall continue to look into all the
lists it has and will start paying compensation after it finishes its
inspections, whether in Aley or other regions.
Chehayeb called the new CFD
measures a means of stalling the return and said the ministry for the displaced
was best equipped to handle the problem.
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