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Maronite patriarch urges UNRWA not to cut budget for Palestinians in Lebanon

2 min

Maronite Patrich Bechara al-Rai on Sunday urged UNRWA not to cut funds for Palestinians in Lebanon. This came after decisions to cut funds from major countries for the organization citing security concerns after its members were accused of collaborating with Hamas in Gaza.

 Bechara al-Rai 

Maronite Patrich Bechara al-Rai on Sunday urged UNRWA not to cut funds for Palestinians in Lebanon. This came after decisions to cut funds from major countries for the organization citing security concerns after its members were accused of collaborating with Hamas in Gaza.

During Sunday's prayer, Rai said that the representative for UNRWA in Lebanon Dorothee Klaus told him that the organization has to cut aid for Palestinians in Lebanon by two-thirds which "has negative effects on Lebanese society," he said.

"We urge these countries [that fund UNRWA] to keep its full support, to protect civil peace and to avoid revolutions, uprisings and a creation of new terrorism that not only Lebanese society will pay for but the whole world. The Palestinian people have had enough of injustice, war, starvation and deprivation of their rights," Rai added.

Rai also talked about the presidential elections which have been delayed for more than a year. 

"How could a big violation of the constitution like not electing a president for a year and a half be accepted despite the clarity and brightness of the clauses [of the constitution]?" Rai asked during Sunday's prayer.

"This obstruction would hurt Parliament which lost its rights to legislate and appointments and other prerogatives that are related to the presidency," he added. 

Lebanon has been without a president since the end of October 2022, when Michel Aoun's term of office came to an end. According to the Constitution, Parliament is only required to meet as an electoral college in the absence of a president. However, MPs have repeatedly departed from this rule and legislated on matters considered urgent under the principle of "legislation of necessity," introduced by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

"Countries have lost their trust in the representation of Lebanon, not its people. Are the obstructionists who are known not [electing] a president for personal objectives? Are they prolonging the period of presidential vacancy for purposes that we have to guess? There is no excuse for Parliament not to meet and elect a president," Rai said.

Lebanon has been without a president for more than a year after Michel Aoun left office. According to the constitution, Parliament becomes an electoral body to the president in the case of a presidential vacancy. However, MPs have made exceptions to this rule when legislating urgent matters. 

Parliament has been unable to elect a president due to a lack of a two-thirds agreement of its members on a presidential candidate which its head Nabih Berri claims is constitutional and which parties like the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb disagree on.

The head of the Maronite Church also addressed the investigation into the double explosion at the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, calling for work to resume. Raï denounced "the paralysis of the work of the investigating judge at the Court of Justice, Tarek Bitar, by influential people."

The investigation into the port tragedy is at a standstill due to the multiple proceedings launched against Bitar and blatant political interference.

"We call for the investigation to continue ... We have repeatedly asked for cooperation with an international justice committee, because there are foreigners among the victims, but also because of interference in the judicial work by politicians and influential people, which has led to a complete paralysis [of this investigation]," continued the prelate.

© OLJ

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