The Hon. SHAOQUETT MOSELMANE (19:54:50): Right now in Lebanon a revolution is unfolding. Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have hit the streets in protest. People of all ages, faiths and political persuasions from right across the country are rallying against endless abuses of power by those at the helm. Ever since independence in 1941, the Lebanese people have been crushed and cursed by a sectarian political system of French colonialist design that is rotten and corrupt to the core—a system designed to maintain divisions between the country's religious groups, keeping the country in perpetual crisis. The former French and British colonialist powers replicated this approach throughout the Arab world, endlessly pitting citizens against one another along sectarian lines. The Lebanese people have finally hit a dead end. They have had enough.

The only way out of their dilemma is to revolt. They simply cannot salvage any aspect of the current system. It needs to be completely uprooted, then cremated and buried in a seven-metre deep hole in the ground. Sectarianism had choked the Lebanese people to death while further empowering sectarian political warlords, their political parties, their MPs and their petty cronies and thugs. Enraged by rampant corruption, the people have erupted in unison against a system that has impoverished them and robbed them even of their dignity—a system that has corrupted government, allowed for aggressive privatisation of all State assets, destroyed the economy and ruined the environment.

Those in charge have milked the country dry and are now sharpening their teeth for a slice of Lebanon's gas and oil revenue. For over 80 years, the political elite, the bourgeoisie and the religious order gutted the Lebanese political system. With high unemployment and a rapidly rising cost of living, together with ballooning deficit and public debt, and the stench of garbage and corruption, the Lebanese people could no longer tolerate the indignity of a life in poverty. With their dignity crushed, there was little else to lose; so they shrugged off long ingrained sectarian and religious prejudices, transcended all forms of social and political affiliations, and rallied in unity first and foremost as citizens of Lebanon.

I am heartened and proud to see the protesters come together irrespective of political affiliation, sect or religion, in Australia, all over the world and from right across Lebanon, all in one voice condemning corruption and demanding equality under the law. I am particularly proud of the people of Tripoli, El Minie and Bhaneen here and in Lebanon. Tripoli is a city known for its openness and for people with a strong sense of unity and solidarity with Arab peoples across the world, but first and foremost with the Palestinian people. I was similarly proud to see villagers in southern Lebanon revolt—as they did in my own birthplace, the village of Kounine in southern Lebanon, where the villagers continue to this day to struggle against oppressive early twentieth‑century feudal lords backed by thugs in authority. In Bint Jbeil, in Saidon, in Tyre, in the mountains of Choufe and in Sahla, Akkar, Baalbeck, Bcharre, Hermel, Albatroun and everywhere else across the country, I honour them.

In an attempt to appease the protesters, Prime Minister Hariri and his partners in authority proposed a package of economic reforms, but it was quickly dismissed for falling short of the protesters' demands. In so doing, protesters have reaffirmed their demand for an interim government that would establish the ground rules for a secular political system, free from an elite long riddled with corruption, cronyism and patronage. It is a big ask to stand in the face of entrenched political parties led by powerful warlords well-versed in tactics of thuggery, while remaining alert to harmful foreign interference and internal agendas, but to date they have met the challenge.

I salute them for having the courage to stand up and unite against sectarianism, corruption and poverty, and the oppressive authority of thugs who for decades have trashed and trampled over people. As an Australian of Lebanese ancestry and as the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Lebanon, I stand proud of the Lebanese people and their peaceful protest. I concur with their rightful demands for a secular system free of corruption and sectarianism. But I call on them to stay peaceful, stay the course, and remain alert and focused.



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