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BEIRUT: Many national celebrations for Lebanon’s 77th Independence Day on Sunday were called off amid the coronavirus pandemic, political divide, economic recession and the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion on August 4 .

However, several wreaths were laid on the graves of several independent statesmen, while the army’s commander-in-chief, General Joseph Aoun, laid a wreath on the memorial statue of the martyrs of the Lebanese army.

The civil movement celebrated the day in a different way, hanging brooms and basil wreaths on the walls of public institutions such as the seat of government, parliament, the Ministry of Economy, the Bank of Lebanon. , the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Palace of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Electricity of Lebanon, the Association of Banks and the Port of Beirut. Basil wreaths are usually placed on the graves of the dead, but these have borne the demands of the protesters.

“We chose this mode of expression because we are unable to go back to the streets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We send a clear message to officials that true independence can only be achieved by returning state institutions to those who are the source of all power. We wanted to mourn the corrupt authority, ”activist Mahmoud Fakih told Arab News.

The Lebanese fear the collapse of their state in light of corruption, quotas that hinder government formation and the failure of the reforms needed to support Lebanon from abroad. The chaos surrounding the economic crisis in Lebanon worsened after international firm Alvarez & Marsal terminated its contract to audit the central bank accounts.

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On Sunday, the black market exchange rate for the dollar in Lebanon soared to more than 8,400 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

Many activists have expressed their outrage on social media. Lawyer and activist Nizar Siagha wrote on Twitter: “The independence of the people from the leaders who turned the state into a party is the independence we are fighting for today, the independence of equality. , justice and solidarity without discrimination.

Dr. Suzanne Hosri, researcher at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, wrote: “This year I refuse to celebrate or even mention Independence Day. There is no independence before the homeland is liberated from the corrupt and failing system. There is no sovereignty until we hold leaders of all sectarian backgrounds responsible for our fear, illness and death. There is no freedom before breaking the chains of our intolerance and sectarianism towards an open and responsible citizenship, capable of defending its dignity and its rights. No to a false and deceptive independence day! “

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Lebanese President Michel Aoun received congratulatory messages on the 77th birthday from presidents and kings including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many of these cables contained implicit political messages. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not congratulate President Aoun or the government, but simply said, “The United States is committed to supporting the Lebanese people, and we will continue to support them in these unprecedented times. “

“Our reality today is not promising,” President Aoun said in a televised speech to mark Independence Day, adding that Lebanon was a prisoner of corruption, political intrigue and external dictation.

“If we want a state then we have to fight corruption and that starts with imposing a forensic financial audit,” he said, adding that he would not “back down” on the issue.

Aoun made a veiled criticism of the prime minister in charge of forming the government, without naming him, saying: “Is it not yet time to free the process of forming the new government from conflicts and to hide behind initiatives of rescue to break the rules and standards? which must be respected and applied to all to establish procedural authority and its work? “

Other Lebanese leaders have also been criticized. “Independence means the dissociation of Lebanon from regional conflicts towards the establishment of a policy of neutrality to promote its economy,” said Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi.

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Al-Rahi added, “If we form a government like its predecessors, it will produce utter ruin, asking those who hinder government formation if they realize that we have lost an invaluable year of reform?”

The Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, said that the anniversary of independence “comes at a time when the nation is suffering from an unprecedented collapse in the absence of the state and the labor of its institutions. We fear the greatest and the worst unless a national salvation government is formed which will win the trust of the people and the Arab and international community, otherwise Lebanon will be ruined!

The Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Archdiocese of Beirut, Metropolitan Elias Audi, called on the President of the Republic to restore “the prestige of the state by embracing accountability, activating the audit policy and preventing politicians from controlling institutions and the judiciary. . “

“The disruption of governance is a crime. Conflicts of interest, wars of mutual abolition, liquidation of absurd accounts and the implementation of external agendas only lead to destruction, ”he warned.

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