I swear to mighty God that I respect the Constitution of the Lebanese Nation and its Laws and Guard the Independence of the Lebanese Country and the Safety of its Territories.
When you esteemed Parliament bestowed on me its invaluable trust by electing me President of the Republic and against the backdrop of reactions filled with expressions of hope and support for this trust, feelings of appreciation mixed with the sense of responsibility grew in me, I realized, from the very beginning of this journey, that the demands were many. Indeed, too many. I tried to push aside the bouts of anxiety which subsided only when I told myself that this is a position from which I could at least do something for my nation, and put my trust in god. And I did. It is at a moment like this that all controversies and problems reveal themselves at once, shuffling priorities to the extent that one is at a loss as to where he must start. I chose to discuss the most important aspect for us as a state, be it on the level of authorities or officials, and that is the respect for the law and its implementation. Yes, respect for the law and its implementation.
In this country, rules and those ruled are united in complaints and skepticism. This is because the language of the law is often absent and often purposely ignored.
This will be my language from the beginning to the end.
The beginning was the oath I took a few moments ago before you in which I pledged to respect the constitution, the state and the law. I wonder, why is it only the president and not any other authority who takes the oath? My response is that when the head of state is under the law, no one else may be above the law. And I will be under the law. As authorities and officials we are in our positions by virtue of the law. Under no circumstances, not even at the peak of the feelings of strength, must we forget that the power we exercise is the power of the law, not our own. Yes, we are able to rule because of the power bestowed on us by the law, not because of our own personal strength.
There will be no future for anyone, ruler or subordinate, in this country without the rise of the state of laws and institutions within a democratic parliamentary system. As you all know, people are yearning for change and their reasons are both known and legitimate. And to the degree that it is impossible to effect all of the required change at the same time, it is equally un-acceptable not to start somewhere. Therefore, what are people looking for?
The people are looking to us, rulers and officials, to respectfully represent them in everything we say, for our say to be responsible and for our actions to be equally responsible and a reflection of what we say.
They are rightfully seeking an honest judiciary independent of all forms of intervention or influence on its members of rulings; a judiciary with which everyone, no matter how influential of humble, will have to reckon with. Yes, a judiciary that everyone, the influential personalities like the humble, will have to reckon with.
They want an administration that will be strictly supervised, characterized by honesty and expertise, run by officials whose immunity is derived from their professional performance, not from political or sectarian protection. They want an administration from which they can obtain services by paying taxes, not by bribery as well as taxes. Yes, they would buy the services with taxes, but not bribery and taxes.
Citizens, all citizens, are aware of the depth of the socio-economic crisis. It is their right, when we solicit their help in solving the problem ï¿½ and they are prepared to help ï¿½ to ask about the type of economic and financial policy that would be adopted, its burdens, its cumulative effects and it targets. It is their right to enjoy an equitable and fair taxation policy, calculated according to assets, whereby the needy will not be forced to shoulder the burdens of the fortunate.
Citizens, all citizens, want achievements to be guided by laws and regulations, so that every doubt or complaint may be laid to rest. It is their right to be kept aware of how tax revenues are being spent; how spending is being curbed, how contracts and projects are being implemented; how public investments are being managed; how public funds are being monitored ï¿½ obligatory monitoring before it is spent, with follow-up during every step of implementation. It is the right of citizens to demand that we exercise austerity, before requesting them to tighten the belt. It is their right in general that no figure remain a state secret and before anything else, it is their right to see how the diligent and honest are rewarded and how the thief is resolutely punished, irrespective of who he is, just like the corrupt, the wasteful and those receiving bribes would be punished. Yes, it is their right to see the thief, the wasteful, the corrupt and those receiving bribes resolutely punished.
People, and especially youth, want attention to be paid to educational, social, health, humanitarian, and environmental issues: Therefore, poverty must not prevent education. Therefore, poverty must not prevent health. Therefore, poverty must not prevent employment. Therefore, environmental crimes must not continue. Therefore, the displaced must not remain outside their lands.
Therefore, the emigrant must not forget his homeland. Therefore, we must not stake our politics on sectarianism.
People, all people, want to know what about our relationship with Syria; yes, they want to know. It is legitimate, especially for the youth, the questions arise, and answers be available. To them, I say: since the beginning of the civil war in 1975, Syria undertook repeated and serious initiatives to bring it to an end. On the other side, there were counter-wagers, in which some became involved; these transformed Lebanon into an arena of blood-letting and attrition. I say also, to whoever does not know these facts, and particularly to those who do not wish to hear them, that had the Lebanese, and especially some of those who were in power at the time, had they comprehended the essence of the Syrian initiative that was launched by the true brother of Lebanon, President Hafez Assad, the killing and destruction would not have continued until only recently.
A great political mistake has been committed against Lebanon; yes, against Lebanon, when some in the past behaved as if the relationship with Syria was a temporary wager. We would depend on this relationship while we were weak, and seek to undermine it when we were strong. We would adapt to this relationship when it was strong, and seek to deny it when it was weak, ignoring the fact that we grow stronger, or weaker, together.
Our relationship with Syria is one of history, land, and people. It cannot be a wager or temporary adaptation, but a historic destiny, and a strategic option. My experience with building the army has given me the belief and proof that Syria, through its president, its people, and its army, wants what is best for Lebanon, and gives unlimited support to the Lebanese state. Havenï¿½t the Lebanese , and I mean those in positions of authority, learned to employ this support in the building of their state and their institutions? The people will come to appreciate them, and Syria as well, instead of this support being employed by these officials for their own benefit, earning them peopleï¿½s condemnation, and hurting Syria in the process.
What the Lebanese want most of all, and I repeat, what the Lebanese want most of all, is the South, and people of the South. Yes, the South, and the people of the south.
From this forum, I salute those who remain steadfast, those who are resisting, those who have fallen as martyrs, and those who support their army as it faces Israeli occupation. To them I say: The greatest national cause is you, and removing the occupation from among your midst.
Lebanon has been of the belief that a permanent, comprehensive, and just peace is a vital, strategic option. It participated, out of this belief, in the 1991 Madrid conference on the basis of implementing United Nations resolutions, and the principle of land for peace. But years have now passed since this conference, and Israel continues to deal individually with various Arab parties, to establish with each a half-peace, yes, a half-peace, thereby uniting Israel, and dividing the Arabs.
Israel has recently undertaken a wide-scale media and political campaign, to try and show the Lebanon refuses Israelï¿½s withdrawal from its land, according to Resolution 425. But in reality, Israel has its own concept of implementing Resolution 425, which does not conform to Lebanonï¿½s interest, or national dignity. Therefore, our answer has been to reject giving guarantees and arrangements for a withdrawal, which would give comfort to Israel at our own expense. We have said that guarantees of any kind, and given to all, will come through peace, a complete peace, and not a piecemeal deal.
A complete peace, in our mind, means that Lebanon has a historic, permanent, higher, fixed national interest, which requires, whatever the circumstances or considerations, the indivisibility of negotiation tracks with Syriaï¿½s, on the basis of a total and equal Israel withdrawal from the South and Western Bekaa, and the Golan, according to United Nations resolutions. Only in this way peace become, in all its circumstances and results, for all, and include security and other interests.
The sisterly Arab state, which we thank for all that it has given to Lebanon in the past and at present, is a repository of affection, fraternal relations, and support. We depend on it to face the burdens resulting from Israeli occupation, and to achieve recovery on the path of reconstruction and development. A fully recovered Lebanon is a benefit for all Arabs, as they are themselves participating in its recovery. Lebanonï¿½s sons consider each Arab country as their own. I sincerely hope that Lebanon will remain the object of concern of their Arab brethren, which will lessen the negative effects of the destruction of the past, as well as the burdens of the present, and future eras.
I also look forward to cooperation with the friendly countries of the world, and I single out for thanks those that have supported Lebanon in the fields of expertise, economics, reconstruction projects, and development, and those that support Lebanon at international occasions, in the hope that the concept of a just and comprehensive peace has become the language of cooperation upon whose basis we build the future.
I want the people to know that we are in a democratic, parliamentary system, in which change takes place subject to custom and criteria, and in which the authorities are subject to principles and statues, in which the powers are specified for each and among them, so that no one of them alone may effect the desired change.
Therefore, I say to the people: I do not claim to possess a magic wand that will achieve the hoped-for results overnight, but I do possess the intent and the determination, yes, I possess the intent and the determination. I extend my hands to all, for whatever is good, proper, and just.
I say to the people: Is it inevitable that there will be a beginning; yes, there will be a beginning. Do not rush to judge the faces and names, whoever they may be. Await the deeds, for in them lies the answer.
You are the arbiter, and judgment will be yours. O Lebanese, you are the arbiter, and judgment will be yours.
Long Live Lebanon.