21 Nov 2006
Pierre Gemayel, Lebanese Industry Minister was assassinated in broad daylight Tuesday in Beirut. A vehicle rammed the rear of Gemayel’s car and a gunman came out from it and shot him at close range. He was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead on arrival. Crowds of sympathizers gathered around the hospital and there were angry words hurled at Syria (a usual suspect in such deeds). Syria denied involvement in the killing and issued a statement condemning the crime.
Pierre Gemayel is the 5th prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese politician killed in two years. The governing coalition government led by Fouad Siniora has been fighting for political survival following a series of actions initiated by Hezbollah and her allies to try and bring it down. The most recent action was the mass resignations this month of six ministers mostly belonging to Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian Shia Muslim block. (See story at this link
Pierre Gemayel, a Maronite Christian and descendant of a powerful political family has been a vocal opponent of the Pro-Syrian minority block in Lebanon. It was therefore easy for his supporters to point accusing fingers at “Syrian lackeys” in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, referring to the assassinated minister as a “martyr” said his country will never accept the “tyranny of the minority”. Adding; “The killing will not frighten us. We will not let criminals dictate the future of Lebanon”. Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader condemned the killing and asserted that the “people of Lebanon will prevail.” Amin Gemayel (president of Lebanon 1982-1988) and father of the slain minister was more conciliatory in his reaction. “Pierre [Gemayel] was martyred for a cause. He was serving the cause. We want the Lebanese cause to prevail. Those who love Pierre should preserve the cause. We don’t want vengeance”. He said addressing reporters in Beirut Tuesday.
The reaction to the killing resonated beyond Lebanon. The UN Security Council, the British and American governments all condemned the assassination. George Bush pledged support for the Lebanese government and called for full investigation of the killing.
The killing could not have come at a worse time. The UN Security Council was at the final stage of endorsing a plan for an international court to try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese PM Rafik al-Hariri when this similar crime occurred. When it was suggested that the issue of tribunal be suspended because of the volatile political climate in Lebanon, John Bolton US ambassador to the UN retorted; “How incredibly wrong that will be!” Inside Lebanon there is already a deep divergence of opinions on the Hariri issue. This latest killing will only come to add a complicated twist to the evolving chaos within the Lebanese political establishment. The coming days and weeks will be quite testing for Lebanese democracy.
Njei Moses Timah