BEIRUT — Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai denounced in his Sunday homily Lebanon's loss of the right to vote in the United Nations General Assembly, accusing "the nation's MPs and ministers" of being responsible for the country's "new stigma."
UN Secretary-General Antonió Guterres released a statement on Thursday stating that Venezuela, South Sudan and Lebanon are behind on their contributions to the UN's operating budget. Consequently, they are among six countries — out of a total of 193 member nations — who have lost their General Assembly voting rights.
"You, the nation’s MPs and ministers, are responsible for the new stigma that befalls Lebanon through your unacceptable performance, which is Lebanon’s loss of the right to vote in the United Nations General Assembly … due to non-payment of dues by the Lebanese state amounting to at least $2 million," Rai said. "Your responsibility increases due to the fact that Lebanon is a founding country of the United Nations, and a participant in setting its charter and the charter of human rights."
"Aren't you ashamed of yourselves, occupants of Parliament and the Cabinet, before the United Nations and its achievements in favor of Lebanon?" Rai asked.
As Lebanon remains without a head of state, Rai said that "domestic and international efforts have not led to real progress toward electing a new president," describing the debate over the caretaker government's meetings as a "distraction of public opinion."
Two cabinet sessions, both of which were boycotted by ministers close to the Free Patriotic Movement, have so far taken place since the end of former President Michel Aoun's term on Oct. 31. The cabinet assumed caretaker status following legislative elections in May 2022.
The meetings were scheduled amid disagreement between the FPM — Hezbollah's political ally — and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on whether the cabinet can convene during a presidential vacuum.
"We have said ... that this government is resigned and its task is to conduct business," Rai said. "It is its duty to reach an understanding on the interpretation of the conduct of business, so as not to create problems …. Its work is limited to preserving the minimum level of management of the citizens' pressing affairs and preventing the final fall of the state, especially since the farce of the sessions to elect a president is still ongoing, and the decision to hold them in accordance with the constitution is stolen."
On Thursday Parliament's 11th presidential electoral session failed, yet again, to elect a new president. Meanwhile, Forces of Change MPs, including Melhem Khalaf and Najat Aoun remained inside Parliament after the conclusion of the session and announced the beginning of their sit-in, which other Forces of Change MPs later joined, saying they are prepared to stay until the election of a new president. The sit-in is still ongoing as of Sunday.
"The political forces are still fighting each other about the presidential election and refraining from electing a new president who will withstand the difficulties," Rai said in his Sunday homily. "Our fear is not that the Maronite identity of the president and his sect will change, but rather that his policy and principles will change and he will join the policies, axes and countries that strive day and night to control the country and turn it into one of their regions."