Montreal, Canada - February 29, 2004

February 2004 - Vol. 7

RCPL February 2004 Newsletter includes the following items:

DFAIT Workshop on Lebanon 
Will the Lebanese presidential elections be democratic?
3. Walid Joumblatt calls for a referendum on the Syrian presence in Lebanon 
Security situation remains unstable

1. DFAIT Workshop on Lebanon

On March 19, 2004, the Department of Foreign Affairs and RCPL are holding a consultative workshop on Lebanon. Representatives from 7 NGOs will present the concerns of the Lebanese-Canadian community in Montreal in regards to the Canadian Foreign policy on Lebanon, and bilateral relations between both countries.

2. Will the Lebanese presidential elections be democratic?

Controversy has been increasing around the possible constitutional amendment to extend the mandate of President Emile Lahoud. Meanwhile few candidates have proposed a vision of their mandates. Many discuss why are candidates visiting Syria? Is it to get their approval or support? RCPL feels that the past 2 presidential elections, 1989 and 1998, were dubiously secretive and appeared corrupt. They toke place in a matter of 24 hours, with no debate and practically unanimous voting support in Parliament. This time around, RCPL hopes that a debate between candidates in how they intend to assume their roles and mandates as President of the Lebanese republic. Canada should support non-profit organizations in Lebanon that promote the role of civil society, where citizens can engage their parliamentary representatives in who they intend on voting for and why.

3. Walid Joumblatt calls for a referendum on the Syrian presence in Lebanon

The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, who is also a renown Druze community leader, called for a national referendum on the presence of Syria in Lebanon. RCPL believes that such a public debate is a big step on the road to post-war re-establishment of Lebanese institutions and national reconciliation, and the implementation of the Taef Accord. Unfortunately, RCPL contends that we must first ensure that elections are democratic as a precedent to holding a national referendum. Otherwise, how can the referendum be considered democratic?

4. Security situation remains unstable

While the Interpol has recognized improved security measures in Lebanon, the following events demonstrates the importance of stronger security measures and disarmament of non-governmental groups: 
- Amal, Hizbullah Activists Clash in S. Lebanon, 8 Injured (February 9 and 10 )
- Three explosions hit Lebanon Palestinian camp (February 8)

Once again, RCPL recommends that all groups must operate under the socio-political structure of the country. The authority must exert its presence throughout Lebanon, serves all citizens equally and ensure that all groups or movements are disarmed.

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