BEIRUT: Hoss Highlights Need To Combat ‘Sickness’ Of Corruption In S

By Hesham Shawish

The Daily Star – Lebanon
Aug 10 2007

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Salim Hoss said on Thursday that
corruption in Lebanon and the Middle East has become a sickness in
politics and society. "Corruption today is a sickness of politics and
society," he said. "Society cannot excel when corruption is living
within it."

Hoss was speaking at the Press Federation during the launching of the
Arab Association to Combat Corruption’s program, entitled Partners
in Impartiality, where he discussed the fight against corruption
within Lebanon and the Middle East and the approaches for ridding
the Lebanese state of the pervasive problem.

Lebanon has suffered from various forms and cases of corruption in
the past, Hoss said.

"In many regions of the Middle East, the lack of real democracy is a
motivation for corruption," Hoss said. "Although cases of corruption
have occurred in Lebanon, our situation is better than most Arab
countries as a direct result of Lebanon’s strong democratic will."

Hoss highlighted the failure to make corrupt individuals within the
state accountable for their actions.

"It is this lack of accountability and punishment that perpetuates
the practice and holds society back the most," he said, calling for
greater provisions to penalize corrupt individuals in the public and
private spheres, in order to serve as a deterrent example to others.

"The Justice Ministry and many prominent judges have failed to put
enough pressure on the government to act on this issue and make
those involved in corrupt practices accountable for their actions,"
Hoss said.

One female journalist stood up and demanded to know why politicians
frequently pass the blame for corruption to others instead of taking
action in implementing penalties for corrupt practices.

"Corruption is not only limited to the realms of embezzlement,
bribery and fraud," Hoss said, adding that corruption’s most rampant
form within Lebanon was sectarian corruption, which he said he had
unfortunately seen in the August 5 by-elections in the Metn and
Beirut’s second district.

"It was painful and unfortunate to hear some of the sectarian and
undemocratic speeches last weekend," he said. "Real democratic
expression in Lebanon is a reflection of the will of the people."

The former prime minister was referring to inflammatory remarks made
by former President Amin Gemayel and MP Gabriel Murr against the
Armenian community and allegations of vote rigging within the Burj
Hammoud district.

The corrupt nature of the sectarian balancing act in the country was
one of the most frequently discussed topics at the news conference.

Some of those present cited cases of preferential treatment among
Lebanon’s multitudinous sects – from work-related issues to nepotism –
and the corrosive effect of these established practices on national
unity in Lebanon.

To uncover corruption, Hoss said "there must be an understanding of
cooperation between the government and those who have knowledge of
corrupt practices. We will help them out, if they help us out."

He spoke of the "culture of corruption" and the need to eradicate
this festering culture.

"If a person is rich in Lebanon, he is respected for the sake of
being rich. No one asks how that person accumulated his wealth. This
is an example of the culture of corruption prevalent in Lebanon which
needs to be worked on," Hoss said.

Hoss said he would be chairing another conference in November,
called Election Impartiality, again under the patronage of the Arab
Association to Combat Corruption.

Thursday’s conference was attended by various media outlets and members
of the public with the goal of assessing the situation of corruption
in the state and search for solutions and strategies to alleviate
this political and social ill retarding the country’s development.