Lebanon justice, finance ministers submit resignation after Beirut explosions

Lebanon's newly appointed Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm and Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti arrive to attend the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Lebanon’s Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni resigns from Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government, making him the fourth minister to resign almost a week after the August 4 Beirut explosion that killed at least 158 people.

The Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm had submitted her resignation earlier on Monday.

In submitting her resignation letter, Najm cited the Beirut explosion and protests as reasons for stepping down, Reuters reported.

Several Members of Parliament, two Cabinet members, and one ambassador have already resigned following the blast that left portions of Beirut in rubble and around 300,000 homeless. Minister of Information Manal Abdel Samad and Minister of Environment Demianos Kattar have also resigned.

If seven of the 20 ministers in the Hassan Diab government resign, the Cabinet would effectively become a caretaker government, AP reported.

Read more: Lebanese government on verge of collapse after 3 ministers, 8 MPs resign

An official investigation is yet to determine the cause of the blast, but initial reports suggest that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the port since 2014 caught fire and caused the explosion. Authorities knew the chemicals were present and for years failed to act to remove them. Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion.

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Before assuming the position as justice minister, Najm previously advocated for independence of the judiciary and was vocal in civil society as a founding member of the 2007 “Khalas!” campaign that sought a peaceful solution to the sectarian conflict going on at the time.

The country is facing an unprecedented financial and economic crisis and is also grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The economic situation has seen salaries slashed and food prices rise as inflation takes hold. Around half of the population is now said to be below the poverty line.

As government negligence emerged as the cause of the explosion that could be felt in Cyprus some 200 kilometers away, protests broke out again following widespread protests against government corruption in October 2019.

Similar to the Octover revolution, Lebanese have once again called for the downfall of the ruling elite – but this time with more anger. Protesters in Downtown Beirut have held nooses and called for the current government to be hanged.

Lebanese and watchdog groups, including Human Rights Watch, have called for an independent investigation into the blasts, which Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said would be a “waste of time.”

“The goal of calls for an international investigation in the port case is to waste time,” the President’s media office cited him as saying. US President Donald Trump has called for the country to conduct a “full and transparent investigation.”

-With Reuters

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Last Update: Monday, 10 August 2020 KSA 16:14 - GMT 13:14
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