BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement MP Roger Azar Monday assured the public a new party headquarters in Nahr al-Kalb would not destroy the area’s archeological heritage, clarifying comments made the day before by FPM leader Gebran Bassil. Bassil had said during a trip to the Nahr al-Kalb area that the FPM would build its new headquarters on the top of what he called the “Independence Rock,” a site featured on the UNESCO Memory of the World register due to the more than 20 historic commemorative stelae carved into it.
This caused some concern among activists, who questioned whether the project would damage the environment surrounding the historical site, which according to UNESCO “[sums] up the entire history of Lebanon, from High Antiquity to the present.”
Azar clarified that the headquarters would be built in a place not visible from the historical site, on the Dbayeh side of the mountain.
“Bassil spoke this way because of its symbolism,” he told The Daily Star. “We are the first to respect historical artifacts and Lebanon’s history, and we are in compliance with the law,” he said.
Jad Tabet, the head of the Order of Engineers and Architects, told The Daily Star “there is no problem,” with the planned project. He said the FPM had put forward the plan to the Higher Council for Urban Planning, a state council on which he sits, and they had agreed to it after some amendments. “It was too close to the head of the mountain, so we made them move it back a bit, close to the [nearby] Palestinian camp,” he said.
During Bassil’s Nahr al-Kalb trip, he also asked that the Kesrouan MPs create a memorial plaque commemorating the 2005 Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, to show “we fought when struggle was our duty, and we reconciled when it became time for reconciliation.”
This elicited a tweet from Syrian MP for Aleppo Fares Shehabi Monday, who said: “Form your government first and respect your people with electricity, water, hygiene and laws, and then talk about ‘independence.’ Liberation is not only from external interference or subordination, but also from corruption.”