BEIRUT: After the energy minister Tuesday denied she had ignored a request from MP Elias Hankash for a meeting to discuss concerns about a project to install power lines in his district, the Metn lawmaker publicly shared screenshots of his request.
Hankash said in an interview earlier in the morning with Voice of Lebanon (100.5), “I have contacted Energy Minister Nada Boustani and requested a meeting so she can listen to the people’s concerns, but we still have not received an appointment.”
Boustani then replied to a tweet from local news site Lebanon Debate that shared Hankash’s quote. The Free Patriotic Movement minister said, “MP Hankash, we have not received any request to set an appointment. Our doors are open and will remain so. ... We never closed them in the face of residents and we have listened over the course of 10 years to their concerns and provided the required solutions.”
Shortly after, Hankash shared a screenshot of a Whatsapp chat with Boustani, with a message dated “today” that reiterated a request for a meeting with the minister, after receiving no response to a previous message - the date of which was not shown.
According to the screenshot, Hankash had asked to arrange a meeting between the minister and Metn constituents to “share our concerns” about a project to install high-voltage power lines in the area.
Cabinet a day ago endorsed an electricity plan submitted by Boustani, which calls for work to continue to install the transmission lines, despite noting that one possible barrier would be protests from locals. Metn residents have been staging demonstrations against the stalled project since at least 2008, citing concerns over its potential health impacts.
Hankash had joined residents of Mansourieh and surrounding areas Sunday at the latest protest.
The MP wrote in his tweet Tuesday: “1. I have previously contacted you twice to get an appointment but I did not get a reply (photo attached) 2. If you listened to the people’s concerns and acted, you would not have asked security forces to enforce the installation of the high-voltage power lines in Mansourieh-Ain Saade. 3. We are waiting for your reply for an appointment soon with the residents per our request.”
Hankash told The Daily Star he was referring to a part of Boustani’s new electricity plan that calls for security forces to support the implementation of its various projects. “This is what provoked the people. ... Security forces must protect the people - not otherwise,” the lawmaker said.
According to the new electricity plan, which still needs to be endorsed by Parliament, the Internal Security Forces must send “sufficient personnel” to support Electricite du Liban workers, “especially with the ... continuation of the [power] line in Mansourieh” and power lines in other areas.
The plan also requests that Lebanese Army personnel accompany the ISF “when it is required, and to demonstrate strictness.”
A source at the Energy Ministry said it would be issuing a response to Hankash’s latest remarks soon.