By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 23 August:
Libya’s newly elected General National Congress (GNC) met today after taking a break for the end of . . .[restrict]the fasting month of Ramadan and the Eid holidays.
The GNC members were quickly brought down to earth with a bang as they were met at the GNC entrance by demonstrations, including by the families of those that were killed by the Eid car bomb. Some demonstrators had attempted to forcibly enter the GNC building.
Not only that, but at least two members of the media were taken away for ‘questioning’ when a scuffle broke out following the unexpected departure of Congress speaker Mohammed Magarief.
After inviting the press to attend, the GNC decided to hold its meeting behind closed doors – much to the displeasure of the awaiting members of the media.
A matter of national security
The GNC had decided to hold today’s session on the issue of security and had asked the Ministry of Interior to provide a report on the security situation.
After meeting for a couple of hours, GNC head Mohammed Magarief left in a hurry and the media were informed that he was to attend a meeting of Libya’s National Security Council.
GNC member Salah Jaouda confirmed that Magarief “was meeting with the National Security Council and all the relevant security personnel in order to put in place and execute national security plans. These plans include the supply of various needs such as technical and communications equipment etc”.
‘There are some who still wish to create a security crisis now in Libya’
Regarding today’s closed meeting, Jaouda confirmed that “the meeting was for the Ministry of Interior to give a detailed account of the security situation”.
Asked about the two bombing incidents over the Eid holidays in Tripoli, Jaouda confirmed that “there are some who still wish to create a security crisis now in Libya”.
Meanwhile, asked to reveal the discussions that had taken place behind closed doors, GNC member Hassan Lamin confirmed that today’s meeting was “set aside especially for the security situation. It is not an easy file and it will need many sittings”, he added.
“I personally feel that the GNC will need to set up at least a temporary committee to deal with the security issue in the next few weeks. This was one of the suggestions that were discussed inside. The idea is that it would provide regular reports on the security situation”.
Regarding the closed –to-the-media session Lamin defended the GNC decision saying that “we kept today’s session closed to the media due to the sensitivity of the subject”.
“We are still at war despite the political legitimacy” – Juma Attaiga.
Asked to comment about the security situation, GNC member Juma Attaiga felt that “the hands of the previous regime want to carry out plans to shake the country’s security”.
Asked about the identity of those responsible for the car bombs and if it was purely members of the old regime or if there were other forces behind them, such as squabbling militias, Attaiga said that “according to the Ministry of Interior, it was supporters of the old regime who were responsible. There is no evidence that there are any other parties responsible”.
“It is no coincidence that these bombs went off just after the handover”
Attaiga went on to note that “it is no coincidence that these bombs went off just after the handover of power from the NTC to the GNC and on the first day of Eid. They don’t want this peaceful handover and this process to happen.
“We know that there are difficulties in imposing security. We will concentrate on improving the human resources and capabilities to improve the security situation. This will need to be a comprehensive policy to include the economy and other factors”.
‘We are still at war despite the political legitimacy. There are those who still wish to portray to the outside world that Libya is unstable so as to discourage foreign participation and investment’, he noted.
Members of the media were ‘arrested’ within the GNC building
At one point there was a scuffle either between members of the media or between the media and the GNC security personnel probably sparked by the sudden departure of the GNC head without giving time to the awaiting media.
The Libya Herald was in another part of the building at the time, but members of the media reported that some media members tried to rush towards Magarief, but were prevented by security. The media were unsurprisingly not too pleased that Magarief did not talk to them – having invited them to attend the GNC session.
Words were apparently exchanged with the overzealous security personnel and at least two media members were taken away for ‘questioning’. GNC members promised to resolve the matter urgently.
The incident reflects the still developing relationship between the GNC and the media and the security personnel at the GNC building. The lines of responsibility, especially with regards to internal GNC security have not yet been clearly demarcated yet.
Usually the sovereign power, parliament or congress, is responsible for the administration of its own security. The GNC security is provided by the Ministry of Interior/Defence or in combination with the Supreme Security Committee.
Salah Jaouda, while admitting that he did not know all the facts of the incident, noted that “even in Benghazi only yesterday some members of the press were arrested by soldiers who did not have the authority to arrest. I will inform the GNC head and ask for a quick resolution to the matter”, he promised the gathered media.
Some members of the media were wondering what had happened to Article 14 of the Transitional Constitutional Declaration which read that “the state guarantees the freedom of opinion, of individual and group expression, and the freedom of scientific research, the freedom of communication, and the freedom of the press and media and printing and distribution and the freedom of movement and the freedom of congregation and demonstration and peaceful disobedience in so far as it does not contradict the law”.
Pro-Qaddafi satellite TV broadcasting from within or without Libya?
Asked about the pro-Qaddafi satellite TV channel or channels that have allegedly been transmitting intermittently from Egypt, GNC member Salah Jaouda admitted with a touch of self criticism that “the channels may even be transmitting from within Libya – Libya which should be under the sovereignty and control of the GNC”.
“It is more complicated than you think and will need a complicated legal process to resolve it. We should act immediately”, he confirmed.
The GNC holiday?
The GNC had barely met after it had received its full legitimacy and authority from the National Transitional Congress (NTC) on 8 August before it adjourned for an end of Ramadan break.
Some members of the General public thought that the GNC should have continued to meet in order to speed-up the handover process and hasten the process of solving many of the nation’s outstanding and pressing issues and problems.
Salah Jaouda defended his position and that of the GNC on the matter. ‘I had asked for a delay of the handover ceremony because of the religious significance of the last days of the holy month of Ramadan. And I was afraid that the NTC would handover and the GNC would not be ready. It was a mistake’, he admitted.
‘Anyway, it was a ceremonial handover. We need internal rules and regulations. We failed to even create a committee to receive the official archives from the state’.
‘We did create a committee of 16 who did not go home on holiday and continued to work. They were working until late last night. So we were not on holiday. Anyway, we would not have been able to achieve anything because of the lack of internal rules and regulations to govern our procedures and organisation’.
Meeting families of the bomb victims
Salah Jaouda was one of the GNC members that had met with the families of the car bomb victims. He said that he had offered sympathy, condolences and support and promised improved security.
The GNC ended its morning session for lunch and was planning to resume its session in the afternoon. [/restrict]