By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 24 March 2013:
Answering questions today at the GNC, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan insisted on being polite and showing . . .[restrict]etiquette and decorum.
When a GNC member suggested that the Prime Minister was displeasing many by insisting on referring to members of the Qaddafi family, especially Qaddafi’s wife Safia, by prefixing their names with Mr, Miss, Misses or Madam, Zeidan was robust in his answer.
“I am Prime Minister, representing the Libyan people. Therefore I must respect all people. I speak respectfully because these are my values and the values of diplomats. Perhaps among those I speak to or about, there are criminals and corrupt or unjust people. But it is necessary to speak with respect to them as well, in public, and to myself.
“In the end, Qaddafi’s wife (Safia Farkash) is Libyan and the head of intelligence (Abdullah Senussi) is Libyan and I cannot accept insulting them as these are not my values, and I will not compromise on this respect towards people. And if this is not acceptable by you I must change or step down’’.
Zeidan added that he, of all people, should not be questioned over his standing towards the former regime. He reminded the GNC that he had refused for over 30 years in exile and opposition to speak, communicate, meet or shake hands with anyone in the former regime.
There was no immediate response to the Prime Minister, either from the leader of the session or from other GNC members. It will be interesting to see what the general opinion out on the street will be.
What is clear is that the Prime Minister is setting a higher tone of debate. He is not keen to participate in the lower tone used by the average Libyan on the street when referring to members of the old regime.
He is definitely attempting to set a conciliatory note, even with members of the old regime. He sees people as innocent until proven guilty and prefers to take a procedural approach. He feels that it should be left to the courts and the Integrity Commission to ascertain the guilt or innocence of people
The question is: are the Libyan people ready to take such a line ? Are they ready to forget and forgive and move on, or are the wounds still too raw ? Many Libyans on the street see the Qaddafi family as guilty until proven innocent.
Zeidan’s statement may add fuel to the heated debate on the Political Isolation law. Hawks on the issue want no mercy shown to members of the old guard when it comes to holding high government positions. They want a straightforward political decision to bar these individuals from office for set period of time.
The GNC and the government want a decision that would hold up in a court of law and be measured against international standards and human rights. Moreover, together with the government, they want to move Libya on from a status of revolution to that of a fully functioning state, with the rule of law and institutions with all their slow-moving procedures and processes.
But many Libyans want the high profile members of the old regime put on trial as soon as possible – and maybe at any cost. [/restrict]