Activists storm Lebanon’s finance ministry, demand halt in lawmakers' pay
Lebanese demonstrators gather and picnic at Beirut's Zaitunay Bay during a protest as a part of the "Change is Coming" campaign on Sept. 12, 2015. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
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Activists affiliated with the We Want Accountability campaign and Go Away movement Tuesday tried to storm the Imports Directorate department of the Finance Ministry in Beirut's Beshara Khoury, demanding the state halt paying the salaries of lawmakers.
The unexpected move surprised employees and Internal Security Forces stationed near the building, prompting them to close the doors of the directorate and briefly cut electricity of the building, a security source told The Daily Star.
"They shouldn't be paid a penny from the people," an activist said.
The movement called on citizens to head to the area and join their demonstration.
Beirut police chief Brig. Bassam Ayoubi arrived swiftly at the scene to negotiate with the protesters.
“The activists tried to storm into the ministry but the security measures taken to protect the institution prevented them [from entering],” Ayoubi told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5).
The directorate’s employees and citizens conducting business there remain locked in the ministry.
Nehmat Badereddine, one of We Want Accountability organizers, called on the Finance Ministry's employees to open the doors and join their protest against the MPs' corruption.
The money "is our right, it is the right of our children," she shouted over a speaker to the employees locked in the directorate.
"Our movement is for you, to reclaim your rights. It's for the public sector employees, who are always being threatened that their paychecks will not be paid."
"Join us. Join the battle."
Activists argue that MPs have received around LL82 billion (about $54 million) in salary since they extended their own term.
In May 2013, lawmakers extended their term by 17 months, citing security concerns. The Parliament then extended its mandate again in November 2014 by an additional two years and seven months.
Mahmoud Fakih, an activist with the campaign, said that they are protesting against corruption in the Finance Ministry.
"They illegal lawmakers, since 2000, are robbing us."
He pointed out that demonstrators "wanted to storm into the ministry similar to the Ministry of Environment but we failed."
On Sept. 1, You Stink activists held a sit-in in the Ministry of Environment to press for the resignation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk. Police later cleared them by force after an eight hour sit-in.
Protesters were heard shouting "we want to hold those lawmakers to be held accountable," and "go away, you disgust us." They held banners that encompass their demands, such as the dissolving of the Parliament and early elections.
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