BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has called for a swift and transparent investigation into a tragic boating accident that killed around ten people, including an 18-month-old girl and her mother.
The ship sank off Tripoli on Saturday evening.
Mikati said investigations should be carried out quickly and transparently, away from media pressure, and should include details of what happened even before the boat left.
Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, Lebanese Army Intelligence Director Brig. General Tony Kahwagi and Commander of Naval Forces Col. Haitham Dhanawy attended an emergency Cabinet session on Tuesday and gave a detailed briefing on what happened with the boat.
The army said the boat left the Lebanese coast illegally and the captain of the boat was trying to evade capture when the collision occurred. They said around 60 people illegally boarded the boat and were heading for Italy and stressed that the military had nothing to do with the boat capsizing.
Several survivors said a Lebanese military vessel rammed the boat, sinking it. They said a security official on board threatened to drown them if they did not comply and return to shore. They said the majority of those trying to escape could not swim, including women and children.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said at the start of the Cabinet session: “What happened in Tripoli hurt us all”, adding that the court must investigate the incident amid conflicting stories, to clarify the truth and put an end to any contradictory interpretation or explanation. .
Ahmed Tamer, director of the port of Tripoli, said the search to find the missing passengers was ongoing and a Greek frigate was taking part in the operation.
Dr Khaldoun Al-Sherif, a political analyst from Tripoli, told Arab News: “The conflicting stories urged Mikati to insist on knowing what happened before the boat left. The military say they spotted the boat before it set sail but could not catch up to it and intercepted it while it was at sea. There is a missing link and an inconsistent narrative. The investigation should have started immediately and everything that is happening now is a waste of time.
In Beirut, people continued to protest against a controversial capital control bill. The adoption of a capital control law is part of the reforms requested by the International Monetary Fund to help the country in crisis.
Applicants blocked the roads leading to parliament on Tuesday to prevent joint parliamentary committees from continuing their discussions on the bill and succeeded in preventing MPs from reaching a quorum to hold the session.
George Adwan, head of the Administration and Justice Committee, has called for delaying talks on capital controls until after the May 15 legislative elections. He underlined the need for a complete and comprehensive recovery plan explaining the losses and their distribution according to the responsibilities and the method of reimbursement of the losses.
“Successive governments and corrupt politicians are to blame as well as the Banque du Liban, which is complicit in state policy,” he added. “So why should we hold citizens and depositors accountable for all of this? Any recovery plan must tell people how the economic, financial and monetary situation is going to improve and how we are going to create growth and preserve the banking system after fixing the flaws, instead of hiding behind what the IMF has asked to grant Lebanon 3 billion dollars over three years. ”