Protests in Lebanon continue for the sixth day, despite the government's approval yesterday of an unprecedented economic reform package.
Protesters said they were continuing a general strike to demand the overthrow of the government and the formation of a technocratic government away from sectarianism.
Al-Jazeera correspondent continued to cut off a number of roads linking the Lebanese capital Beirut to the provinces of the north and south.
The correspondent added that protesters against government policies cut off a number of main roads in Beirut using iron obstacles and stones, in an attempt to cripple the movement in the capital.
The security forces have opened some roads to facilitate traffic for citizens. The National News Agency reported that a number of roads were reopened this morning, while protesters refused to open other roads.
The Association of Public Administration Employees announced last night that the day is "subject to the condition of every employee and developments on the ground" after it had declared a general strike until yesterday evening.
"It is in the process of evaluating the items that concern the staff in the reform paper and the draft budget, and will accordingly identify the next steps and actions."
The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that the Council of Ministers approved the budget of 2020 with a deficit of 0.6% and without new taxes.
He also announced that the government had approved a 50% cut in the salaries of current and former ministers and deputies. He promised to pass a bill to set up an anti-corruption body. He also announced the abolition of the Ministry of Information and the merger of a number of institutions.
Hariri called the 2020 budget "an economic coup" for Lebanon.
For his part, Chairman of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt in an interview that he will not leave the government at the moment, adding that he would continue the battle of reforms from within the Council of Ministers.
Jumblatt said that the reforms approved by the government are not drastic, saying that "the only way to respond to popular demands is to move towards early elections according to a non-sectarian election law."
|The government announced a reform package and Jumblatt said he would not leave. (Reuters)|
The revolution remains
On the other hand, Lebanese demonstrators at the sit-in yards across the country expressed their rejection of Hariri's plan, stressing that they remain in the street.
After Hariri's speech, protesters marched in large numbers to the slogans of "The people want to overthrow the regime."
Activist Salem al-Ghosh, who was involved in organizing the protests, said that the adoption of reform clauses so quickly indicates the corruption of the ruling class.
He asked: Why did not these reforms in the first place? He stressed the demonstrators' adherence to stay in the squares until the departure of all the ruling class.
In Tripoli in the north, journalist Ghassan Farran said the reform paper was unconvincing and "we will not get out of the yards," noting that demonstrations in the north are escalating, especially after Hariri's press conference.
From Riad Solh Square in central Beirut, protesters shouted after Hariri's speech confirming their adherence to staying in the street, including "Mashrh we go back home" and "Mish Hanakhli Revolution dies".
"This reform paper is just a new morphine injection and we will not bite the same burrow twice," said protester Ahmed Zein.
The same position was adopted by activist Ali Houhou, who participates in the demonstrations in Barja area in central Lebanon.He said that the reform paper is a continuation of corruption, because the government intends to privatize the telecommunications sector, which generates treasury profits, while not privatizing the electricity sector, which has a large deficit.
The Lahki campaign issued a statement expressing its rejection of Hariri's plan.
"There is no confidence, no confidence in your reforms, your approach and the mentality of your system. We reject the government's unrealistic, loose and misguided reforms to buy time and procrastinate," she said.
She stressed that it will not back down "until the overthrow of the government of unfair taxes and sectarian quotas and fulfill all demands."
In the southern city of Sidon, one of the protesters read a speech in the name of the protesters, saying: "Your promises are not enough. Unless you do 30 years, you will not be able to fulfill it within 72 hours."