BEIRUT: Caretaker Telecoms Minister Charbel Nahhas accused Thursday a branch of the Internal Security Forces of unlawfully preventing him access to facilities linked to the Telecoms Ministry.
Describing the act as a “coup,” Nahhas said some 400 heavily-equipped members from the ISF’s Information Branch have also banned employees from entering the second level of the building attached to the ministry in Adliyeh, east of Beirut.
Nahhas said rooms on the second floor, which contained communications equipment donated to Lebanon, were sealed off since Friday.
“This a coup by the Information Branch,” Nahhas told a news conference at the ministry shortly after the incident which was aired live on a local television station.
“Under the law, this act is considered a mutiny,” Nahhas said, laying the blame on ISF chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi.
He said Rifi had taken a unilateral decision to deny access to ministry employees, adding that caretaker Interior Minister Ziad Baroud had no knowledge of the decision.
Nahhas, a member of Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, also said he was waiting for the withdrawal of the police unit after they had been ordered by Baroud to do so.
Security forces prevented on Thursday caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas, several directors at the ministry, and a technical team from entering one of the ministry’s buildings at the Adlieh area.
Sources told Naharnet, that the minister and the technical team headed to the building in order to dismantle a mobile phone station belonging to Ogero Telecom.
The station, which was operating under a trial period, was presented as a gift from the Chinese government to Ogero a few months ago.
Ogero Telecom General Director Abdul Monem Youssef had previously informed Nahhas that he has no right to dismantle the station and transfer it to the MTC mobile phone operating company.
Any modification to the donation agreement between Ogero and the Chinese government would require approval by Cabinet, he added.
The telecommunications minister disregarded this fact and insisted on dismantling the station, he said.
Nahhas headed to the building at Adlieh Thursday morning where he was confronted by the security forces who informed him that he may enter the station, but without the technical team, Youssef clarified.
The minister later held a press conference recounting the morning’s developments, describing the practices at the ministry as a “coup”, led by the Internal Security Forces.
He urged the army leadership to suppress the ISF coup, saying that the Intelligence Bureau is refusing to implement caretaker Interior Minister Ziad Baroud’s order to pull security forces out of the ministry building.
Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas said Thursday that Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Branch personnel have occupied a building owned by the Telecommunications Ministry in the Adliyeh area of Beirut and are mounting a “coup” against the state’s authority.
In a press conference broadcast on OTV, Nahhas said that ISF personnel had taken over the second floor of the building and prevented his ministry’s technical teams from performing routine maintenance work.
Interior Minister Ziad Baroud was not aware of the situation and, once notified by the telecommunications minister, issued an order requiring the personnel to leave the building, Nahhas said.
He said that he visited the building on Thursday morning and encountered “400 armed personnel, military and civilian, with their weapons ready” when he tried to go up to the second floor.
He stated that these units have not left the building and are therefore rebelling against the state, accusing the ISF Directorate-General of defying the Interior Ministry’s orders.
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Disclaimer: The notes below are provided as is from the meeting, without fact checking. These notes reflect - verbatim - the answers to the questions asked during the meeting.
• Meeting 1
• Ministry of Telecommunications
• May 12 2011
• Vision: make Lebanon the Arab World’s internet hub, building an internet ‘surplus’ (not deficit, as currently is the case), which will be sold to the Arab World
• Current Projects:
o IMEWE (done, pending signature of Ogero to launch)
o National fiber backbone, connecting major cities (in progress, started 2 months ago)
o 3G – 4G
HSPA+ covering Lebanon
LTE covering Beirut
Huawei – MTC Touch
Ericsson - Alfa
Contracts acquired in open bidding process at half original cost of (35M USD vs 75M USD)
o International fiber links
JADI (Jeddah, Amman, Damascus, Istanbul)
o Local fiber
1. FTTx: made a call for requests by large institutions who need fiber now for at least 100 Mbps, only received 12 applicants!
2. FTTh: 2012
o New pricing matrix has been drafted, awaiting government formation and Council of Ministers to implement
o Pricing matrix aims to reduce prices by at least 40%
o E1 pricing should come close to 600 USD
o Pricing reductions are always slowed down by the Ministry of Finance (as is currently the case, and was the case during the pricing reductions on the cellular services a couple of years ago)
o Ministry of Finance is not willing to reduce prices due to fear of loss of income that is being used to finance the public debt.
o FYI: Telecom revenues finance over 40% of the public debt
o Planning Triply Play via new infrastructure
o Aiming to raise the average internet speed to 10 Mbps by end of 2011
o Privatization is not in the best interest of the government, as it needs the telecom sector to continue financing its public debt.
• Law 431:
o The law is outdated, and needs to be revised, for example voice is separated from data, which is the reason behind most of the VOIP crackdown we’ve witnessed in the past few years
o The law has never been implemented fully, and thus is problematic in that it is being used by the Shura Council to selectively pass or block specific decisions
o Previous TRA head was at odds with MoT
o Current TRA head is working together with MoT
o TRA self-financing target not met, MoT still finances TRA
o Is the execution ‘arm’ of the MoT, and thus without the cooperation of Ogero, many projects cannot be executed, including turning on the IMEWE
o Many projects, services, installations, and activities are on hold due to stalemate between Ogero and MoT
o Ogero Head is appointed by the Council of Ministers
• LBN OGERO Mobile 41505
o 2G network built with donated Huawei equipment in 2008/2009
o Operating without a license, purpose and activities unknown to MoT
• People to Talk to:
o Mr. Tony Hanna
o Dr. Chebaro
o Mr. Imad Abi Rashed
• IMEWE: yes, flipping the switch will result in immediate increase in quality of service, even if there is no government to reduce prices (need for Council of Ministers)
• MoT financing: Ministry of Finance has limited financing of MoT projects, and thus MoT is self-financing most of its new projects, seeing as it is a cashflow positive ministry
Priority Next Steps:
Increase awareness about open call for FTTx requests for large entities needing over 100 Mbps
Increase awareness about MoT activities, projects, vision, and mission