Al-Qatrani: If the Cabinet Does Not Communicate with Us, the Steps Taken Will Have Ominous Consequences – Al Marsad

The First Deputy Prime Minister of the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), Hussain al-Qatrani said that since the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU), the Prime Minister has been advice on his personal decision making, because he is making all the decisions without consultation.

In an interview on Sunday on Libya Al-Ahrar TV, which broadcasts from Turkey and is financed by Qatar, on the “Tonight Talk” program, Hussain al-Qatrani said in a live phone call, “I am the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Prime Minister, yet I do not know anything about the budget, or have seen it.”

“Is it possible that a budget submitted on the recall day has not been viewed by the Council of Ministries, and was only viewed by certain ministers? We learnt about the budget on Facebook!”, said al-Qatrani.

He commented on the Minister of Defense portfolio and asked, “Why wasn’t the Minister of Defense nominated? Why wasn’t the task assigned to someone else? Deputy Prime Ministers are free, why wasn’t the task assigned to any other deputy prime minister? There might be other hidden impediments I do not know. However, there is no excuse to keep the budget allocated for the Ministry of Defense. We are currently living in peace, not war, and this is a Government of National Unity.”

He confirmed that Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbaiba, has not communicated with him yet despite having issued a statement, which directly criticized the current situation. He warned that if no one from the government communicates with him, the procedures he and others will take will have ominous consequences. He said the option to establish an Eastern government is on the table, and it was a choice demanded by everyone.

He continued, “Unfortunately, I know that the parallel government will not solve our problem. Many representatives and wise men call for its establishment, but they prefer waiting because Libya is above all.”

“We asked the Prime Minister to put into consideration people, as well as marginalized regions and their lack of services, because supposedly it is a government of national unity—he must be the keenest on unity—and I hold him accountable in the case a parallel government is established.”

Below is the full text of the call by al-Qatrani:

Q) Regarding this escalation, what made you take a stance against the Prime Minister particularly now?

We know that the political agreement has been reached after huge efforts by Libyan patriots, UNSMIL and states that support Libyan stability. However, since the formation of the cabinet, and from the very first cabinet meetings, we tried to give advice to the Prime Minister on his personal actions, and we noted that he is was taking all the cabinet decisions alone without us knowing. Due to the status of the government status, and after a tough path of wars and segregation, we tried to resolve the problems and undertake our duty. After people’s criticism, our silence, and being asked about our roles and duties, we tried to fix things, but the Prime Minister exceeded his limits by issuing more than 400 decisions without consulting us.

The government role is to provide food, medicine and electricity, we are not asking for more from it. However, in light of the current circumstances and tough situation, and obvious political contradictions, we reached a point where we are criticized for being silent. People, specifically in Cyrenaica, are struggling and we were trying to reform the government.

Q) What are the most important decisions taken that you are not satisfied with?

Joining certain institutions in Cyrenaica, in the eastern region, without asking for our opinion, and eliminating the Electricity Authority, leaving behind about 1,500 workers suffering from salaries suspension. In addition, at the Endowment Authority, some departments, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and airports, employees have not taken salaries for years. We have witnessed a lot, and our inability left us speechless before public opinion. We discussed uniting institutions instead of joining them. We tried, but nothing happened.

Another issue is appointing diplomatic missions, students and people in investment companies, all of which are from the western region, from one city or two. If such work is based of political agreement, then this is a mistake. We as a region have our interests, and the south region is suffering too. We failed to provide people with the needed services. That is why we resorted to escalating the matter and decided to talk about the ongoing circumstances under the public pressure.

Q) You did not mention the unapproved budget by the Parliament, or the recall process, you only focused on criticizing the government?

I am the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Prime Minister, yet I do not know anything about the budget, or have seen it. Is it possible that a budget submitted on the recall day has not been viewed by the Council of Ministries, or I, and was only viewed by certain ministers? We learnt about the budget on Facebook!

I challenge the Prime Minister to allow us to discuss or view the budget, and I blame the Parliament for not approving the budget, I personally told them that. Up till now, the government has spent 48bn LYD,  but where is the share of the regions? 5.4bn LYD was allocated for “emergency”, but what is this section that was rejected by the Parliament?

Q) One of the objections on budget is allocating part of it to Haftar, can we consider this as the reason behind such harsh criticism?

There might be some talks under the table that I do not know, but I am talking openly.

Q) You disapproved Dbaiba holding the defense portfolio, and for failing to take any measures to nominate the Defence Minister. Why did you insist on Dbaiba not keeping this ministry?

Why wasn’t the Minister of Defense nominated? Why wasn’t the task assigned to someone else? Why the Prime Minister? Deputy Prime Ministers are free, why wasn’t the task assigned to the Second Deputy Prime Minister?

Q) Isn’t it safer to keep the portfolio with Dbaiba to avoid any possible tension?

There might be other impediments I do now know. However, there is no excuse to keep the budget of the Ministry of Defense. We are currently living in peace, not war, and this is a Government of National Unity.

Q) Dbaiba has faced a problem since he decided to go to Benghazi and was not able to land in the city’s airport. That is another obstacle hindering the government’s work and communication with the Cyrenaica region.

Once Dbaiba said in Sirte: “Any minister who fails to reach any city will never work with me.” If the Prime Minister himself failed to reach eastern Libya, then it is a problem. I have no idea if he was prevented from entering the city. As a First Deputy Prime Minister, he did not tell me he is visiting Benghazi and we did not arrange for it. Maybe there were under-the-table arrangements that I do not know about.

Q) Don’t you know that there were specific military groups who prevented Dbaiba from visiting Benghazi?

There are military groups accompanying government ministers. They all visited Cyrenaica under army and police protection. Who prevented them? There might be other reasons. However, what is obvious is that the Prime Minister did not personally arrange the matter with me. He did it on his own.

Q) What do you mean by “under the table”?

There is ongoing communication between Dbeibeh’s group and the General Command. They met and communicated in Ramadan. I do not know if there are any personal disputes. I informed the Prime Minister that he must issue a press release from Tripoli and to announce, in his capacity as the Minister of Defense, his visit to see the eastern region’s forces, and he will see the results. I challenge him, and everyone, to deny that this happened; I exerted efforts in this direction, but there might be other impediments or reasons. I am ready to receive him at the airport.

Q) You indirectly accused the government of trying to delay the elections.

I did not accuse them of delaying the elections, but electioneering of all nominees is ongoing, each in its own way. Everything is clear: I only care about my mandate. The government deficiency is clear in terms of the right of Cyrenaicans. Salaries of the Endowment Authority in the western region are valid, yet they are suspended in the east.

Does it make sense to receive the meeting schedule on the meeting day? How is it possible that the First Deputy Prime Minister does not know if the meeting is tomorrow or after tomorrow? And I do not go to external visits with Prime Minister.

Q) Does the Cabinet seem excited to go to 24 December elections?

Honestly, I am talking about the Prime Minister performance in daily tasks. But how are decisions and procedures taken without the opinion of the representatives? The mandate of the representatives is for six months. Have you seen any letters signed by any representative from the east or the south? Impossible. Representatives are a few meters away from the Presidency, so how does that make any sense?

Q) Has Dbaiba communicated with you after the statement? Did you directly criticize him before Benghazi statement?

No, we rarely communicate by phone and he rarely answers, even if he is in the headquarters. He has not communicated with me after the statement.

Q) What are the choices you might resort to? Wasn’t there any form of communication at the Cabinet level on what you demand in the statement?

The procedures that might be taken will give ominous consequences. There is an option to establish an eastern government, a choice demanded by everyone. Unfortunately, I know that the parallel government will not solve our problem. Many representatives and wise men call for its establishment but they prefer waiting because Libya is above all.

Q) Some people are talking about blocking fuel supply to put pressure on the Prime Minister.

Many of the people call for this, but I do not recommend it at all.

Q) According to what you say and your statements, there is another current saying that such criticism does not completely come from you, but from Haftar, whom you consider as the Army Chief. How do you respond to this?

The demands come from the people, and even the army salaries were suspended several times. But as a government, we are not related to the army. […] The army are asking for their salaries. They call us asking about their salaries as part of the LNA General Command, but we as government are not directly related to the army, they handle their own issues.

If the Minister of Finance asked for any data, he is entitled to have it. We do not object on legal procedures.

We asked the Prime Minister to take people into consideration people, as well as the marginalized regions and their lack of services, because supposedly it is a government of national unity—he must be the keenest on unity—and I hold him accountable in the case a parallel government is established.

© ALMARSAD ENGLISH (2021)