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Libyan Constitutional Union

Sunday, 17 December, 2006

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Part 17                                                                                                                  

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Libyan Constitutional Union :
Its Establishment and Development (12)

A Documentary Article by Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
(Summary Translation from Arabic)

Readers of this series of documentary articles will be able to examine a narrative of historical events that took place in an important period in the history of our country. I am of the opinion that it is a duty to the homeland to record and publish these historical events, so that we do not lose contact with that important part of our contemporary history. As the narrative of these events deal with the stances of some individuals who were active participants in them, it becomes essential that these stances be recorded in their proper contexts. The intention behind the publication of these accounts, almost a quarter of a century after their occurrences, is not to criticise or denigrate the individuals who were active participants in them. Rather, this publication is a modest attempt to uncover and clarify part of our history that is passed over in silence. Thus, I hope that this aim should not be misconstrued and the writer of this article should not bear the responsibility for the cynical interpretations by others of its content.

Part (12)
(First published in Arabic on 26 November 2006)

(2) Announcing the Establishment of the
Libyan Constitutional Union

Dr. Mohammad Yousef Al-Megariaf

One of the easiest tasks one could be entrusted with is to introduce a well known personality to a society where everyone is familiar with this personality’s characteristics. Dr. Mohammad Yousef Al-Megariaf falls into this category. When introducing him one needs no more than to mention his name. I do not believe that there is a single Libyan who is or who has been following the activities on the Libyan political scene and the performance of the various Libyan opposition movements during the period of the early eighties and most of the nineties, who does not know of Dr. Al-Megariaf. As such, I consider myself fortunate in this respect, for his wide spread reputation relieved me from having to list this distinguished personalities’ numerous attributes.

*   *   *

I documented in the previous chapters of this article, the responses of some of the distinguished Libyan personalities who could be counted among the “wise and influential” in the Libyan society, to the establishment of the Libyan Constitutional Union. I will now address the stances of other Libyan personalities who were active within the various Libyan opposition movements in exile, in addition to some of those who raised the banner of opposition to the military regime in Libya as independents.

I will begin with addressing the stance of Dr. Mohammad Yousef Al-Megariaf, the former Secretary General of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL).

*   *   *

Shortly after announcing the establishment of the LCU, towards the end of 1981, Dr. Megariaf visited me in my home in Manchester accompanied by Mr. Ashour Al-Shamis. As soon as we finished the initial protocols of personal hospitality and chatting about current affairs over dinner, Dr. Megariaf embarked on the core of the subject matter that prompted him to initially contact and consequently visit me.

Dr. Megariaf told me that he was impressed by the core idea of the LCU which was announced a few weeks previously. However, the current complex international political climate dictated – as a necessity – the formation of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. The emergence of the NFSL on the arena of the Libyan national struggle left no room for any other organisation with competing agendas or ideology.

Therefore, his visit to me was to propose an offer that revolved around the suggestion that I dissolve the LCU and merge its members – as individuals representing themselves – in the NFSL, which would later adopt the principle of restoring the constitutional legitimacy to the homeland. This would be more appropriate to the NFSL’s structure, its means and capacity to achieve its goal. The issue of rallying around the king, however, had to be abandoned, for he deemed it barren and a hindrance in the path of the struggle to bring down the military regime ruling Libya. Dr. Megariaf continued his explanation of his suggestion by saying that the disbandment of the LCU, and its members joining the NFSL would be – without any doubt – the right step to take for several reasons which could be summarised in the following three points:

1- The current international climate which was influenced by the great powers, who hold sway on the course of events in the region and are capable of providing the resources for political change on the global map, dictates that a single Libyan organisation operate in the arena of opposing the ruling regime in Libya. This organisation should encompass under its umbrella all active members of the Libyan opposition in exile. This was in fact what the super powers have effectively expressed by blessing and backing the establishment of the NFSL, and have promised it ultimate success.

2- The existence of rival Libyan opposition groups or organisations, which could draw potency from the strength of their ideas, their sound strategies, the numerical advantage of their membership or superior financial resources, would be upsetting and disbursing to the efforts of the Libyan opposition. The political reality made it inevitable for them to amalgamate into the NFSL which enjoyed the blessing and backing of the International superpowers to topple the ruling regime in Libya.

3- The existence of Libyan opposition currents rivalling the NFSL could disturb the endeavours of the NFSL for a short while, but it would not – no matter how far they went – alter the inevitable outcome of the NFSL achieving its goal of toppling the ruling regime in Libya. Accordingly, common sense dictates that those in charge of these organisations save their energies and efforts to achieve an end which has already been determined in favour of the NFSL.

*   *   *

I responded to Dr Megariaf’s proposal by relaying to him the following 4 points:

1- If the LCU’s idea had attracted him to the extent that he intended to adopt its crux of restoring constitutional legitimacy, then the disbandment of the LCU and the merger of its founders and membership in the NFSL, in my view, would not be so significant to merit his imposing it as a pre-condition for co-operation between us.

2- If he and the NFSL went ahead and adopted the principle of calling for the restoration of the constitutional legitimacy to the homeland, there would then be no harm caused by the existence or - indeed absence - of the LCU in the arena. For the LCU would not act as a stumbling block in the way of any of the Libyan opposition forces wishing to adopt this principle. In other words, the LCU does not have a monopoly on the idea upon which it shaped its strategy in confronting the military dictatorship in Libya. And there is no law that would prevent anybody from adopting a particular political principle simply because it has been conceived by a different entity.

3- In case the NFSL went ahead with adopting the principle of reverting to the constitutional legitimacy, the founders and membership of the LCU would be faced with one of two options:

a- To disband the LCU and join the NFSL –for those who wish to do so – as individuals. Or b- To continue with their small entity in the shadow of the NFSL, which is more equipped and able. The NFSL would inevitably prevail in its quest, especially when taking into consideration those international promises which Dr. Megariaf kept referring to.

4- If Dr. Megariaf was of the firm conviction of the futility of the role of King Idris (God bless his soul) - who is the epitome of the constitutional legitimacy - then why did he visit him in the period leading to the announcement of the establishment of the NFSL and ask him to hand over to him what the Libyan people entrusted him with - “the Amaanah”

*   *   *

In order to clarify this incident (Dr.Megariaf’s visit to the King) I will disclose to the readers a full account of the details of that visit as I learnt them from the original source.

The said visit took place in the period that shortly preceded the announcement of the establishment of the NFSL. Dr. Megariaf paid King Idris a visit accompanied by Haj. Mohammad El-Saifaat who arranged it with the pretext that he (Dr. Megariaf) sought the holy man’s “Barakah” and prayers.

However, Dr. Megariaf did not observe the agreed confines of the visit. He surprised the King by asking him to concede to him the “Amaanah” (trust) that the Libyan people entrusted him with, now that he has reached this advanced age and to allow the Libyan youth to carry it from then on. In order to bolster his position Dr. Megariaf mentioned that he enjoyed the blessing of the USA.

The King was not only annoyed by Dr. Megariaf’s speech, but his anger was also directed at Haj. Mohammad El-Saifaat as he was clearly not surprised by his companion’s speech to the King, which was in total contrast to the pretext he presented to secure that visit. The King realised at that moment that Dr. Megariaf and Haj. El-Saifaat had a premeditated diverse agenda inconsistent with the reason given to him for that visit. He asked them to leave immediately.

*   *   *

Dr. Megariaf was visibly taken aback by what I relayed to him. He discovered for the first time that I knew of his “secret” visit to King Idris and his quest to have him concede his legal legitimacy to rule Libya in favour of the NFSL. He jumped from his seat looking very cross. At that moment, and before he could utter a single word, Ashour Shamis turned his face towards where Dr. Megariaf was now standing, bemused and unable to hide his shock.

I realised then that Mr. Sahamis was hearing about this matter for the first time, which implied that Dr. Megariaf kept it within the very inner circle of the entity of the NFSL.

Dr. Megariaf said in a trembling voice saturated with anger that he did in fact visit King Idris and Queen Fatima merely out of respect to them and in consideration of their old age in the exile imposed on them by the Gaddafi regime. He found them “a couple of old senile folk believing that Libya was a plantation they inherited, with its peasants, from their ancestors.” At that point I noticed the relief on Ashour Shamis’s face.

Dr. Megariaf continued by saying that he had no other purpose for that visit, especially the ones I had mentioned earlier. He continued by saying that the super powers had abandoned King Idris and they did not want him to continue ruling Libya. Had there been an international desire for his reign to continue they would not have allowed the military to usurp power in Libya. They, in the NFSL, respected the will of the super powers in this regard. On the other hand, the NFSL did not need an aging King to accomplish the aspirations of the Libyan people to be freed from the grip of Gaddafi’s regime. Especially as they (the NFSL) had American promises to topple Gaddafi’s regime. These promises were not tied to the restoration of a deposed monarchist regime, nor to the use of the principle of restoring constitutional legitimacy to the country. Hence there was nothing the NFSL would gain from asking the King to concede his legitimacy to its solid plan for the struggle.

I commented Dr. Megariaf was entitled to justify that visit in any way he sees fit, or to list any excuses about the real reasons behind it. However, as far as I was concerned, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt its exact details which I learnt from the original source. He was also absolutely entitled to take whatever stand from the King – based on the wishes of the USA. I added that I too had the right to take the stand that would serve my country with honour and take into consideration the status and esteem of King Idris.

*   *   *

As such I became fully appreciative of the famous verse of the poet “Tarfa Ibnul-Abd”:

I was abandoned by all my people * * * I was discarded like a quarantined camel.

Following that visit which outraged Dr. Megariaf and his companion and made them storm out of my house in deep anger, I noticed a change in my relationship with many of my friends who joined the ranks of the NFSL, as well as those who became convinced that it was the inevitable future replacement of the Gaddafi regime.

A cruel and discreet process of isolation and boycott was instigated against my family and myself. It was most noticeable on occasions of bereavement when usually acrimonies, grudges and even hatred fade away from the hearts, and sound people would be quick to console and comfort the relatives of the deceased for the loss of their loved ones.

Death, with its undisputed prerogative, has chosen several pillars of my family who lived in the old town of Benghazi during the eighties. It was a very disappointing experience not to receive the customary and expected condolences from my fellow countrymen. To recall but a few examples merely to make the point, I received literally five phone calls of condolences when my maternal uncle Lameen Darbi passed a way. A similar number, if not less, was the total number of the phone calls I received when my father- in - law Haj. Mustafa Emnena died.
The funeral of my uncle Mahmood Ben Ghalbon in Manchester was attended by merely four Libyans. The rest of the congregation was made up of our numerous Pakistani friends.

*   *   *

This boycott and isolation did not end until the NFSL failed to deliver its promises to its members and sympathisers, which led to the exodus of scores of them from it. Many of my old friends and acquaintances renewed their relationships with me. The doors of my house (which I never closed) were once again wide open to the visitors who had forsaken it as a result of my stance which incurred the wrath of the NFSL against me.
The funeral of my younger brother Ali, who passed away in Manchester in 1994 was attended by masses of Libyans who came from far and wide.

To be continued…..

Mohamed Ben Ghalbon

15 December 2006

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Part 17                                                                                                                  

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