بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Libyan Constitutional Union :
Its Establishment and Development (2)
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.
(First published on this site in Arabic on 14th June 2006)
Quest to obtain King Idris's consent
Paving the way for a meeting with The King:
* * *
As I have previously explained, having passed to the King my messages regarding my intention to establish the LCU, all that was remaining was to meet His Majesty to renew the allegiance and then announce the establishment of the Libyan Constitutional Union. I have also mentioned in part 1 that meeting the King was neither an easy matter nor an easily attainable goal, for to meet him, one had to overcome several difficulties, namely getting through the vigilant Egyptian security, or gaining the acceptance and the consent of Haj El-Saifaat, who gave himself the authority - by virtue of the old relationship that he had with the King- to vet the individuals who would like to visit the King and would decide who could see him and who could not.
Fortunately, I did not have to go through either of these two channels. The visit was arranged, with the king’s permission, by the person who acted as the link between the King and I. Furthermore, this visit would not be an occasion where I repeated what had already been communicated to the King through this intermediary. The meeting would finalize the aspects contained in my messages to him, for me to pledge my allegiance and for him to give his blessing to the establishment of the Libyan Constitutional Union.
The intermediary and I agreed to meet in Egypt during the month of August (1981). We agreed that I would wait for this person (the intermediary) to telephone me at my father’s house in Alexandria. I had travelled from Manchester to Alexandria during the agreed upon period but after sometime there I was not contacted as previously agreed.
Due to my good knowledge of the extent of honesty, nobleness, generosity and good intentions of this individual, I was sure a situation must have presented itself that prevented the contact
I found myself in a dilemma; I was not in favour of resorting to either of the two channels mentioned previously in this regard, due to the sensitive nature of my visit to The King, which made it unwise to reveal it to anybody yet. However, I was forced to contact Haj Mohamed El-Saifaat who knew the intermediary, and asked him to pass my phone number to our mutual friend to contact me urgently in Alexandria, for I had been entrusted to deliver something to that person prior to my return to the UK. I made this excuse to Hajj El-Saifaat to avoid telling him about my previous and next contact with King Idris.
Shortly afterwards the intermediary contacted me and apologised profusely for not getting in touch with me in the specified period due to losing my telephone number, and that all attempts to get my number from others had failed. The intermediary informed me at once that an appointment had been arranged for me to visit the King to finalise the noble aim I dedicated my self and my team to accomplishing.
On the specified day of this visit, the intermediary arranged a meeting for me with Mr Omar Shelhi, who I was informed, had volunteered for the task of accompanying me, hence facilitating my entry to the King’s residence through the Egyptian security apparatuses. That would be the first time I ever met Mr. Omar Shelhi.
In the presence of the King:
I met Mr. Omar Shelhi on the specified date at a predetermined location. From there we went in his car to the King’s residence in the suburb of Dokki.
As soon as the car stopped in front of the villa we entered through a gate that was surrounded by Egyptian security men who greeted and welcomed Mr. Shelhi, whom they knew very well and therefore neither stopped him, nor checked the identity of the person who accompanied him.
As we entered the sitting room, my companion introduced me to King Idris and Queen Fatima whose warm and affectionate welcome made me feel very happy and at ease.
I addressed the King and expressed my feelings of deep sorrow and regret for the suffering and pain he had to endure in his exile away from his homeland and people for whom he spent his entire life to achieve their independence. I dissociated my self from what the dregs of society had inflicted on him, and made clear to him my profound awareness of his grand spiritual rank. I then expressed my renewal of allegiance to him as the King of Libya.
I told him I would like to know his verdict concerning what he had examined regarding the matter of the establishment of the Libyan Constitutional Union and the call upon him to be the legitimate ruler of the country. The reply of the pious King was brief but eloquent and decisive. He looked at me and quoted from verse 3 of Surat Al-Fath:
“May Allah make your victory an impregnable victory”
" ينصُرَك الله نصراً عزيزاً"
I kissed the King’s hand and departed, totally overwhelmed with happiness and joy, I felt my feet could hardly touch the ground. My arduous efforts to obtain his consent and blessing to continue in this patriotic and task were crowned with success.
Mr Omar Shelhi accompanied me to the outside gate of the villa and as we got into the car he asked me about my destination. When I replied he said that the distance was short and he suggested that we could walk it together.
I understood at once that he wanted to talk to me about the subject matter that I came to see the King for, and walking together would provide him with the longer time needed for that purpose.
As I expected, as soon as we got out of the car and started walking my companion asked me if I was aware of the enormity and the gravity of the undertaking for which I had endeavoured to obtain the King’s approval. He continued with answering his own question and added that; if I was not aware, I was attempting to cross a minefield.
I told him that I was quite aware of what he meant and that I understood perfectly the nature and magnitude of the task I was about to undertake. And I ask Allah’s help in order to succeed to do our country, which was suffering under the hated military regime, a lot of good. He then said to me that this task would not only require me to defend the monarchy as embodied in the person of the King, but also to defend the entire regime of the monarchy i.e. its personalities and symbols, especially those who were very close to him and considered his clique.
It was clear from his previous hint that he was aiming to entice me to adopt the stance of defending him and his family when defending the King; however, I was clear, frank and decisive in this regard.
I further explained that I did not consider it to be the most suitable of times to raise the banner of monarchy in Libya. The coup d’etat regime had successfully, worked relentlessly with all the state resources at its disposal to distort the image of such a form of government, and to level all sorts of false accusations against it. Furthermore, I told him that he had to bear in mind that the prevalent trend among the Libyan intelligentsia and the opposition ranged from the so-called “progressive ideas” in the leftist and liberal tendencies to the growing religious currents. All of the people of all these persuasions, at least at that time, did not wish to be associated with the Monarchy in Libya.
On the other hand, when I advanced the idea of establishing the Libyan Constitutional Union and thought about the necessity of obtaining the blessing of the King for it, because of his constitutional legitimacy as documented in the codification of a constitution agreed upon by all of the Libyan nation, I did not envisage that I would be in the position of defending personalities that had political and titular offices and positions in the monarchy regime. It was not my intention to justify or catalogue the mistakes of some of the symbols of the monarchy regime, for this was not my business and these personalities could defend themselves if they wanted to. My task in this regard would be limited to the King and the Constitution, and may Allah help me in the onerous and difficult crossing of the minefield and I was certain of the difficulty involved in doing so.
My answer above put an end to Mr. Shelhi’s hope of enlisting me to defend him and his family and consequently ignited his enmity towards me.
Our conversation ended at that point, as we reached my temporary accommodation.
I thanked Mr Shelhi for his generosity in facilitating my meeting with the King and he said good-bye to me in a cool manner which he made no effort to disguise.
To be continued…
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
21st July 2006
(( Many thanks to Mustafa for undertaking the arduous task
of translating this document from Arabic )). Mohammed Ben Ghalbon