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Saturday, 9 July, 2005

TV Debate Between The Regime And The Opposition

( Dr. Rajab Budabbous and Mr. Mohammed Buisier )

Translated By : Fadwa Saleh Buisier
Political Scientist, B.Sc., School Of Political Science, Cairo University

TV Debate between the regime and the opposition:
Aldemocratia TV, London 6/27/2005.

On Monday June 27, 2005, the London based “Aldemocratia” Satellite TV channel aired the first ever political debate, between a representative of the Libyan regime and a prominent political opponent.

The Regime was represented by Dr. Rajab Budabuss; the Chief Ideologist of the Revolutionary Committies, former Minister of Propaganda, chief editor of all publications of the revolutionary committies and the director of the institute for revolutionary studies in Tripoli.

The Opponent was Mohammed Buisier, a veteran Libyan reformist, a political writer, advocate for representative democracy, co-founder of several Libyan opposition groups, and a former political prisoner.

The Moderator was Dr Mohammed Alhashmy Founder of the TV Channel and a long time advocate for Democracy in the Arab world.

The Transcript:

Moderator: Our viewers every were, specially in Libya;

On his interview with this channel on the first of May, the Libyan leader Muamar Alghaddafi said that when he released his opponents from prison several years ago no harm happened to the country, he also extended his call to his opponents in exile to return to Libya and express their views in the basic people’s conferences.

On the other hand a conference held by his opponents in London this week called for his resignation.

Today we are inviting to this two hours debate Dr Rajab Budabuss as a representative of the Libyan Government and Mohammed Buisier A prominent opponent of the Libyan regime trying to shade more light on the Libyan Issue.

We will start with each of the two making an introduction in less than 3 minutes.

Dr. Budabbus you start please.

Budabbus: Ignorance is the real reason behind most of the problem, those who call themselves Opposition do not know what is going on in Libya, or just know very little so they are talking about things that are not reflective of the realty in Libya and when the people their hear them he would ask him self ”What are they talking about?”, that’s why I am here today, to make them understand first and then they can take any position they choose.

Moderator: Mr. Buisier is participating from Boston in the USA .Please go-ahead.

Buisier: Thank you for this opportunity, I wish it to be the launching point for a new era where different Libyan political actors accept the existence of each others recognize their differences and try together to build a bridge to the future, to Libya of the Future the prosperous Homeland of all of us.
Our differences however wide and series but they should not be a reason for animosity, rather a platform to a constructive political dialogue.

Moderator: Thank you, but Mr. Buisier our Libyan viewers might be surprised ,you are talking to us from Boston and not participating in the opposition conference in London, why didn’t you participate?

Buisier: I‘m a believer in Democracy and in diversity of opinion, I was a member of the preparation committee of the conference we had minor disagreements. But those Libyans who met in London are respectable Libyans who have a point of view that deserves to be concluded when determining the political colors in the Libyan seen.
Even if I didn’t attend personally I was there with my feelings as I do with every Libyan national event.

Moderator: Using you philosophical background Dr. Rajab, what should be the starting point in this debate?

Budabuss: We have to understand that what happens in Libya is different, in other places in the world there are governments and oppositions, majorities ,minorities and political parties .In Libya it is a unique experiment which has no equivalents to its establishments, terminology , performance and functioning.
In other countries there is a ruling party and opposition that competes with it to rule the people, there are three ends in the political process the ruling party, the opposition and the ruled people, but in Libya there is no ruling party that is separated from the people, the people is integrated in the government through the peoples conferences, so in this case how could there be an opposition, it will be outlaw to the society and against the Libyan people.

Moderator: Your comment on that Mr. Buisier

Buisier: We hear this description used by Dr. Rajab all the time, but how can one allege that Libyans are different from the rest of the human race; Libyans like all humans are born with their freedom and their right to choose, when political systems were developed by civilized people they were based on this right, so the citizens are entitled to choose from different opinions, express different points of views and assemble different political parties which have diverse arguments about every issue in their lives.
You have, as a starting point in this debate, to point out if you are a “Salafy”which considers the “Green Book” as a sacred text, who would fight for its slogans to the end or you agree to the right of Libyans in a prosperous life. If your choice is the first, you would repeat the old slogans again and again and we’ll go no where from here, but if it is the second, lets agree that Libyans do not go to your peoples conferences, and can not choose their government. During the 36 years your regime has been in power, only 121 persons from 5 million Libyans became ministers, how could this be called the rule of the people and not of a small minority, a very small one which jumped to power, and forcefully excluded all other political actors from the political process while alleging that every body is a partner.

Budabuss: You should know Mohamed that my PHD was about freedom, which should be for every body not for a minority and when the Libyan people were asked, they chose this political system, no body have imposed it on them, their choice was to rule them selves by themselves.

Buisier: I would rather talk about the future than discussing if there was a dilemma in Libya or not, if not so why thousands of young Libyans are leaving the country and taking humble jobs in the countries they land in, just to survive. I want to talk about the future so this discussion does not become a bombardment, but we can not take steps toward the future if the regime in Libya does not want to recognize the dilemma.

Budabuss: Small comment, maybe because you live abroad you don’t have enough information, I don’t say that we don’t have problems in Libya, in any human community there are problems, for instance unemployment is not only in Libya, Germany and France has unemployment problems too, in France it is 20% and in Germany they are 10 millions.

Buisier: Comparing numbers is not the way; you can’t compare the Libyan economies to that of Germany or France. The truth is that Libya is stagnated. Even those who try to imply some economical reform from within the regime are faced by braking mechanisms created by those revolutionary “Salafists” who live on top of the society and care more about the “Book” than the needs of the people, I would ask them to try to see things as Gorbachev saw them when he wrote ”Although I’m the leader of the strongest nation in the world, who controls the biggest Oil and Coal reserves, and can push a single button to destroy the world ten times; I would rather see things in my country from the eyes of this old woman who is standing at the end of a long line waiting to buy grocery for her family in front of an empty store”.
Those who rule Libya should see things in Libya from the eyes of those who don’t find apartments, who can’t bring money home to their kids, who have to take their families to Tunis seeking medical treatment, the situation in Libya can not be compared with Germany or Even Egypt, and we are talking here about something different.

Budabuss: What Mohammed is saying will lead me to talk about those in Libya who are trying to suggest measures which contradict with the Revolutionary Ideology , we are opposing those measures because they will lead to worse results, if the public sector is sold we’ll have more unemployment and privatization is a disaster.Those who live outside do not believe that the peoples conferences choose the peoples committies, it also holds it accountable and can remove it from power. When Mohammed talks about the low attendance of the people in the conferences, I will remind him that the American President was only elected by 25% of the population, and in Britain only 36% of the population elected Blair, so it is the rule of the minority in spite of the allegations. Those parliaments do not represent the people, they only represent the minority and their interests.

Buisier: I think it is better to keep our focus on Libya, where I can recognize four main political actors, the first is the Ideological group that believes and promotes the “Green Book”, enforcing it on the Libyan people, the second is those who see this book and its Ideology as a braking mechanism that is preventing Libya from progressing although they don’t refuse the regime as a whole, those are inside and outside Libya, the third, believes that the regime had enough time and it has to go, those also are inside and outside, the fourth is the Islamist groups who believe in the Islamic project, mainly the Moslem brothers who are also inside and outside of the country. What is going on is, the first of those four actors controls the power and excludes the three others from the political process using oppression. I believe that we should move to a new point where those four actors can engage together in a free dialogue.
Libya will move on only if Colonel Gadafi comes out to recognize this diversity and free himself from the Ideology, he should ask himself how many Chinese would bother to read the “red book” today, in the seventies they used to say that a billion Chinese were reading it, 2005 is different from 1975. He should understand that the Libyan opposition is not a group of Thugs armed with kitchen nives, but civilized Libyans who could engage in a peaceful political process for the future of the country.
Here we should also add a fifth political actor, a very important one, excluded from the political process by the regime and by the opposition too, it’s those Libyans under 25 years of age who should be integrated in planning for the future.

Budabuss: As a professor who teaches liberal democracy I believe in pluralism, but I think it means the right of individuals to be different, it contradicts with representation which strips the citizen from his right to be different, lately in France the parliament agreed to the European Constitution where the people rejected it, I'm 100% with pluralism and that’s why there shouldn’t be representation or a parliament, every citizen should only represent himself, that’s why the peoples conferences is the answer, only there, the people can express themselves and choose the peoples committies which execute their choices.

Buisier: Democracy is a continues process that works 24 hours a day, in Britain, which elected its prime minister with only 36% of the population as you said, you can have a permission for a demonstration, you can read different papers every morning to know all points of view, and no body limits your practice of democracy to closed halls meetings for only 12 days a year.
Colonel Gadafi should permit freedom of speech, we should have 100 newspapers. He should permit the right of assembly. We should have syndicates, trade unions, people should be permitted to form parties, what is wrong if I form a party in Libya to conduct political activities peacefully, is this a conspiracy? On the contrary only when I am prevented from peaceful activity I might look for another alternative. The people’s conferences is not the answer because you are telling the people “I’m limiting your freedom to 12 days in this closed halls” that’s why they nobody will come to you.

Budabuss: You say that because you don’t live in Libya, who said that there are no syndicates and trade unions in Libya, we also practice freedom of speech, but political parties is a political tool of power, in our society the monopoly of power is over, in Libya power is to the people, every society, American or French have red lines, in Britain which you talk about, people can meet and express themselves by talking but if they transcend that they’ll be confronted with severe violence, you might say this happens according to the law, who legislates this law, it is the ruling class. In the USA the republicans know that votes of Philadelphia were sold in the last elections.

Buisier: Again, I’m not here to talk about the USA or France. I would rather focus on Libya, representation is a need not an invention, when Colonel Gadafi went to the Arab summit in Algeria he was representing the Libyan people, and when Shalgam went to Europe he was representing the Libyan people, you can't send all the Libyans to a summit, representation is a must. It is true that there are red lines every where, but there is a difference between practicing politics and committing crimes, crime is a crime, blowing up people or using arms is a different story, we would be satisfied if we have the same red lines they have in Britain and within those lines we could in Libya express our views, write, discuss, demonstrate, cast our votes in the Beautiful box which we love and missed for a long time, celebrate victory and accept defeat, we agree to these red lines but to raise those lines to prevent peaceful opposition to your policies and your rule is unacceptable.

Budabuss: When the leader visits any country or meats a head of state he is mandated by the General People Conference because those presidents don’t meat ordinary people, this is an executive issue and there is a great respect and admiration to his person by the Libyan people.

Moderator: What would you tell those who have a problem with the Libyan leader himself?

Budabuss: They have to refer to the Libyan people, it is the Libyan people in their Peoples conferences not me who authorized the Leader to travel and meet heads of states, also the Secretary of State, he is mandated by the people, this is not representation. The other point is the political process, I‘m not talking about the difference between committing crime and practicing politics I know the difference, I mean what is beyond that; you can't obtain a permit for a syndicate or a trade union in the USA or Europe before confirming your respect to private ownership and promising not to commit any action against it, you can't cross the red line or you’ll be punished.
Now let me get to voting and the elections, are we naive to believe that elections are democratic, who fund elections. In America the Law permits big corporations to fund election campaigns for presidents and representatives, why would they fund it, for the sake of democracy? To let the people express their views? To believe this we’ll be naive, they fund it to serve their interests which are not the people’s interests.
We in Libya might have problems but at least our people practice democracy.

Buisier: Actually democracy is not a theoretical discussion about freedom, it is a peaceful struggle between different interests in the society, and this is normal: when you ride in a cap you have a difference in interest with the driver, you want to pay less where he would like to charge more, this is the case around every economical nut in the society, and with the different interests come different views, believes, and opinions, this is why we need democracy to engage those differences peacefully and transfer them into the energy which make the society move forward, the problem is that you deny this fact, you painted the society with one color to declare it mono-colored. This color is not going to stay for long; actually it is wearing off. And soon the other colors will shine again.

Budabuss: No, Democracy is not a struggle between interests, it is the mean to prevent the powerful from manipulate power, because then they’ll be no democracy, if you have parties democracy will only be visual where you can say, write, demonstrate but still be homeless, jobless and might die of hunger.

Buisier: You have to admit to diversity in Libya and the need for Democracy. All social benefits in Europe and the USA like health care, raise of wages, paid holidays, Free schools and social security were achieved by political activities granted by democracy like the right to free speech, assemble to demonstrate and to vote, not through military Coups, it is not true that you can practice democracy but die of hunger.
Libya will have its first elections before the end of 2006 either you want it or not. Tsunami is advancing; you should understand the determination of history.

Budabuss: when you say “Libya will have its first elections before the end of 2006” you mean that the Bush administration will impose it on us.

Buisier: Libyans who want to be asked about their choices, those who don’t want to come to your peoples conferences will impose the elections. What the area is witnessing now is similar to what Eastern Europe witnessed in late eighties and early nineties. The support of President Bush to the spread of democracy in the area is what makes it a Tsunami, the same one which urged the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the change of the Egyptian constitution, the world is being rearranged. If you can't see that it is your problem.

Budabuss: Yes, but what we have in Libya is more advanced than the democracy you are talking about, pluralism and freedom of speech is guarantied in the “Green Book” which is the final solution to the Question of Democracy.

Buisier: There is no final solution, nothing in our world is perfect, you solve problems of tonight to face new ones next morning, the solutions themselves create new problems, and there is nothing final in the universe, no final coarse for a river, no final shape of a continent not even a final locus for a plant or a sun . When you talk about a final solution this is Ideology, I’m an Engineer and I know that the world is continuously moving, developing and will never stop its evolution. This is the case also with political Questions including Democracy. It is not perfect but the best there is, it is one step in the long journey of Human history, 400 years from now people will look back and maybe laugh about our democracy, the important factor here is that it will develop itself by self correction, when ideas and views are permitted to compete they all benefit, only those ideas which are guarded by power and kept in golden coffins will become mummies, however beautiful its coffin is, it will have no life, and will settle in the museum once the power which guarded it is gone.
My questions here: Can the Regime in Libya accept the existence of other political actors? Are you ready to practice politics so that we can disagree fierce fully then shake hands after words? Would you agree to let other political actors use peaceful means to compete with you? Can we have our newspapers, radio stations, political parties? Would you go to public elections? Can the revolutionary committies cut the umbilical cord that connects it to Gadafi? Can they become one of the political actors and not the only one, to try their chances and see if they really have the support of the people.
Colonel Gadafi should come out and declare his acceptance of the five political actors I mentioned before, because he is responsible of the situation in Libya, no body believes him when he claims he is not responsible, I told him before ”history will consider you responsible of what is going on in Libya, the same way general De Goal was responsible of the French Republic”.

Budabuss: The only way is to come to Libya and address the people’s conferences!

Buisier: This is exactly like asking a Russian dissident to go and address the communist party, or asking an opponent to Saddam Husein to address the Baath party, the peoples conferences are the cells of the ruling party, that’s why Libyans do not attend because they don’t want to join your party, they would rather participate in free elections.

Budabuss: Well, even if those elections take place, personally I’ll be against them, there can never be democracy with representation and elections, it will be the democracy of the powerful, only those “who have” will rule, the business people will have the political power ,representative democracy at the end is the political market place which reflects the economical market place, this is unacceptable to me and I’ll be against it.
Democracy to me can not not be practiced except through people’s conferences, where people can practice real pluralism, in America there is no pluralism, there are the republicans and the democrats so it is dualism, in the U.K. there are the labor and the conservatives, it is also dualism not pluralism.
Pluralism means that every citizen has the right to a unique point of view which he can express in the peoples conference, this is real democracy.

Moderator: What about the security of the opponents if they decide to go back to Libya?

Budabuss: When I finished my PHD in France, where I was involved with modern philosophical movements for seven years, I was told that I’ll face problems back in Libya, I was scared, but when I arrived to Libya nothing happened to me, so there is no reason for fear or elusions, no body will touch them except if they commit crimes like murder or theft. It is safe for them to come back to Libya.

Buisier: Your experience is different from most of us, I was a university student when they took me to prison, there I was beaten, humiliated and missed two years of my education, some of my friends spent long years in prison, actually you hanged my colleague “Hefaf” in the parking lot of the university, my friend Fathi Aljahmi is now in prison, Dr. Ezzidin, Dr. Buhanak, they did not kill or bomb no body, only because they practiced their right in free speech, Almansoury was detained because he wrote two articles, this is reality not elusions. After all, Libya is my home and you can’t invite me to my home!

Budabuss: Mohammed is right you can’t invite any body to his home, but it is true also that you shouldn’t ask for guaranties, when I want to go home I don’t ask my wife for guaranties, according to the “Green Magna Charta” you can't strip any Libyan from his citizenship, even those who worked with the CIA. No body can give guaranties but the people’s conferences which you deny Mohammed.

Buisier: Actually, we are not asking for guaranties but wondering if the regime would recognize us as political activists who would form political parties and initiate political activities to compete for power just like all civilized people in the world, can you accept that?
It is not the peoples conferences who can decide the future, there is only one person who can lead the way towards establishing the modern democratic state in Libya. If Muamar Algadafi decides that he wants Libyans to remember him as the founder of the modern Libyan state, if he would like the Libyans to remember him the same way the Japanese remember Meiji, he will permit the people to practice their rights, he understands the message of the present historical moment, he knows that the modern state has no leader, leaders help establishing modern states to flourish on diversity and the rule of law.
It depends a great deal on how Gadafi wants his children to live, either happy in a warm homeland or like our kids who were denied their right to enjoy their homeland.He has to agree to sit on a round table with the others to set the plans for the future of Libya and to build it step by step as a modern state leaving the ideologies aside.

Moderator: Last word Mr. Buisier Please.

Buisier: I would like to thank you Dr. Rajab for this opportunity and ask him not to be upset if I was a little hard, I do respect the opinions of the others, I’m also insisting to try building bridges towards the future, I knew Gadafi before many of the those who work with him now, actually since the 9th of September 1969, I also know that he understands the present historical moment and I wouldn't be surprised if he surprises every body and make the future of Libya determined by the ballot box. This will build our modern Libya which is good schools, good hospitals, and warm homes.
The Libyan father should be able to bring enough money home to his kids, spend his time with them, take them to music halls, and to watch with them the marble statues on our sea shore. Dr. Rajab, I hope to meet you soon in Benghazi, believe me: many Libyans are longing to cross the bridge to the future, to prosperity and happiness, because the beautiful faces of our Libyan kids need the smile, need the light and need the modern democratic state in Libya in which the people can elect its government, hold it accountable and removes it when he wants to.


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