..The trial.. |
In the following two weeks more Party functionaries are arrested, one by one, some are caught in remote parts of the country, in their 'hometowns' as the natives call their villages. The past years have proved to be the fatter ones of their lives, amassing wealth from kickbacks on governmental contracts.
From the lips of a close friend, director of Corporate Banking of a large, foreign owned Bank comes this statement :"Whenever these contractors (those fortunate enough to have a close ally - family member - in the government), are receiving paychecks amounting to hundreds of millions, the same day huge amounts are withdrawn in cash and carried away of to unknown destinations by car." Everyone knows the reason for this : to make the agreed payments to the officials who awarded the contracts.
The patience of people and those who are left out, have worn thin, they want to see punishment and 'their' justice done. But there is dissent in the ruling army ranks, for now the lower charges are ruling, Lance Corporals, Sergeant Majors, and they have a grudge against the officers who enjoyed all the privileges in the past. It is not uncommon that officers up to Major ranks are beaten, brutalized, and outright shot in attacks of frenzy, sometimes in public. The madness of the common soldiers has no limit, the revenge has just started to set in.
On Sunday the day following the takeover I venture out to see my friend who I have not heard since. It is drizzling, the roads are in bad shape, potholes everywhere, filled with rainwater. Against all warnings I drive my car to another part of town. I stop in front of the gate and blow the horn, not having any reaction. Within minutes of me standing in the rain, in front of the house gate, I see a group of camouflaged soldiers approaching from the end of the alley in the residential area. I see them pointing at me and increasing pace, their distance is approx. 300 m, When I make a move towards my car, they raise their guns towards me. I know from my military training, a bullet from a FAL 7.62 can travel far more than the 300 m. I stop, wait till they arrive, regretting my venture, now only trying to safe my back.
In less than a minute the group of seven soldiers are gathering around me, guns raised, looking stern. First question, I knew would come : your nationality ; One has to know the background of the events to understand the reason for this. The soldiers have orders to hunt down all Indian and Lebanese nationals, who form the majority of businessmen, those are considered to be the evil of society. Answering as calm as possible I give them the details they want to know. Looting and rampaging soldiers have robbed numerous civilians and I realize that the senior member of the troop is intoxicated, a dangerous situation can erupt at any time if luck is not on my side. The following question I know is coming, what am I doing here. Being a European trying to get into a Lebanese National's home ? After explaining the reason for my coming here, they want to see my house.
The drunken soldier takes the vehicle drivers 's seat and we all move in, 7 soldiers including me. In somewhat cramped condition we run into a ditch, not far off. The driver never drove a car before. I find the courage to tell them that I will drive and take them to my house. I have established a kind of unspoken, relaxed atmosphere between us, my experience tells me how to perform this act. And it pays off. Still alive while others aren't. Any outburst, animosity, ill feeling, wrong wording can end in quick reaction, without a judge to pass sentence.
We reach my residence, food ready in the kitchen, everybody looks shocked, seeing 7 soldiers storming into the house, with me in their midst. Jokingly I ask my housemaid to bring the Champagne from the store room, some food for the poor soldiers, the gesture does not fail its intended reaction. The soldiers ease up, eat, and we all are by now in a friendly mood. The question comes to the house staff, if I am nice with the maids, which is replied with convincing smiles. Of course, many treat their servants bad, I am firm, but just.
The soldiers faces turn to a jovial grin, we sit and converse and I ask them about the events of the past days. When I tell them of my service in the Armed Forces, they find me as their pal. All ice has been broken, and I even grab one of the FAL rifles and remove a clip, and see their embarrassed faces, for the clip contains no bullets! They ran out of bullets long ago. I laugh and they too laugh with me, everything has turned out so well. After I give them some of the Champagne, and drop them back to the main road. We are friends now, and should I need their help in the future, they will be there. We say good bye and wishing each other good luck, the fate of my friend almost forgotten.
I drive back in deep thoughts, contemplating the events and the seriousness of it, it could have ended up in tragedy. When I leave the car, I notice the largest bottle of 'Hermes' perfume I ever came across at, in the hat rack of my car. The soldiers had left it. Forgotten, a reminder of other people 's loss - another man 's gain. Never could I find the owners of the perfume, some Lebanese or Indians presumably who are not as lucky, for all males are rounded up and sent to Military camps for detention....
Next : the Military 's tribunals
Related Articles -