By Sami Zaptia.
London, 15 June 2020:
The announcement of the Ministry of Finance of the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli of a meeting between the Finance Minister with his Turkish counterpart last Friday was the first official acknowledgement by the Tripoli government of the appointment of Faraj Bumtari as the new Acting Economy Minister – as well as keeping his post as Finance Minister.
He replaces the controversially appointed Ali Al-Issawi
Bumtari’s appointment was only mentioned in passing as part of the Turkish meeting announcement.
The appointment has been the worse kept secret in Libya. Bumtari’s appointment letter by Serraj was leaked as soon as it was signed weeks ago. The leaking of official documents has become the virtual norm with this government. Serraj’s government has never officially posted the appointment – nor has it provided any reasons for Issawi’s removal. This information vacuum has sent Libya’s rumour mill into overdrive. The unexplained sacking has been interpreted as behind the scenes manoeuvrings for power and positions.
Serraj was also criticised for concentrating power in the hands of one minister rather than appointing a new minister.
For what its worth, Issawi challenged his sacking with the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) – the body in charge of oversight of state employees. Serraj ignored the fact that the appointment was under ACA review and forced Issawi to handover.
It will be recalled that the appointment of Economy Minister Issawi in 2018 was very controversial in the first place. Issawi is accused in the east of being complicit in the assassination of Major General Abdelfattah Younis Al-Obaidi – ‘‘Abdelfattah Younis’’ – during the 2011 revolution.
It had lost Serraj much support in the anti-Islamist/political camp as well as in the east. Some go as far as to say that the appointment broke any further hope for any political ”accord” and the survival or functioning of the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement.
The appointment had come at an inopportune moment – or was designed to be a deal wrecker. It came just as the House of Representatives (HoR) and the High State Council had agreed on a mechanism to reshuffle the Presidency Council and appoint a new government in Tripoli. It was almost certain that current incumbent Prime Minister designate, Faiez Serraj, would be removed from office.
It will be recalled that in October 2018, Libya’s House of Representatives’ (HoR) National Defence and Security Committee condemned the appointment, calling it provocative and unacceptable.
The HoR’s National Defence and Security committee still lists Issawi as a terrorist for being complicit in the assassination of Abdelfattah Younis.
It had added that the appointment of Al-Issawi deepened further the division in the country and threatened its unity.
The HoR said that it was surprised by the ‘‘swift (international) welcoming of the Serraj ministerial reshuffle’’. It referred to the wide HoR consensus on reshuffling the Presidency Council in the form of the statement signed by 134 members – consisting of supporters and opponents of the Presidency Council.
It called the Serraj reshuffle unilateral without consultation and contrary to the 2015 Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).
In view of all of the above – and all of the political capital that Issawi’s appointment had cost the Serraj administration, the negative cost to the Skhirat LPA and the cost of political stability to Libya as a whole – and in a country where ministers are seldom removed – his removal is all the more baffling.
HoR denounces Serraj appointment of Issawi as Economy Minister