Two years ago the Chairman of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, Barges Hamoud al-Barges, gathered together a group of friends and colleagues, perhaps to recount some memories of the past. However, he spoke to me in particular to delegate a “medical” task in Beirut. He said “Kuwait has constructed a private hospital in northern Lebanon following the events in Nahr al-Bared, but the Lebanese state is reluctant to receive the hospital. Can you speak to [the then Lebanese] President Fouad Siniora regarding this issue?” I said to my dear friend, and senior colleague at that stage, that it would be difficult for me to speak with President Siniora since I had criticized him strongly in the past, and our old friendship had soured. Instead, I offered to speak to Bahia Hariri; a woman completely immersed in her charitable work in the south and the north of the country, especially in the Palestinian (and now Syrian) refugee camps.
Upon returning to Beirut, I contacted Bahia Hariri, the most prominent female parliamentarian in the history of Lebanon, and I spoke to her about the conversation I had with the Chairman of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent. We agreed that she would talk to her colleague in the Saida office, and I considered my mission accomplished.
However, two days ago, Mr. al-Barges called me asking for a few minutes of my time. I told him he could have half an hour. Al-Barges went on to say: “Do you remember the hospital issue? I have spoken myself to President Siniora and his successor Najib Mikati, who both gave me the same answer. Kuwait must also ensure the running of the hospital for at least two years; otherwise it would be difficult for Lebanon to receive it.” He explained to me that Kuwaiti law distinguishes between the construction and operation of a building, and so the hospital will remain inactive even though northern Lebanon is in dire need of it. What could be done?
I replied to al-Barges: “I have not spoken to President Mikati since his appointment, out of respect for the old principle that one must not bother friends when they are in official posts. I do have cordial relations with the Minister of Health, but how can I initiate the subject of a Kuwaiti hospital built and equipped in northern Lebanon? What about the role of your ambassador in Beirut?” Al-Barges answered: “Our ambassador has done all he can in terms of diplomacy, but his efforts have all come to a dead end. The hospital issue is still pending.”
Then, I told the man who had spent his life promoting medical aid in Kuwait as well as in a number of Arab states: “I regret this situation that I see in my home country; a country where I have lived and worked. But as you know, I only have my pen.” Suddenly al-Barges interrupted me, saying: “This is exactly what we need my friend. Try to use your pen. This may solve the issue.”