Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat –Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Tunisian Minister for State Property and Land Affairs, Salim Ben Humaidan, revealed that there is a “counter-revolutionary” force present in Tunisia, which has been involved in significant state corruption.
Ben Humaidan, who is a member of Tunisia’s Congress for the Republic party, said that he was able to uncover this corruption following his ministerial appointment, adding that, “numerous Tunisian counter-revolutionary forces are embroiled in many [corruption] cases and are currently carrying out an uprising, but they will not be able to turn back the wheels of history.”
The Tunisian state minister emphasised that “the disposition of state property, residential plots, farmland and state housing were the subject of corruption and manipulation during the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali era.” He stressed that those responsible for this will be the subject of judicial follow-up during the forthcoming period, particularly as they are trying to incite the Tunisian street against the current government. He also revealed that the Ministry of State Property and Land Affairs had received approximately 1,500 complaints over the first 6 months of the year relating to corruption and manipulation regarding the disposition of state property. He added “these files have been referred to the Tunisian judiciary, some of them have already been decided whilst others are in the primary phase. “
Ben Humaidan also confirmed “the difficultly of resolving some files, particularly those tied to farmland as the previous regime assigned thousands of hectares of land based on loyalty and favouritism…in ways that contravene the law.” He added “after months of investigation, the ministry has been able to reclaim thousands of hectares of state land and reintegrate this into the development process.”
He added “local and regional administrations affiliated to the ministry have received numerous financial and administrative corruption and misconduct cases, particularly regarding the fraudulent contracts and ownership deeds which will be brought to the attention of the Tunisian judiciary.”
Ben Humaidan also highlighted the clear vision of the Hamadi Jebali government, informing Asharq Al-Awsat that “surprising news will be announced in the near future which include news regarding the residential plots and their being granted to their owners due to favouritism” adding “this includes politicians, trade unionists and journalists.”
He stressed that “these same figures are now waging a media war against the Ministry for State Property and Land Affairs” adding that this includes “distorting some of my media statements for personal reasons.”
As for the disruption of domestic development projects, which has led to a new wave of protests in the city of Sidi Bouzid – the cradle of the Tunisian revolution – Ben Humaidan said “the majority of the reasons behind the disruption of the development projects can be traced to real estate problems in this regard.” He said that these problems had postponed the implementation of a wide-range of development projects in Tunisia, including in Sidi Bouzid itself, as well as Ben Gardane in south-eastern Tunisia.
Ben Humaidan also strongly denied the reports that he described the events in Sidi Bouzid as a “counter-revolution led by renegades from the law.” He said that “I dealt with this subject from the perspective of legitimate social demands and it is the people’s right to claim their share of wealth and development, as well as secure employment for their children.”
However the Tunisian minister rejected the acts of unjustifiable violence and vandalism, calling for these to be investigated, saying “there are those who stand behind such acts and they are inciting a counter-revolution.” As for who is responsible for this, Ben Humaidan pointed the finger as “parties who have yet to understand that the wheel of history has turned and the balance of power changed, therefore we see them trying – via various means – to issue accusations against the current government, describing it as being incapable of carrying out the development projects, however the fact of the matter is that many of these same parties sought – in the past – to disrupt these projects and prevent the successful redistribution of wealth.”
As for the return of the Call Movement, led by former PM Beji Caid Essebsi, to the forefront of events, and its impact on the political balance in Tunisia, Ben Humaidan said “this initiative that the pockets of opposition have placed their hopes on has no future, as it only seeks to move us backwards.” He said that this initiative represents the central effort to bring together the remnants of the Constitutional Democracy Rally, the former ruling party led by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He also spoke about the counter-revolution, saying “its maneuvers are weak, it will not be able to keep up with the other parties and figures that led the opposition against the Ben Ali regime over the previous years. “
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ben Humaidan denied the reports regarding the possibility of Mohammed Abbou being nominated for the presidency following his resignation from the Hamad Jebali government in late June. He reconfirmed that Moncef Marzouki is the Congress for the Republic party’s presidential candidate, adding that Abbou will stand for the presidency of the Congress for the Republic party itself. The Congress for the Republic general conference is set to take place at the end of this month. Ben Humaidan acknowledged that “the party has made some mistakes after entering the third coalition government” adding “this is linked to the nature of the political stage.”
Ben Humaidan also stressed that “the second general conference for the party will be democratic and will give rise to new leaders, whilst it will also correct a lot of issues and build an alliance with the Ennahda Movement and the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties on the basis of new priorities regarding freedoms and operations.”