A Lebanese Daily sums up the President's visit to Australia

The following piece (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=170965&mode=print)
is about President Sleiman's remarks after returning from Australia recently. Sleiman is the principal Christian leader in the national government, along with the Shi'i Speaker of Parliament and Sunni Prime Minister. I have highlighted places where Sleiman lays out key planks in his platform for relations with the diaspora and the Australian government.

Sleiman back from Australia, calls for boosting ties with expats
BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman praised Saturday the Lebanese diaspora in Australia and called for boosting ties with them as well as improving consular services in that country and other parts of the world.

“The Lebanese diaspora in Australia forms an important and unique Lebanese presence and contact with these Lebanese at all levels is important and beneficial,” Sleiman, who arrived in Beirut Saturday, told the National News Agency in an interview.

During his week-long official visit, the president made stops in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, where he met with top officials as well as various segments of the Lebanese diaspora in Australia.

Sleiman said his visit would have a positive impact on encouraging expatriates in Australia to form stronger ties with their home country.

“The fruits of this visit will emerge rapidly, particularly concerning the return of expatriates to Lebanon,” he said.

“This return will not be a physical one as I have not called on them to leave Australia for good ... but [the return] through their links to Lebanon in order to preserve their lands, houses and so that they can invest, put forward political opinions, attend national and religious occasions and the like. This is what I mean by a return and this is what I urged them,” he added.

Sleiman praised the Lebanese diaspora in Australia, citing their diverse participation in the country, and said continued contact with Lebanese in the country was required.

“The Lebanese have a wide influence in Australia. The sons and daughters of the diaspora hold prominent positions at the political, economic and social levels and what is required is that we specify our needs to them and that contacts be intensified according to productive mechanisms,” he said.

“I felt they [the Lebanese diaspora] demonstrated all the readiness to be branches of the mother nation and what is required of us is to secure continuous communication with them,” Sleiman told the agency.

Sleiman said Lebanese consulates and embassies throughout the world needed to be supported.
“The embassies and consulates in diaspora countries, particularly in Australia, need to be supported in order to secure the needs of expatriates for routine matters that relate to personal status issues. This diaspora ... should not be neglected,” he said.

Noting that Australia would soon be joining the U.N. Security Council as a non-permanent member, Sleiman said his visit was also aimed at conveying Lebanon’s stance regarding regional issues such as Palestine, particularly the condition of Christians in Jerusalem, the Middle East crisis and the “Arab Spring.

Sleiman said he conveyed to officials that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could “not come at the expense of Lebanon.”   END OF ARTICLE

The passage in which Sleiman discusses the Lebanese Australians' transnational political role -- 

'This return will not be a physical one as I have not called on them to leave Australia for good ... but [the return] through their links to Lebanon in order to preserve their lands, houses and so that they can invest, put forward political opinions, attend national and religious occasions and the like. This is what I mean by a return and this is what I urged them,” he added.'

-- is vivid sensemaking about diaspora relations with the homeland underpinned by the context in the rest of the article where Sleiman describes how the diaspora participates in Australian civic life. Sleiman's platform of more attentive relations with the diaspora is ambitious and controversial among Australian officials (http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2012 /Apr-23/171064-sleiman-ruffles-feathers-inaustralia.ashx#axzz1srem6E2y).

Sleiman ruffles feathers in Australia
By Hasan Lakkis
BEIRUT: Australian authorities are irritated by President Michel Sleiman’s call for Australians of Lebanese origins to get engaged in Lebanese politics, diplomatic sources told The Daily Star Sunday.

The sources said that during Sleiman’s visit to Australia last week, Australian authorities informed the president’s delegation of their annoyance with Sleiman’s attempts to involve Australians of Lebanese origins in political affairs which bear no relation to Australia.

According to the sources, Australia believes that any Australian, whether of Middle Eastern or other origins, should have no “national” political affiliation other than with Australia as long as he or she has become an Australian citizen.

During his visit, Sleiman visited with members of the Lebanese community and stressed what he considered their right to take part in 2013 parliamentary elections, promising that polls would be held on time and that their participation would be allowed.

He encouraged expatriates to register their names in embassies and consulates. Although Lebanese expatriates were granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections in 2008, some officials are worried that the mechanism for out-of-country voting won’t be ready in time.

Sleiman said that he did not expect a high expatriate turnout for the 2013 elections, but didn’t consider this important as he voiced confidence that such turnout would gradually increase over the years.

The president said that Lebanon’s concern for its expatriates would encourage them to care for their homeland in return.

Which election law will be adopted in next year’s general election is currently the subject of heated debate, with Sleiman and Speaker Nabih Berri supporting proportional representation while Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt openly opposes it.

The sources called it unacceptable that a guest in Australia, namely Sleiman, would ask Australians of Lebanese origin to interfere in the politics of the country from where the guest originated.

In a number of speeches during his visit, Sleiman tackled Lebanese politics, stressing that political assassinations would not hit the country again.

“We have respectful security forces that are fully ready, after a long period of neglect, to uncover crimes quickly and within a few days. This is reassuring because it prevents assassinations. There will be no return to assassinations in Lebanon,” he said.

His assurances came in light of fears expressed by some March 14 officials about a return to political assassinations after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea survived an attempt on his life on April 4.

The president also voiced concerns over the yearlong crisis in neighboring Syria, which he said is linked to Lebanon by “strong family, geographical and historical ties.”

“I hope that [Syria] will transition to democracy peacefully and smoothly and that the Syrians will talk to each other without the intervention of anyone to find the best way to apply democracy.”

The sources explained that Mexican authorities conveyed a similar message to Lebanon following Sleiman’s visit to Mexico earlier this year. END OF ARTICLE

Lebanon's political and financial situation have of late been precarious, due to the civil strife in Syria and general pressure of the civil society uprisings around the region, and lack of a Palestinian homeland. The Lebanese economy is turning down, although there is no increase in instability there,  and need for direct foreign investment increasingly strong. Remittances and business investment by the diaspora is needed more than ever. Also, Lebanese around the world have wanted to be able to vote from abroad, but the legislation and infrastructure to establish a worldwide voting process are not yet in place. Pressure grows to complete the legislative and technological procedures before the 2013 parliamentary elections.