By Houda Trabelsi
Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Larayedh dismissed calls to resign on Wednesday (September 19th) following criticism from parliamentarians over deadly Islamist protests.
“I don’t see it as courage to give up my responsibilities in such a situation and in the face of such challenges; my resignation now is not in the best interests of the country,” Larayedh said.
Members of the Constituent Assembly had called for the minister’s dismissal at a Wednesday session held to discuss the handling of the September 14th attack on the US Embassy in Tunis.
Samir Betayeb, an opposition member in the Constituent Assembly, said that “sovereign ministries, such as interior, justice and foreign ministries, must be spared partisan domination”.
“We have good and competent security figures, but the decision and political will are absent. The reason for the acts of violence was the recent appointments that were made by the Interior Ministry based on the principle of partisan quotas,” Betayeb said.
Najib Chebbi, a representative of the Republican Party in Constituent Assembly, said that “the interior ministry must be assigned to an independent figure that would guarantee the neutrality of the security apparatus, as, without this, the democratic transition course would undoubtedly come to an end, and there would be no freedom in holding meetings or any type of political freedoms.”
In his turn, Abderraouf Ayadi, president of Wafa party, blamed a failure to investigate corruption as “one of the most important reasons for the failure of this ministry in containing the September 14th crisis”.
“Tunisians have the right, and we have the right, to know who’s behind these extremist gangs, who orders and finances them, and the interior ministry must give us a clear and convincing answer,” he added.
For his part, Interior Minister Larayedh said that the recent events at the US embassy were “just a slip”, adding that “the security performance improved after the revolution although there are still some shortcomings because of lack of time to reform security.”
“The country is still facing real dangers threatening its security and stability,” the interior minister said, noting that “acts of violence may continue into the coming period as part of protests against a series of provocations of Muslims’ feelings through films and cartoons denigrating the Prophet, such as the cartoons that were recently published in a French magazine.”
He stressed the need for “leaders, media and security to unite their efforts to protect the country, counter dangers and support the security and defense forces.”
Outside the Constituent Assembly building, meanwhile, scores of protestors carried banners demanding Larayedh’s dismissal. Demonstrators condemned what they described as “collusion with the salafist groups”.
“We can’t keep silent about the acts of violence that took place opposite the US embassy because this has negatively affected the image of Tunisia which is known for its protection of guests and diplomatic missions,” Moez Arfaoui, a citizen, said.
He added, “Interior Minister Ali Larayedh must admit his complete failure in protecting Tunisia’s security and hand the ministry to a national competent figure that can guarantee the security of Tunisians and non-Tunisians.”
“I came here to express the voice of thousands of Tunisians who demand the resignation of the Interior Minister who is no longer capable of protecting the security of Tunisians or foreigners,” rally participant Monia Chayeb said.