Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview With the Asst. Chairman TLC Adnan El Gherwi

Liberating Tripoli was not as easy as it seemed to many because it was liberated in almost 2 days when the uprising started from within. This whole move was very carefully planned months ago with miniscule details taken into consideration.

One of the revolutionaries who were behind this all planning and the execution of the Operation Mermaid Dawn is Mr. Adnan El Gherwi. He not only played an important role in starting the 17th Feb revolution but also risked his life by organizing and actively participating in the underground meetings.

His properties served as the safe houses for the revolutionaries who were on the hit list of the former regime. He also headed the crisis management committee which was created soon after the liberation of Tripoli and successfully dealt with all the challenges.

He is currently the Head of the Executive Committee of TLC and also serves as the Assistant Chairman of the Tripoli Local Council. 

U: Thank you very much for your time. We can start with a small introduction of you.

Dr. Adnan: Hello! My name is Adnan el Gherwi. I’m the head of the executive committee for TLC and I’m also the Assistant to the Chairman TLC Mr. Abu Hajar.

U: What happened on 26-12-2011? Was Mr. Abu Hajar assaulted?

Dr. Adnan: Well, they used indecent language but we have to say that not all of them did. They broke doors and furniture. His mobile phone and wallet are still missing but he was not exactly manhandled.

U: Did you identify the people who were involved?

Dr. Adnan: We asked the police, they came over and took the finger prints. They are investigating the whole case. We are waiting for their report. We have complete faith in our police department.

U: How did he become the chairman of the TLC?

Dr. Adnan: He became the leader when it was still a secretive movement.
U: Can a council member represent Tripoli on the NTC?
Dr. Adnan: No! No member of any city council could become a member of the NTC. The philosophy is to keep the interim rulers away from the political ambition. We are doing this for the country. We just want to lead the people to the ballot box. All the NGOS and the civil society should keep a check on all the councils and the NTC by observing them. To see if they divert from their targets, this of course is the transitional period till the elections are held! They should not involve themselves in any kind of politics, ideologies; they should leave it to the ballot boxes. If we meddle with these institutions now, we will not be able to go to the elections in time.
U: When are we going to see the elections for the TLC? Are you going to run in the elections?
Dr. Adnan: Me myself, No! Actually, I asked the NTC’s committee responsible for the national elections that if it is possible to hold both elections in the same time. I just want to tell it to the people of Libya that NTC is responsible for elections not the local city councils. People often ask us to hold the local elections, which is not possible. We are here to lead the city in to the elections where people can elect whoever they want!
U: It means TLC has no intention to prolong their tenure?
Dr. Adnan: No! We want to have elections as soon as possible.
U: What type of auditing system is in place at the TLC? Who is authorizing the payments?
Dr. Adnan: It’s being governed by the law. We have the head of finance, our chairman and a superintendent from the ministry of the treasury. Two signatures are required to issue the cheques and if somebody does any corruption it will instantly show up. Another thing I want to emphasize upon is that we, the Tripoli Local Council, are functional for almost 4 months which is not a long time and that too in crisis. We didn’t find any staff working in the offices so people need to consider that fact before judging our performance. Secondly, we received money from the NTC only after the 15th October which means we are just 3 months from the day we received the money. And all the money we received after that is also recorded properly. We all are doing this voluntarily, from our chairman to the very last member.

U: So you are saying that there is an effective auditing system in place?
Dr. Adnan: Yes!
U: Are you aware about the leaked documents? Did you launch any inquiry into it?
Dr. Adnan: I am very much aware of it. But those documents show that no abuse of power was done by the TLC.  As a general answer, those documents are not offensive to us and show no corruption at all. Some documents show that we went ahead of our authority, as of these days but at the time there was no executive office in Tripoli, no NTC or anything. We were the government at that time. So we had to take those decisions. It is like just after the liberation, all the revolutionaries had guns and putting up check points but we couldn’t ask them for the permit letter because it was required of them. But gradually as the things were in full control and the government took over, they superseded many of our authorities. This is how it works.
U: Alright! There was another document that showed that somebody was sanctioned $500,000? Doesn’t it count as abuse of power?
Dr. Adnan: There is more to it. Actually the money was found in one of the banks but it didn’t belong to the bank and the bank authorities told us that it is not ours and we want to hand it over to the TLC as it was the only authority at that time. So we authorized one person to go there and deposit it in the TLC account for “el Waddaiya” (Safe Account). We kept it in a safe account and it is still there! But only one letter was leaked where he takes the money and not the other letter where he deposits it in the TLC’s safe account.
U: So that money is safe?
Dr. Adnan: Not only that but we have millions!   All the money that we found this way; it was deposited in our safe account! We didn’t use it at all but we are saving it for the elected government.
U: How are you dealing with normal issues like garbage collection and other municipality problems?
Dr. Adnan: We are running on day-to-day operations. We are not doing any new projects but we are trying to improve the maintenance of the manholes and garbage collection. At the moment we are not doing any future plans at TLC, as we are only an interim authority.

U: Now, some personal questions. What were you doing before the 17th February revolution?
Dr. Adnan: I am a businessman. I have invested in few companies.
U: Were you related to the previous regime?
Dr. Adnan: No! In fact when I was 19, I joined the Libyan National Movement which was against Gaddafi. I was in U.K for about 6-7 years where I tried to make the free students union. I stayed active in the organizations like this beside the study.
U: When did you return to Libya?
Dr. Adnan: I came back in 1990. I worked in a government company but soon found out that it is not suitable for me so I started a private business. I started my engineering bureau and started building it slowly. Then the situation improved here and people were allowed to make companies and then I formed my own company.
U: How did you become a member of the TLC?
Dr. Adnan: I joined the TLC because I was one of the Tripoli revolutionaries working in secrecy when the Tripoli was under the control of Gaddafi. We did a lot of work here in Tripoli both before and after the 17th Feb. After the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt we thought this is the chance for Libya.

Of course I’m one of the many individuals who worked really hard to initiate the revolution. We were all talking together, as friends and we had noticed that Facebook was very helpful in Egypt and Tunisia and we started on the social media. I got active on Facebook to make people think about the change. Then the uprising happened, we were very happy but then the whole bloodshed started.

We went underground and the whole movement started, we worked in small groups. We started by supplying material, then we progressed a little and we were supplying ammunitions and guns. We also sent medical supplies to the field hospitals. Then we started organizing together to build the Tripoli Military Chamber which was in my house. It was the first step.
But when one of us was arrested we shifted it to another place. I have another office which was used as a safe house (some friends who were wanted by the former regime were staying there). Then we made an information center and succeeded to get in contact with many of the local groups here starting from Tajoura up till Janzour.

U: How was the date of 20th August agreed?
Dr. Adnan: We made a decision that any group who will decide to go out against the Gaddafi forces will inform in advance as we have to rise together. We were in contact with the military chambers of Misrata, Western Mountains and the one in Tunisia to contact NATO.
Initially the plan was that NATO will hit some targets and our forces coming from Western Mountains and Misrata will move in and we will up rise from within. But then we thought of the destruction and damage to the city and humans and Of course we changed the plan. They gave us some targets like communications center in Tripoli which we refused and gave them the coordinates to the manholes of fiber optics instead. We gave them different ideas to minimize the destruction.
Then some people from souk el Jummah gave us a deadline that we cannot miss the 20th of Ramadan. They pushed us in the corner. In the past we had tested our capability when the Tajoura came out and then we calmed them down and decided not to rush things. Then we said “Twakkalna el Allah” (Lets Trust in ALLAH) and we went ahead with it. In the past we did a lot of work like workshops for girls on how to deal with rape.
We also made a lot of leaflets and workshops for FF’s on how to minimize the friendly fire so that they don’t kill innocent people. At that time as there was no petrol and electricity, we all had to work very hard and everybody did his part to achieve the common goal. I was involved to my best; we supplied radios, satellite phones as we were thinking that the communications system will drop but ALHUMDULILLAH we used our mobile phones to communicate on the night of 20th Aug.
It all went very smooth. Then the military chamber chose me as their spokesperson and after the uprising had started at 8:20pm, I made the first speech at 8:30pm announcing the commencement of the Operation: Mermaid Dawn.  A lot of people in charge, they all did a great job, many did much more than me. This is how I got to TLC. When the TLC was established, they chose me as the head of the crisis committee. That time, Tripoli had no water, no petrol, no food supply and security was a concern too! When I was put in charge, of course we wanted the city to start again.
As it was my area of expertise, I identified where the problem was and how to overcome it. Specially the water, it was a big problem. We found out that the all the power was shut down from the source. I also spoke to the UN as it was their responsibility to protect all sources of water and we succeeded in bringing back the running water in a very short time.
U: Any message you would like to give to our readers?
Dr. Adnan:  Don’t concentrate too much on the city councils, these institutes will take us to the elections. If we start competing on the chairs or the head of the councils or anything like this, it will delay the process. We should leave the competition to the ballot box. Let the ballot box decide on the ideologies and competition. Just focus on the democracy itself. I ask all of them to please avoid competition on the city councils and wait for elections to choose their representatives.
U: Thank you very much!

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