President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali delivered, on Thursday evening, an address to the Tunisian people which was broadcast by the national “Tunis-7” and “Tunisie-21” TV channels and the public and private radio stations.
Here follows the full text of the address:
“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Dear fellow citizens,
I am speaking to you, today, all of you Tunisians, at home and abroad. I am speaking to you in the language of all Tunisian men and women. I am speaking to you, because the situation dictates deep changes, deep and comprehensive transformations.
I have understood you. I have understood you all: the jobless, the needy, the politician and all those who are claiming more freedom. I understood you, I understood you well. The only thing is that the events which are taking place in our country are not part of us. Destruction is not part of the Tunisian traditions. We, the civilised and tolerant Tunisians.
Violence has never been part of our customs. The present tide of unrest should stop. It must come to a halt, thanks to the combined efforts of all political parties, national organisations, civil society, intellectuals and ordinary citizens. Hand in hand, together, to serve our country, and to guarantee our children’s security and safety.
The change which I announce now is an acceptance of your legitimate claims, to which we have reacted. We felt deep pain at the events that occurred, a great pain.
My sadness and my pain are great. I have spent more than fifty years of my life in the service of Tunisia in different positions: from the National Army to the different decision-making positions and 23 years at the presidency. Each day of my life was and will always be in the service of the country; and I have made countless sacrifices. I have never accepted the blood shed of Tunisians.
We were saddened for the victims of these events and the damage suffered by persons and I refuse to see more victims as a result of the ongoing violence and looting.
Our children are today confined at home; they are not attending classes. This is totally immoral and unacceptable, because we are afraid for their safety, from the acts of violence perpetrated by small groups of bandits, from looting and attacks against persons. This is in actual a crime, not an act of protest. This is immoral.
Citizens should face up to them and we have issued instructions to this end. We rely on the co-operation of all, so that we could distinguish between these small delinquent gangs who are making use of the circumstances and the legitimate and peaceful demonstrations which we accept.
My sadness is great, very deep and great, very profound.
So, I say clearly enough to violence! Enough to violence!
I have also instructed the Interior Minister and I reiterate this. I say stop using live ammunition. Live ammunition is not acceptable and is not justifiable, except, God protects us, if any one seeks to snatch your weapon or attacks you with a fire arm, or compels you to defend yourself.
I call on the independent committee—and I do really mean independent—which will investigate the incidents, abuses and the deaths we regret, to delineate the responsibilities of all sides without exception, with equity, integrity and objectiveness.
I expect all Tunisians, whether they support me or not, to back up efforts of appeasement and to reject violence, acts of destruction and degradation of property. Reform requires calm and the events we witnessed were triggered by the protest against a social situation, a situation on which have made huge efforts; but we should make greater efforts to right the wrongs. We should give everybody the possibility and needed time to put into effect all the important measures we have decided.
In addition, I have entrusted the Government with decreasing the commodity prices and basic services and increasing the budget of equalisation.
Regarding the political demands, I told you that I have understood your message. And this is what I have decided:
-Full freedom for all means of information, no blocking of any websites, and rejection of all forms of censorship, while respecting our ethics and the principles of the journalistic profession.
-The committee which I announced two days ago to examine the cases of corruption, bribery and abuses by officials will be independent, yes independent. And we will ensure its integrity and impartiality.
-From today onwards, there will be full freedom of political expression, including peaceful, guided, organised and civilised demonstrations.
-Any political party or organisation can stage a peaceful demonstration. It only has to inform the competent authorities, identify its time and place, guide it, and co-operate with the competent authorities to preserve its peaceful character.
-I would like to affirm that many things didn’t work the way I wished, especially as regards democracy and freedom. Some have sometimes misled me by hiding truths; and they will indeed be held accountable for that.
-Once again, I wish to say clearly that I will work to promote democracy and pluralism. Yes, to promote democracy and pluralism. I will work to preserve and respect the country’s Constitution.
-I would like to say again, and contrary to what some claim. I pledged on November 7, 1987 that there would be no lifetime presidency, no lifetime presidency. Once again, I wish to thank all who launched appeals so that I stand as candidate for the 2014 presidential elections. However, I refuse to violate the age condition for candidacy to the presidency of the republic.
We want to reach 2014 within a climate of genuine civil harmony and national dialogue, with the participation of all national parties in assuming responsibilities.
Tunisia is the country of all of us. We love Tunisia. All our people love Tunisia. We have to safeguard it. The will of its people will be in its hand, and in the hands of the trustworthy hands that the people will choose so that they pursue the progression launched since Independence and which we have pursued since 1987.
To that end, we will set up a national committee headed by an independent national personality enjoying credibility among all political and social parties, to review the Electoral Code, the Press Code and the Law on Associations, etc. The Committee will suggest the necessary provisional approaches till the elections of 2014, including the possibility of separating between the legislative elections and the presidential elections.
Tunisia belongs to all of us. Let us all preserve it. Its future lies in our hands. Let us all guarantee it.
Each one of us is responsible, from his position, for restoring its security and stability, for healing its wounds, and for ushering in a new stage that lays the ground for a better future.
Long live Tunisia!
Long live the Tunisian people!
Long live the Republic!”