* Energy and water, justice and foreign ministries hacked
* Group demands higher living standards
* Energy and water minister says has a rescue plan
By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT, April 17 (Reuters) - A group calling itself “Raise Your Voice” hacked into 15 Lebanese government websites on Tuesday, demanding an improvement in living standards and an end to widespread electricity and water shortages.
Lebanon’s economy has grown strongly in recent years but that growth has failed to translate into improvements in basic public services and infrastructure. Many people blame corruption and political wrangling for poor services and high prices.
“We will not stop until the standards of living are raised to where they should be in Lebanon,” said a message from the group, posted on the Ministry of Justice website.
The text was accompanied by a cartoon of an obese man in a suit, symbolising the government, being fed with a spoon by an emaciated man wearing only a white loincloth, representing the Lebanese people.
“We will not stop until this government’s self-made problems are solved, like the power shortage, water shortage, rise in gas prices and rise in food product prices,” the text said.
Websites of the National News Agency, the Presidency and energy and water, justice and foreign affairs ministries were among those hacked.
After resetting his website, Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil posted a reply to the hackers, blaming his predecessor, a member of the Hezbollah party who Bassil took over from in 2009, for the daily power and water cuts.
He said that when he took over, his ministry was like a hot potato: “(My predecessor) thought that it would burn us,” he wrote.
Bassil has planned to provide the country with 24 hours of electricity by 2014, and said in his reply on Tuesday that he has formed a “rescue plan for the sector with consensus for all the parties”.
Ruling over a country of only 4 million, Lebanon’s government has often been paralysed by squabbling amongst its religiously and politically opposed members, many of them in parties that were formed during the 15-year civil war.
“Raise Your Voice” described itself on the hacked websites as “simply a group of people who could not bare sitting in silence, watching all the crimes and injustice going on in Lebanon”. (Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)