Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ex-soldiers run amok outside Waigani Haus

A GROUP of ex-servicemen went on a rampage yesterday, damaging cars and state property at Morauta Haus at Waigani, which houses the office of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, The National reports.
The frustrated former soldiers were protesting against what they claimed was the delay in the payment of all their entitlements.
Motor vehicles owned by the state and privately by officers working at Morauta Haus were damaged by the angry mob armed with metal bars and other missiles as they stormed the four-storey building.
They did not gain entry however, glass panels of the buildings were smashed while ground facilities like parking lights were destroyed.
They were angered by comments from the prime minister last Thursday saying  that only the ex-servicemen in 185,334 and the colonial ex-servicemen groups would be paid.
O’Neill had said the 1,360 and the 323 groups would miss out or delayed to allow time for the claims to be verified.
However, the latter said their claims were in relations to the housing scheme, hardship or rehabilitation and the act of grace payments claims which were genuine and should be paid.
They said they were affected by the government’s down-sizing policy of the PNG Defence Force from 2001 to 2006.
At around 11am the frustrated ex-servicemen, numbering more than 100 shouted and yelled and threatened to burn Morauta Haus.
Apart from the prime minister, the building is occupied by the Department of the Prime Minister, the National Executive Council, the minister assisting the prime minister on constitutional matters, the Department of Personnel Management, Public Services Commission and the Central Agency Coordination office.
Terrified public servants stopped work and either locked themselves inside the building or fled home for the day.
Unarmed police officers led by NCD Commander Chief Supt Fred Sikiot arrived 40 minutes later and guarded the building.
Military vehicles were also spotted around the area as the commotion started.
It is believed to be the first time members of the police force including the specially trained mobile squad had come unarmed to quell a disturbance in a public area.
They kept their distance from the group who presented their petition to the acting Prime Minister and  Public Service Minister Bart Philemon.
He said he was going to take their concern to O’Neill when he arrived from Australia.
Meanwhile, a reliable government source said the claims were held back to verify the amounts because some of the claimants were either paid earlier or were not entitled to any payments

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