SITTING TIME BOMB
The National reports,
Although the protest was peaceful, the amount of tension and frustration made it potentially explosive, especially as this was timed to coincide with an NGO-organised anti-government rally which police had called off early this week. But, there were reports of violence and looting in other towns, including Goroka.
Disgruntled former members of the PNG Defence Force and their families barricaded the building, preventing workers from the offices of the prime minister and NEC and the Department of Personnel Management from leaving.
Police had to be called in to enforce order before the Minister for Public Service and Finance and Treasury, Peter O’Neill, met the ex-servicemen and promised more talks with them next Tuesday at Murray Barracks.
O’Neill was accompanied by Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru and Department of Prime Minister and NEC secretary Margaret Elias.
The ex-servicemen, numbering more than 200, cordoned off the road leading to Morauta Haus and other government offices and demanded that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare come out and reply to their petition given to Attorney-General Ano Pala two weeks ago. They demanded that the government agree to their original claim of K187 million, and not K23 million as stated in a newspaper advertisement signed by Pala and Defence Minister Bob Dadae.
O’Neill said the government was aware of their grievances and owed them money which would be paid after all the claims were verified. He said the government, Defence Force hierarchy and their representatives would have to sit down together and identify the genuine claims for processing. Agiru said the ex-servicemen had served the country well and should have been paid their entitlements a long time ago.
“I sympathise with them.
“Their claims will be put through a process so this matter is dealt with quickly.”
O’Neill told The National last night that whether it cost the government K20 million, K40 million or K100 million, this expenditure would come from this year’s supplementary budget.
“We’ll have to cost it somewhere because it is not in this year’s national budget.
“We will pay all the genuine claims processed,” he added. The ex-servicemen, in six different groups, numbered more than 7,000 men.