Disabled War Veterans Protest in Colombo: How the Authorities Responded

Sunday, Oct. 31 – The National Force to Protect the Rights of War Veterans initiated a fast, demanding a pension for the retired-disabled war veterans of the three-armed forces and the police with a service record of less than 12 years.

The fast continued for a second day today, Tuesday, November 1, as the war veterans remained on the exit lane from Colombo on Olcott Mawatha opposite the Fort Railway Station engaging in their protest.

“… All MPs and ministers have cars and other vehicles. Can’t we be given a benefit from the money used for that. They have to pay only Rs. 270 Million…” urged one protester….

MPs, Ministers and War Veterans

A protester pointed out that MPs and ministers go to parliament, serve for five years and retire with a pension. Despite retiring due to being disabled while protecting the country for eight, ten or even twelve  years, the government has failed to provide war veterans with a pension.

As they were not given an answer to their issue as of Tuesday afternoon, the group resorted to occupying the whole of Olcott Mawatha, bringing traffic to a standstill opposite the Fort Railway Station.

Meanwhile,several representatives of the disabled veterans were escorted to the Ministry of Defence where they were presented with a proposal.

This is what they had to say afterwards.

“… Though we are being given 150,000 we raised questions on what would be given to our families after our demise. We did not get a proper answer to that. Should we accept this….?”

“…. No. The president said he would give it to us. We are asking this for our wives and children …”

Court orders that protesters be dispersed…

The Fort Police announced a court order which called on the protesters to disperse.

Abiding by the order, the protesters moved away from the location and then arrived at the Presidential Secretariat in Fort where they recommenced their fast.

The Secretary of Defence and the Secretary to the President as well as other officials arrived at the location for a discussion.

“… If an MP serves for five years, he is given a pension. We are not trying to be them. However, you have deceived these people who have sacrificed their limbs. We reject what is being mentioned. We want to the proposed the service pension …” – said a protester

The Secretary to the President said: “We have given the maximum that can be given through the public service. What can we do if you do not accept it.”

The OIC of the Fort Police arrived once again with another court order, demanding that the group disperse.

Sri Lanka Army Headquarters responds

The Sri Lanka Army Headquarters issued a media release on Tuesday evening over the issue..

According to the release, all administrative formalities related to pension payments of agitating disabled War Heroes are being attended to and steps are being taken to fulfill their demands by February 2017.

The press release reads that those disabled war heroes who have volunteered to retire before the due retirement day, are paid the monthly salary, in addition to the separate disability pension that they are drawing.

It adds that President Maithripala Sirisena has already approved the payment of the disability pension for the rest of their lives.

Moreover, the press release goes on to note that all military hospitals will continue to provide uninterrupted medical services to disabled war heroes and their family members.

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