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Gov’t warns demobilized soldiers

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Demobilized soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) have been warned here against disturbing the biometric registration exercise of pensioned AFL personnel by the National Identification Registry (NIR), as any further disruption will be taken off by government.

Col. Edwin J. Goodridge, (Retired), National Bureau of Veterans Affairs Director General, addressing journalists Friday, 3 July at the Ministry of Defense, cautioned the demobilized soldiers that if there is any point that they want to put forth, they should not disturb the exercise, but rather engage government constructively.

“This is a situation with national government, so if there’s … some points that they want to put forth we are cautioning them don’t disturb the exercise. Constructively put your points together and engage national government,” he says, noting if there’s any further disruption, government will be taking that off.

His caution to the veterans came over the weekend in the wake of their reported disruption of the biometric registration process commenced in the Slipway Community by the National Identification Registry and other state institutions for AFL pensioners, demanding to be placed on the AFL pension payroll.

According to Col. Goodridge, the strongest point he heard from the veterans is that they were demobilized, and as such, they are also veterans and should be placed on AFL pension payroll. Despite warning the veterans against any future disruption of the process, Col. Goodridge insists that he doesn’t see a conflict, and also he wouldn’t say how he would be able to curtail whatever disruption in the future.

“Believe as we said earlier that some of our compatriots may have been ill-informed. We disseminated information, we even went over the air and we said what it was, that in fact this exercise is only for pensioners – AFL pensioners,” he says.

“But some guys, the rest of the other guys believe that they should be or should have been considered you know, on the payroll and all that and stuff like that. So well, that could be yes, but right now, government mandate is to take care, register those that are on the pension payroll,” he explains.

To facilitate the exercise of registering pensioners, Col. Goodridge says the Ministry of Finance has agreed to write off the cost, even though NIR will send its bill to the ministry to cover up the cost.

“So the pensioners are not paying a dime for this registration process,” he clarifies. He details that in compliance with the policy of the government, the National Bureau of Veterans Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defense and the NIR are working collaboratively to improve the process for monthly payment of AFL pensioners.

He says the team from the government institutions mentioned commenced the process on Tuesday, 30 June at Slipway Community Center, but a group of citizens believed to be former members of the AFL, predominantly those that were demobilized and are not part of the pensioners, disrupted the process.

He explains that the demobilized soldiers entered the registration area and carried out actions that disrupted the exercise and brought it to an abrupt suspension. On the day following that incident, Col. Goodridge notes that the group’s purported leadership held a press conference, claiming responsibility for the disruption and indicated that they are opposed to the entire process.

“We deplore the actions of these ill-informed compatriots and encourage them to instead seek peaceful, constructive and appropriate means in resolving whatever grievances they may have on the matter,” Col. Goodridge cautions. “As we move forward, let it be known to all that we will not accept any future interruptions of this exercise by anyone anywhere,” he warns.

He announces that the registration of AFL pensioners will resume from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Tuesday, 7 July at the Grand Stand of the Barclay Training Center (BTC) on U.N. Drive. According to him, the process will subsequently continue to the rural parts of Liberia to accommodate AFL pensioners living out Monrovia.

By Winston W. Parley

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