Solders protest over pay

National, Normal


About 150 Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers, mostly in uniforms, from the Taurama and Murray barracks fronted up at the army headquarters at Murray barracks yesterday morning demanding an increase in pay.
In a show of defiance and uncharacteristic ill-discipline, they carried a placard demanding 100% increase in their salary, and shouted at senior officers including chief of staff Tom Urr.
They waited in front of army headquarters for almost two hours, then advanced towards the building that houses the office of the commander, minister and secretary, as if to storm the building.
They demanded an audience from Defence secretary Frederick Punangi, for an explanation for the delay in salary increments which they claim dates back to 2007 for army personnel throughout the country.
A planned trip in PMV buses by the soldiers to Morauta House was prevented by the arrival of secretary to address them, accompanied Mr Urr.
Mr Punangi assured them that a task force would be immediately set up to look into their claim.
“We will do our part here at the department level through the Defence Council right away but it would be up to how fast the process takes to resolve this issue,” he said.
Mr Punangi promised them that he would have an answer for them in two weeks.
Government sources said the soldiers were paid under the unified pay structure for disciplined forces until 2005 when police decided to detach and go their own way.
In 2006, the PNGDF undertook a major pay structure review. This was fully implemented in 2008.
There was a huge disparity, and the Defence Council decided on a major review.
However, former commander Peter Ilau promised a 100% pay rise for soldiers during a parade, a rise not based on policy or any review undertaken, the source said.