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OROP movement encounters division, soldiers stage a separate protest

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By Manas Dwivedi

IMG_20150827_124656The OROP movement had been a unified protest under Major General Satbir Singh until now but recently, it seems to be developing an offshoot.

Differences are anticipated to crop up at Jantar Mantar as soldiers and lower ranked defence officials have started a separate protest of their own. What makes these two protests different from each other is not just the gap in their ranks but also their demands.

While on one hand the officers are following a 4-point agenda for demanding their needs, the soldiers, on the other are depicting their ‘pain’ through a letter posted outside their camp. One of the demands by the officers says that they should be paid better than the soldiers retiring after them. The soldiers and lower ranked officers are stating the miseries faced by them while working with the officers.

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An ex-armyman, Harbhal Singh in the soldier’s camp has decided to fast till death and pen down his present condition in a declaration letter. Sustaining major injuries in battle, Singh had lost a leg in Jammu & Kashmir. He told NewsGram that the soldiers were constrained to sit at Jantar Mantar for demanding their rights as many of them have been humiliated by the officers at every step. He blamed the government for only listening to officers and ignoring the lower rank soldiers.

Major General Satbir Singh, convener of the ex-servicemen movement termed the gathering at officer’s podium as ‘sainik parliament’ where everyone’s view is heard and respected. Six ex-servicemen are on an indefinite fast, out of which two have been hospitalised with deteriorating health. General Satbir denied negotiating on the original set of demands, but he didn’t question the demands made by the soldiers.

The issue is not a matter of conflict here, but it certainly draws attention to the growing wedge between ex-soldiers and officers of the country. The demand of OROP is acute and very much reasonable too. People from both the categories are integral to the nation’s sovereignty.

The veterans have been vigorously protesting for the implementation of one rank one pension (OROP) from past 74 days now.

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Haitians On Protest Despite President’s Assurance

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, protesters are burning tires and building makeshift barricades, which are blocking many roads.

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Protest
A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister during clashes with Haitian police in Port-au-Prince, Feb. 15, 2019, on the ninth day of protests against Haitian President Jovenel Moise. VOA

Hundreds of Haitians protested in the streets of the capital, Port- au-Prince, for the ninth consecutive day Friday, despite the president’s assurances that he understands their pain and is working toward a solution.

“We are asking the international community to help us get rid of [President] Jovenel [Moise] because Jovenel is working for them,” a protester told VOA Creole. “Fellow citizens, please if you see Jovenel on the street, handcuff him and throw him in jail,” the young man added.

FILE - President Jovenel Moise, then the Haitian presidential candidate of PHTK Political Party, speaks during an interview with AFP in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 6, 2016.
President Jovenel Moise, then the Haitian presidential candidate of PHTK Political Party, speaks during an interview with AFP in Port-au-Prince, Sept. 6, 2016. VOA

Moise broke his weeklong silence with a national address Thursday night, which was broadcast nationwide and on Facebook. He sought to calm and reassure a tense and angry nation.

“I hear you,” Moise said, acknowledging criticism about his government’s ineffectiveness and lack of transparency. “I will never betray you. You are the reason I ran for president. I’m working for you.”

He also reminded the country’s most underprivileged citizens that like them, he, too, came from humble beginnings.

Moise announced that he has taken a series of measures to make life better for Haitians and has asked Prime Minister Jean Henry Ceant, whom he described as an electoral rival, to communicate those measures and apply them immediately. He later tweeted that Ceant would announce the new economic measures Friday.

It is still unclear whether or when the prime minister will announce the measures, but in an interview with a local radio station Friday morning, Ceant said the president had pressured him to resign. Ceant said he refused.

A group of women and children walk to buy water in the neighborhood of Petion Ville, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on Feb. 14, 2019.
A group of women and children walk to buy water in the neighborhood of Petion Ville, in the Haitian Capital Port-au-Prince, on Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, protesters are burning tires and building makeshift barricades, which are blocking many roads.

“We don’t need for the prime minister to resign,” a protester in his 20s told VOA Creole. “We need lower prices. This morning I went to buy a bag of rice — I’m a poor person — they were asking 350 dollars [Haitian Gourdes, the local currency, are equivalent to about U.S. $3.50]. So, president, I’m asking you to resign. You can go now.”

“Jovenel is adding fuel to the fire,” a protester in his 40s told VOA Creole. “It would have been better if he had never said anything.” The man decried the current living conditions where young people have died and residents are dealing with a water shortage.

“I’m out here [protesting] for the ninth time. I lost a lot of brothers and sisters during these protests,” another man said proudly. “The president humiliated [in his speech last night] by calling us drug dealers, while he sends kudos to the Americans. Mr. President, we are not drug dealers!”

The international community has acknowledged the people’s right to protest but deplored the violence and damage to property.

The U.S. Embassy issued a statement Friday reacting to the protests and the president’s speech.

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“The United States Government shares the desire of the Haitian people for a better future for Haiti,” it said. “We encourage all of Haiti’s lawfully elected representatives, and all Haitians who seek a peaceful political solution consistent with Haiti’s constitution to engage in an inclusive dialogue — without resorting to violent action.”

The statement also encouraged “sound economic policy measures” and “transparent resource management” as ways to improve living conditions. (VOA)