By Hadi Fornaji
Tripoli, March 23: Brigadesman laid siege to the Prime Minister’s office on Tripoli’s Shara Sikka (Railway Street) on Thursday, . . .[restrict]protesting that they had not been paid the money promised to those who took part in last year’s revolution.
There has been no confirmation of local media reports that Prime Minister Abdurrahim had to be evacuated from the building. However, government officials including its spokesman Nasser Al-Mana and others were trapped inside while the protestors fired shots at it and into the air.
The authorities had to summon members of the Saadawi brigade to resolve the issue, a source said.
Last month the NTC announced that everyone who had taken part in the revolution last year would receive a payment: LD 4000 to married fighters and LD 2,400 for unmarried ones. Many have been paid. At the government’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, Al-Mana said that up to that point LD 600 million had been handed out.
There have, however, been a number of problems in processing the payments leading to angry clashes between brigadesmen and officials. In most cases, the disputes have been over names missing from lists of those to be paid or the presence of others who did not take part in the revolution.
Two weeks ago, there were clashes involving militiamen in Tripoli’s suburb of Gurgi as well as in Shara Omar Mukhtar and Shara Al-Sarim because of names absent from the payout lists. Last Sunday, brigadesmen from Suq Al-Juma went to a downtown office looking for their handouts. When told that they would have to come back later because Suq Al-Juma payments were not being processed that day, anger turned to violence and at least one of the people dealing with the payments was said to have been shot dead. Later, after the brigadesmen returned to Suq Al-Juma and tried briefly to take over Mitiqa airbase, there was more fighting after government forces went there to arrest those responsible for the downtown attack. Another man was reportedly killed in the shooting.
The same evening saw brigadesmen in Tripoli’s Fashloum and Zawiat Al-Dahmnani districts firing guns into the air for several hours an hour in protest at not being paid.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Grand Mufti of Libya, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani, issued a fatwa saying that it was haram (illegal) for anyone who had not fought in last year’s revolution to take the LD 4,000 or LD 2,400 payment. If they had they must hand the money back to the Central Bank of Libya, he ruled.
At his press briefing the previous day, Al-Mana referred to the problems with the payment lists saying that it was for local councils to approve the lists. He said that the government hoped that everyone due to be paid would receive their money soon.
Making matters worse for the prime minister’s office on Thursday, there was also a protest by brigadesmen from the Jebel Nafusa town of Kikla. They were protesting about delays in treating some of their wounded colleagues.
There was also a protest about the growing uncollected rubbish on the capital’s streets. Truckloads of garbage were parked outside the office.
Ironically, there has been unintentional cross-over between the two protests in the past few days with angry brigadesmen in Tripoli closing streets and setting fire to trash bins in protest at the non-payment of the promised handouts.