21 February 2013

Libya to Grant Thwar Benefits

Libyan lawmakers are moving ahead with a compensation plan for former revolutionaries.

The General National Congress (GNC) approved the first reading of the pension bill on February 13th, more than a week after wounded fighters stormed the assembly. The legislation aims to provide healthcare and pensions for the injured thwar, including those who lost limbs in the war, Libya Herald reported.

The proposed law now heads to committee, where a detailed draft will be prepared.

The issue was brought to the forefront on February 3rd when a number of former revolutionaries from Ajdabiya stormed the GNC headquarters to demand authorities pay their medical bills.

The standoff eventually ended two days later, but not before forcing congress to find an alternative venue to carry out the country's business.

More than 30 people stormed congress, GNC President Mohamed Magarief said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Ali Zidan on February 5th.

"They advanced to the middle of the parliament hall, and some representatives and I sat with them," Magarief said.

"We listened to their demands, although they often spoke in an unsuitable way," he added.

He noted that some of them were carrying guns and that two or three of them pointed their guns more than once at one congressman after they said he spoke in an inappropriate way about them.

On Libya's state-run television, which was airing the GNC session, people saw the drama play out live.

"Nonetheless, we were keen to deal quietly with them because we understand their sufferings and feelings," Magarief said in describing the attack on parliament. "We suspended the session and the parliament stopped its deliberations."

He added that pointing guns at others was a crime and entering the GNC hall was an assault that shouldn't have taken place.

"We rejected any intervention to remove them by force although I have already sat down with them twice in Tripoli and Benghazi and have referred their file to the government," the president added.

As far as the wounded people were concerned, Zidan said they were treated in America, Canada and Germany and prosthetic limbs were installed for them.

"There were 16 passports for them at the embassy before they stormed the parliament, and we've already contacted the German ambassador to add more passports," he said.

Zidan added that the behaviour of some wounded people in foreign countries when they staged sit-ins and stormed embassies had affected the issue of visas.

A decision was issued by the prime minister's office approving salaries for wounded people and amputees for a certain period of time until their health conditions improved.

"They demanded salaries, and we gave them salaries, but they refused," Zidan said. "After that, they demanded housing, cars, high quality treatment, compensations in addition to salaries, travelling to perform pilgrimage with their parents.

"In an attempt from our side to solve the problem, we did what we thought was our duty and we met the demands that we could meet," he added.

Journalist Miftah Belaid said that the wounded should "make their demands through their representatives in the GNC or by going to court or resorting to other communication channels, not by storming the GNC headquarters to waste their rights in this way".

"I think that they lost people's sympathy when they stopped GNC sessions because this is chaos in a country that seeks to build itself," Belaid said.

The wounded, especially amputees, should receive their rights, primary school teacher Mahasen Bachir said.

"They paid a price for us in the war, and right now we're now enjoying freedom. They have the right to receive suitable treatment, but not by storming the parliament," Bachir added.

University student Ala Fathi also agreed that Libyans should avoid disrupting government functions.

"We were hoping that the government would deal with the file of wounded people to avoid sit-ins or attempts to storm facilities... they have to be patient, as the country is now moving towards statehood," Fathi said.

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