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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 7, 2000 – Post-Courier)---Papua New Guinea Defense Force soldiers have given the Government until next month to respond to a set of demands calling for improvement in conditions and a 100 percent pay raise for servicemen of all ranks.

In a move which caught the defense hierarchy by surprise yesterday, the Port Moresby based soldiers from all units at Taurama, Goldie, Lancron, Air Transport Squadron and Murray Barracks gathered at the Defense Force headquarters to air their grievances.

They told their superiors that "enough was enough'' and they wanted to see an improvement in their conditions.

Earlier in the morning the soldiers, the majority of whom are non commissioned officers from the rank of corporal down, demanded to have an audience with the Minister for Defense and the department secretary, Vari Fore.

Mr. Fore, along with Brigadier General Carl Marlpo and other senior officers, met the men.

Various speakers aired their grievances of being underpaid, without proper uniforms and facing accommodation and messing problems.

The soldiers pointed out that while they served the government of the day loyally, consecutive governments had not looked after them. One of the men told the Post-Courier that the junior soldiers are paid between K 130 to K 200 (US$ 48 to $ 74) a fortnight, which is insufficient given the high cost of living in Port Moresby.

In their petition, which was delivered to Mr. Fore in the afternoon and addressed to the Defense Council, the soldiers urged that their demands be met by the second fortnight of February.

While seeking a 100 percent pay increase, the soldiers stated the last pay review was done in 1988.

They also demanded:

They want the council to review the existing rental allowances and put in place a housing allowance of K 100 per week.

FOOD: Improvements be made.

UNIFORMS and field equipment: Defense Council to allocate enough funds to purchase a sufficient supply and also to standardize them.

DEFENSE Force call-out: Sufficient funds be allocated before soldiers are deployed on operations and a board of inquiry be established with broader terms to investigate those implicated in mismanagement of departmental funds.

Mr. Fore told the men he would take the matter up with Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, Chief Secretary Robert Igara and other relevant authorities.

Brigadier General Marlpo said improvement of conditions for soldiers was overdue.

"I am a long service member along with others and we have observed that what they (soldiers) are doing is not surprising and nothing new,'' he said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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