It was confirmed yesterday that some chronically and mentally ill retired Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces personnel were arrested and several others wounded at the Defense Headquarters.
These chronically and mentally ill ex- sojas according to Defense Sources had gone to the defense headquarters and misbehaved by using unprintable words against the Defense Minister and other senior military officers.
But the affected ex- sojas told Awoko at the Ombudsman’s office that when they assembled at the defense office to legitimately ask for their benefits, they were chased away and some of them were arrested and several others wounded.
The groups’ deputy leader known as Corporal Bestman explained that in 2006, the Military decided that all chronically and mentally ill personnel should leave the army. “We appeared before a medical board and we were all classified as Wounded In Action (WIA) despite 90% of us were just having bullet wounds and few of us had fragments in our eyes. After the medical board had verified us, the defense minister later came and told us that the money DFID sent was for only 220 personnel”
He explained further that the first 220 that were registered have been paid as WIA while they, who numbered 311, were told to go under as chronically and mentally ill. “We accepted and we went through the board again and everything went on fine with 90 days given to us for us to receive our payments”
Corporal Bestman continued that since last year December when the 90 days expired, they went for their payment but were referred to March “In March, we were told to only receive the gratuity because, as they told us, government does not have money. We told them that we have never seen that in the army for people not paid their benefits but receiving their gratuity. From there, we later held discussions with the defense Minister and he told us that government had finished with us”
The Corporal said when they took their matter to the Anti- Corruption and the Ombudsman, the defense Ministry accepted to pay them their benefits but said they should wait. “But usually, we come for briefing every Monday at the defense headquarters but when we went there yesterday, they sent Military Police officers on us who started beating us and wounded many of us”
The ex-Sojas said they have lost faith in the defense Ministry for dragging their feet on their issue that has taken ten months. They cried out aloud that they should not be treated in such way as they gave their lives for the protection of the land.
By Ishmael Bayoh