General News of Fri, 16 Jan 20042
War Veterans Cry Foul
The Ghana Armed Forces (GH) retired soldiers and war veterans (WV) at the Legion (Veterans) village in Accra have taken the government to task, accusing it of doing little to improve their welfare.
They also accused the Veterans Association of Ghana (VAG) of discrimination and lack of transparency in handling their plight.
“They don’t regard us and even as we speak to you they have brought some “mad” people into the camp who are causing a lot of trouble and confusion in our camp,” ex-Private Peter Kofi Tawiah, one of the outspoken war veterans told this paper.
He said they had been short-changed for far too long recalling that a package provided for 50th anniversary of the end of the war by the Commonwealth Royal Services League (CRSL) was misapplied and nothing came out of the concerns raised.
But Public Relations Officer of VAG, Wing Commander (Rtd) Peter Abrokwah debunked the claim that the government had done little to improve the welfare of the veterans
Wing Commander Abrokwa said considering the meagerness of the government grant the war veterans should go and live in their villages to avoid the high cost of living in the big towns.
He said he has two uncles and two brothers-in-law who are in the village and are coping with the grant.
Looking weak and pale, the veterans aged between 65 and 90 said their allowances of ?290,000 for GH and Government Grant of ?130,000 for WV were too meager and inadequate to cater for their needs.
According to them many of them had to fall on their relatives, friends and children to survive, thereby creating extra burden on such benevolent people.
The veterans alleged that when the government came to power the Minister of Defence, Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, paid them a visit during which they were assured that the government was going to do everything possible to address their problems but that promise was yet to be fulfilled.
“In fact some of us are tempted to believe that the government was playing politics with us “, one of the Veterans was heard saying.
The veterans said the problems confronting them were so many that they at times regretted ever joining the military considering all the efforts and sacrifices that they had made in getting the country to where it was today.
They said during the NDC regime whenever there was increment in the salary for serving soldiers there was automatic corresponding increment in their allowances and pension.
But since the last two years they said their pension benefits had not seen any increment except the nationwide increment in salaries in January last year. According to them, this should not have been the case because serving soldiers had had 50% increment in their salaries.
The veterans stated that the assurance made by the authorities to pay the backlog of increments had still not been fulfilled.
They called for a representation of veterans on the VAG Administrative board so that their views and grievances may be heard and redressed.
They cited as example their efforts to let the British Government know of the hardships they were facing which the VAG authorities had thwarted.
The veterans, some of who were almost in tears during the interview appealed to the government to see to their plight and absorb all their medical bills.
They further appealed to the government to improve their poor housing conditions saying that lack of accommodation had turned some of their colleagues into squatters.
Wing Commander Abrokwah said VAG was proud of the veterans for the sacrifices they made towards the building of the nation.
He said the vision of the VAG was to make life better for the veterans, adding that in view of this the VAG Administration had considered entering into commercial ventures by leasing some of the association’s properties to generate more income to help solve some of the problems facing the veterans.
The Legion Village at Tamale, for example, which is currently being occupied by non-veterans, would be commercialized into a fuel filling station.
He said during the past regime the veterans grant was ?65,000 but the current government since coming into power had increased the grant to ?130,000.
He added that the predicament that the war veterans were going through was nobody’s fault because most of them signed out of the army to engage in various professions and didn’t serve the full terms of the military service. “This is why the war veterans are not entitled to pension,” he said.
He stated that the veterans were too old to engage in any form of work within the VAG administration, adding that those in great distress had been benefiting from the Commonwealth Royal Services League (CRSL).
“The CRSL has being remitting between ?300 and ?400 for the upkeep of war veterans and so far ten war veterans are benefiting from such facilities”, he said.
He declined to name the beneficiaries.
Wing Commander Abrokwah appealed to the government to order the accountant general’s department to stop the ?2,000 monthly dues deduction from the veterans pension allowance to the Ghana Government Pensioner’s Association since what they are benefiting is not enough.