By Sami Zaptia
Tripoli, 22 August 2013:
Speaking before the GNC on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan defended his decision earlier in the . . .[restrict]year to continue paying military brigades.
With regards to the controversial decision to pay the LD 900 million to the Dera (Shield) brigades in delayed salaries, the Prime Minister said that he had followed the right protocol.
Congress had agreed to this payment which he had referred to the Ministry of Finance, which in turn had transferred payment to the accounts of the military, he said.
It was the Chief of Staff at the time who had decided to pay the Dera (Shield) brigades, Zeidan said.
Zeidan told the GNC that “If it were decided to stop the wages of those who are not turning up for work from the army and security forces, the decision has to be taken jointly by the GNC and the government”.
The decision to pay out such a large sum was deemed as controversial at the time, as the government was claiming it was agreeing to widespread public demands to breakup the various brigades and force them to join the official police and army individually. One means of attempting to force them was deemed the witholding of payments.
The move to pay nearly a billion dinars to the brigades was seen as either a weakness of the authorities or a conspiracy by them to extend the life of these formations. Questions were being asked as to who controls who viz-a-viz the GNC and government on one hand and the militias on the other.
Moreover, the figure of LD 900 was questioned by many. Critics suspect that many members of the various brigades were receiving more than one payment and many were not working at all.
On Tuesday, for example, the head of the Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) for the southern region, Muftah Alateeri had accused PFG members, the body charged with protecting Libya’s strategic oil installations, of sleeping “in Tripoli under air-conditioning and or at the Brega compound in Airport Road and at the Zawyia refinery” as opposed to out in the desert oilfields and strategic oil ports in eastern Libya.
Altateeri said that the PFG was made up of 21,000 members, but that in his opinion only 3,000 were actually working out at the strategic oilfields and ports and the remainder of the 18,000 were not.
The PFG is, ostensibly, part of the official Libyan army and under the control of the GNC and government.
It must be added that the government had introduced a computerised database in an effort to cut duplication and fake claims for payment as well as a new National ID number. It had also insisted on only making payments into bank accounts.