UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
MADAGASCAR: Army reservists barricade parliamentarians
JOHANNESBURG, 28 May 2004 (IRIN) - Madagascar's ministry of defence confirmed on Friday that 160 lawmakers were being held hostage by army reservists demanding better compensation for their efforts during the country's political crisis in 2002.
Paul Andre, a defence ministry media officer, told IRIN that several hundred reservists had blocked the main route from the parliament buildings in the capital, Antananarivo, since the early hours of Friday morning.
"All we know is that they are seeking a meeting with the deputy of the National Assembly. They want parliamentarians to discuss their case immediately, because they feel as if the government has not taken their demands seriously," said Andre. "But they are going about it the wrong way and this will not help their cause."
The reservists have been attempting to exert pressure on the authorities since January to increase their compensation for backing President Marc Ravalomanana during the six-month crisis.
Ravalomanana offered them US $175 each, but the protestors were asking for up to $2,000 to cover their expenses, including a risk premium, and family and rent allowances.
"It is unlikely that there will be further negotiation, since the government has explained that there is not enough funds to pay all of them. Many civilians helped during the political crisis and the government cannot pay everyone exactly what they want," Andre explained.
The authorities have called on the reservists to consider their efforts as acts of patriotism.
About 2,600 former members of the army and police were called on to support Ravalomanana during the tussle for control of the Indian Ocean island, sparked by disputed elections held in December 2001.
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