SIXTY-EIGHT soldiers who were sent on a mission of mercy, helping to deliver relief items to residents in the hurricane-ravaged islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica last year, are today begging for mercy from the Defence Force, saying they have not yet been paid millions of dollars in per diem for their overseas work.
The soldiers who were in the islands for 77 days, from September 20 to December 5, are accusing their superiors of ignoring their pleas to be paid.
Last September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummelled the three islands, causing widespread destruction and loss of lives. The governments of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica pleaded with Caricom nations for assistance and TT responded.
Foodstuff, water and other items sent to the islands with the and a decision was taken by government to send the 68 soldiers on a Coast Guard vessel to the three islands.
Each soldier was promised a daily per diem to cover the 77-day tour, comprising US$98, TT$8 and EC$146. However the soldiers never received the per diem. As the soldiers spent 77 days on this overseas exercise, each soldier is owed US$7,546; TT$616 and EC$11,242. In total, the money owed to the 68 soldiers is US$513,128; TT$41,888 and EC$764,456.
Yesterday, soldiers complained bitterly that they had to purchase food, water and other items with money from their fellow soldiers and they had to operate in conditions they were not accustomed to. The soldiers said they awaited word about payment of the per diem, but whenever they made contact with senior officers they were told the money was being processed. They said while the experience was a good one, they felt betrayed by the senior officers and on their return they made contact with Major Gomez, who kept telling them the paperwork was being processed. The soldiers said the last thing they heard is that the Ministry of Finance was awaiting a list of the names of the soldiers who were assigned duties in the three islands before releasing the funds.
A soldier said yesterday, “We do not have an association to go to, we are not allowed to take any work-to-rule action and the only thing we can do is to make our concerns public and hope that good sense will prevail.” Sources revealed that Chief of Defence Staff, Commodore Hayden Pritchard was told of the issue and asked his senior officers to ensure all documents are in place so the monies can be paid.
Newsday sent a message to Flight Lieutenant Monique Sprott of the Defence Force to get an official response about the non-payment of the per diem. She responded by saying she was sending questions to her seniors for an authorised response. Yesterday, Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon said the Defence Force was yet to send the necessary documents to the ministry for processing. “We sent them overseas, so we will have to pay them,” Dillon said.
Sixty-eight soldiers who were sent on a Coast Guard vessel to the hurricane ravaged islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica from September 20 to December 5 last year are demanding the outstanding per diem owed to them and they are accusing senior officers of the Defence Force of ignoring their demands to have the monies paid.
Early September last year two hurricanes named Irma and Maria pummeled the three islands causing widespread destruction.
The governments of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica pleaded to Caricom nations for assistance and the Trinidad and Tobago government responded as well as Corporate and private citizens. Foodstuff, water and other items were sent to the islands and a decision was taken by government to send 68 soldiers on a TT Coast Guard vessel to the three islands.
The soldiers who were sent on the three month exercised were promised a per diem of US$98 per day as well as TT$8 and EC$146.00. However the soldiers never received the per diem prompting those with Visa Credit Cards to use monies on those cards to assist their colleagues.
Yesterday soldiers complained bitterly that they were forced to purchase food, water and other items using money from their fellow soldiers and they had to operate in conditions to which they were not accustomed.