Retired soldiers say pension reform planner has broken promise

2017/11/13 20:44:59 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Retired soldiers say pension reform planner has broken promise

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) Hundreds of protesters -- mostly retired military personnel -- rallied outside two government agencies on Monday to blast the chief executive of the National Pension Reform Committee for breaking his promises on proposed reforms.

The activists, gathered by the veteran group "800 Warriors," first protested outside the Legislative Yuan to demand that any military pension reform plan must be consistent with the principles of "trust and protection" and "non-retroactivity" in determining pensions.

They accused Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), who heads the pension reform committee under the Presidential Office, for breaking his promise to allow discussion on the committee's reform proposal by any concerned party before it is sent to the Legislature.

The protest then shifted to the Executive Yuan, the executive branch of government, at which rally leader Wu Chi-liang (吳其樑) explained that he and five other military veterans had met Lin at the Executive Yuan in May.

In that meeting, an agreement was reached that representatives of military veterans would be invited to join discussions on the government's pension reform plan before it is finalized, Wu said.

The conclusions of the May meeting were recorded in writing, Wu said.

They were therefore surprised by media reports saying the pension reform committee would present a plan on military pension reform on Tuesday even though they had heard nothing about it from either the Ministry of National Defense or the Veteran Affairs Council, Wu said.

Several opposition Kuomintang lawmakers joined the protest in support of the activists' calls.

They argued that military personnel perform a different service for the country than civil servants, and therefore the minimum pension for retired soldiers should be higher than that for civil servants, which has been set at NT$32,160 (US$1,090).

Asked about the criticism, Lin said an agreement with veterans groups was reached, but based on the condition that they would have to refrain from holding street protests and discuss the issue in a conference room so that there could be rational dialogue.

Some veterans representatives then turned their back on the agreement to continue street protests, Lin said, and in any case, the committee will only make public the direction and principles of military pension reform on Tuesday, he said.

"The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has not yet delivered its draft bill to the Executive Yuan," Lin said, arguing that he did not break the promise.

Taipei police estimated that more than 700 people joined the protest, while Wu said over 2,000 retired military personnel and their family members showed up to fight for their rights.

Around 450 police forces were mobilized to protect the Executive Yuan and Legislative Yuan on Monday, police said.

The National Pension Reform Committee will reportedly propose a reform plan that sets the minimum pension for retired military personnel at the same level as for civil servants at NT$32,160 a month.

It will also phase out the preferential 18 percent interest rate retired veterans draw on special retirement savings accounts in two years, the same as for civil servants, but veterans can keep the perk if their pension falls below the minimum.

The MND has expressed a desire for a higher "pension floor" than the NT$32,160 threshold and a longer phaseout period for the 18 percent interest rate for military personnel, given the difference in the nature of their service compared with that of civil servants.

(By Jocelyn Tsai, Ku Chuan and Elizabeth Hsu)
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