BEIRUT: Retired military and security personnel Tuesday blocked entrances to the Banque du Liban headquarters and the Port of Beirut as a preemptive strike against any measure in the 2019 draft state budget that might affect their retirement wages or benefits.
The protests began around 6 a.m., hours before Cabinet will meet to start discussing an austerity budget that proposes cuts to end-of-service benefits, including school and medical aid, for state employees and retired military personnel, as well as a 3 percent reduction in the latter’s pensions.
The demonstrators blocked all the BDL and port entrances, and warned of escalations in future protests that would target entrances to all the areas the state profits from. Protesters at BDL then moved to Downtown Beirut, where they gathered near Riad al-Solh before marching to the Finance Ministry nearby.
Soon after they arrived, Khalil tweeted that the budget proposals were a result of discussions among multiple parties are subject to change.
He added, “The veterans ... must know that there is no attack on their rights, and the proposals are to organize retirement to ensure its continuity."
The protesters at the Beirut Port, meanwhile, were joined by MPs Chamel Roukoz and Jean Talouzian, both retired military men.
“I am here today because I know the cost of martyrdom and injuries. The draft budget is absolutely unfair to the military men, as it affects those with limited income,” Roukoz told local station Al-Jadeed.
One of the protesters at the port, who said he was injured in 1984, called for the state to implement the austerity measures against the ministers and MPs instead of the veterans.
The man spoke with difficulty because of an injury he had sustained on his face in 1984 “while defending this land.”
“Go sacrifice the ministers, MPs and presidents,” he said.