Army aims to restore Egypt normalcy

Supreme Military Council reportedly planning to ban strikes in bid to get Egyptians back to work after weeks of turmoil.

    The army has told the remaining protesters in Tahrir to leave and let life return to normal [Reuters]

    Egypt's military leaders are reportedly preparing to ban strikes and act against "chaos and disorder" in an attempt to restore order in the country following weeks of protests that led to overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

    A military source said the Supreme Military Council would issue an order on Monday that would ban meetings by labour unions or professional syndicates, effectively forbidding strikes, and would tell all Egyptians to get back to work.

    However, about 2,000 people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square around noon, halting traffic, most of them protesting against the police.

    Policemen were holding a separate protest, some of them marching towards the interior ministry. They want better pay and are trying to clear the name of the hated police force, which was accused of using excessive force during the deadly clashes in the first days of the uprising.

    Some of the police demonstrators carried portraits of policemen killed in the clashes, with one placard saying "These are victims of the regime too".

    Earlier in the day, pro-democracy protesters in the square said they had been told by the army to leave or face arrest.

    Meanwhile, the army ordered Al Jazeera and other international media outlets to stop filming in the square.

    Hundreds of public transport workers demonstrated outside the television and state radio building to demand better pay. Across the Nile River in Giza, hundreds of ambulance drivers staged a protest, also to demand better pay and permanent jobs.

    Protest organisers have called for a "Victory March" to be held across the country on Friday.

    Meeting activists

    Meanwhile, two online activists said on Monday that they had discussed reforms with the military.

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    "We met the army ... to understand their point of view and lay out our views," Google executive Wael Ghonim and blogger Amr Salama said in a note on a pro-democracy website that helped launch the revolt.

    They said the military council, which suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, vowed to rewrite the constitution within 10 days and put it to a referendum within two months, in line with the protesters' demands for democratic change.

    The council had previously said the military would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".

    Inspired by the success of the 18 days of popular protests which forced Mubarak to end his 30 years in power on Friday, workers across Egypt had begun to agitate for better deals.

    Military 'concerned'

    The protests prompted officials to make Monday an unscheduled bank holiday. Banks will reopen on Wednesday, because Tuesday is also a public holiday.

    "I think the military is concerned that this could turn into a series of protests across the country, "Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from Cairo, said.

    "If that happened, the only way they could stop them would probably be to use force. And if they use force, that would end the respect and the legitimacy the army has in the eyes of the ordinary people."

    On Sunday, about 2,000 policemen demonstrated in front of the interior ministry, complaining about the gap in salaries between officers and enlisted.

    There have also  been reports of protests, sit-ins and strikes at the stock exchange, textile firms, media organisations, steel firms, the postal service, railways and the health ministry.

    "Finally we have been encouraged to come out and speak," Hala Fawzi, a 34-year-old who protested on Sunday outside the offices of the state-owned insurance company where she works for $20 a month, said. "We want equality," she said.

    But after three weeks of economic dislocation which has seen tourists leave the country and trade and factories facing difficulties, millions of Egyptians are anxious to start earning again in order to survive.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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