Only the PPP side supported the President’s Pension Bill
I am intrigued by the statement (S/N Tuesday November 8) attributed to Mr. Robert Persaud, Minister of Agriculture/Campaign Manager of the PPP/C on the current exchanges on the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009. Characteristically, unable to deal with substance, Mr. Robert Persaud imputes motives and questions the timing of the criticisms being made of the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009. Mr. Persaud who holds an MBA either has a very faulty research methodology or does not care how his increasingly facile pronouncements affect his public image.
A reading of the parliamentary records by Mr. Persaud will show that the Act is second only to the Budget Debate both in terms of length of space as well as the number of MP’s who spoke on the Bill. He would have seen the outstanding contribution of the late Winston Murray and Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan who pleaded with his parliamentary colleagues not to support such an open ended piece of poorly drafted legislation. Pointedly – and this is before the obscene Pradoville 2 appropriation of former African Guyanese land by Jagdeo, Robert Persaud, Dr. Ashni Singh and others became public knowledge – Mr. Ramjattan in his contribution found a new name for the acronym PPP/C as Perks, Privileges, Power and Corruption.
Just to remove any doubt: the entire parliamentary opposition voted against the Bill while the PPP/C and the TUF voted for it.
And outside of the National Assembly, it has been one of the most criticised Acts passed within recent memory with the most memorable contribution coming from Dr. Arif Bulkan to which not a squeak was heard from Mr. Persaud, Dr. Misir or any other acolytes, a word famously misused by Mr. Persaud in the letter columns of this newspaper.
The Act is so open-ended that the full cost to the state and the taxpayers cannot be determined. There is no question, however, that when one adds up the actual amount paid in cash, the taxes forgone, utilities bill, maids, gardeners, technical and clerical staff, holidays and medical bills etc., the total will be far in excess of $3 million per month.
Put simply but starkly, this minimum amount can pay what the government think is reasonable and affordable to 400 of our pensioners.
There is one further point concerning the drafting of the one page Act. Section 2 states as follows: “Every person who having held the office of the President and ceased to hold that office by virtue of the provisions of article 92 of the Constitution or otherwise shall, during the remainder of his lifetime, be entitled to …..”
In other words former President Samuel Hinds ought to have been receiving the benefits and other facilities from the date the Act was gazetted on May 28, 2009, the same day that President Jagdeo assented to it.
Mr. Hinds is being denied his vulgar but otherwise legal entitlement because someone thinks that Section 3 of the Act operates against him. What Section 3 states is that “The Minister may, subject to negative resolution of the National Assembly, make regulations for giving effect to the provisions of this Act.”
My understanding is that subsidiary legislation cannot derogate from the principal legislation. Mr. Hinds is therefore entitled to receive all the benefits and other facilities available to him under the Act to the extent that he has not been receiving these.
Only that this is a further burden on the poor taxpayer.