House approves motion to debate former Presidents Benefits Bill
By Abena Rockcliffe
The Bill that seeks to repeal the benefits given to former Presidents of Guyana was yesterday read for the first time despite the government side stating its non-support of the bill and definite intention to debate same.
The Bill stands in the name of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU)’s parliamentarian, Carl Greenidge, who yesterday said in the National Assembly that the Act intituled Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act 2009 has given “unlimited” benefits to former Presidents while the resources of the state are unlimited.
However, the government’s position is that the Bill that was intituled ‘Former Presidents (benefits and other facilities) bill 2012- Bill No. 29/2012 is unacceptable because it violates Standing Order 26 H which stated that for a motion to be admissible it shall not relate to matters which have been referred by the National Assembly to a committee for consideration.
Government’s Chief Whip Gail Teixeira supported the position that the Bill was in violation of Standing Order 26 H because as she stated, former presidents’ benefits have been sent to the special select committee which was set up last year.
Further, she stated that the Bill in the name of Greenidge undermines the works of the Special Select Committee. The Chief Whip said that the Bill is “extremely vindictive” and includes level of small mindedness and referred to its futuristic passing as a breach of good faith.
Teixeira told the house that seeking to pass a Bill in relation to an issue that has already been sent to the special select committee is a waste of each other’s time; and noted that if it is continued “the government will not be part of the masquerade.”
With that she signaled the government’s non support of the special select committee should the Bill be passed.
“If the opposition believes that it has no space for the Special Select Committee the government will no longer be involved, to further waste our time.”
Teixeira pronounced that the passing of the Bill is not the right way to deal with the issue of benefits of former presidents. “The government opposes the motion to read this bill for the first time…. Should it be passed, we deserve the right to debate it and will.”
However, Greenidge sought to debunk Teixeira’s arguments and said that he was successful in convincing Speaker of the National Assembly Raphael Trotman that passing of the Bill does not violate Standing Order 26 H.
The Member of Parliament told the National Assembly that the Special Select Committee has a function to look at two statutes hence standing order 26 was of no relevance.
The Bill, if passed, will completely erase the law in 2009 which sought to provide unlimited benefits for all former presidents of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Yesterday the National Assembly approved the first reading of the Bill by a vote of 33 to 29.
The Act passed in 2009 ensured lifelong financial prosperity of all former presidents. It has generated numerous debates and has been deemed a robbery of the people of Guyana.
Parliament is now set to debate the Bill to remove those unlimited benefits even as the government has stated its objection.