It is just over a week since President Donald Ramotar told media operatives that he had not seen the former Presidents’ Benefits and other Facilities (Amendments) Bill which was passed in the National Assembly two years ago.
The former Presidents’ Benefits (and other facilities) Act 2009 allows for several “unlimited benefits” which has been deemed by the political opposition to be “unconstitutional and abusive.”
The President’s admission of not seeing the Bill has attracted harsh criticisms, particularly from the financial spokesman of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), Carl Greenidge.
Greenidge had brought to the National Assembly, a Bill to cap the “unconstitutional” benefits of the controversial Act in 2012.
The President had not given his assent to this Bill and when asked for reasons for his actions, he simply told members of the media fraternity that he had not even seen it.
But his recent statements in this regard contradict Greenidge’s findings.
The politician opined that the President was most certainly aware of the Bill and in fact, wrote a letter to the Clerk of the Assembly, stating his reasons for his non-assent, one being that it was found to be “unconstitutional.”
Greenidge said, “It is shameful for a President and his officials to seek to deliberately mislead or lie to the public and it should attract the strongest opprobrium.”
While the President stated that he had not seen the Bill, he expressed that it could be legally challenged.
But Greenidge firmly believes that the courts cannot set or determine the benefits of a President. Therefore, “Why would we carry it to the courts?”
The Parliamentarian said that the 2009 Act is poorly drafted, in that it has no limits on the individual benefits to which the former President has been given access.
“The Court cannot be asked to cap the benefits…By asking for such action, Ramotar and his Attorney General (AG), Anil Nandlall is trying to confuse the public,” the politician asserted.
He said that the courts are in fact charged with determining the constitutionality or otherwise of legislation. He noted too that it is the President who should seek the views of the courts considering that in a letter to the Speaker of the House dated May 7, 2012, he said that the APNU Bill is “unconstitutional.”
He opined as well that the AG is not the authority on what is constitutional and what is not. Additionally, “He (the AG) cannot be relied on to give advice on such a matter as it would constitute a conflict of interest.”
As it relates specifically to Ramotar’s assertion that he never saw the Bill, Greenidge insisted that the President is clearly aware of the Bill.
In again referring again to the President’s May 2012 letter Greenidge noted that Ramotar claimed that the Bill from the Assembly had been ‘presented to him’ on May 3rd.
The politician said, “Ramotar receives mail and then decides to tell the public that he has not seen it…Most people would regard this as a very dishonest act.”
He said that if mail is delivered to the President’s office and he decides to have it destroyed or sent elsewhere, he should be brave enough to say so.
“Hiding behind the niceties of language is a new departure even for this Presidency.”
He said that as far as he is aware, mail is not normally delivered directly to a Head of State anywhere in the world.”
If the President wishes to get advice on mail,
Greenidge said that Ramotar should be aware that the Constitution does not make provision for that process.
He said that the lack of an efficient process in this regard is not an acceptable justification for being “mendacious or breaking the law.”
The APNU Member reminded that the Clerk of the National Assembly had informed him that the President’s Office received the Bill but is still claiming long afterwards that he had not seen it. “He appears to be still saying so even after writing to the Assembly to the contrary in 2012…This is not clever law and advice and it was apparently undertaken on the advice of the AG.”
He reiterated, “Again I say, it is shameful for a President and his officials to seek to deliberately mislead or lie to the public and it should attract harsh criticism or censure.”
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