Guyana’s opposition looking to put an end to Former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s plundering of the Guyanese tax dollars
UPDATED: Guyana’s opposition moving to slash former presidents benefits.
Almost one week after government announced meagre increases in Old Age Pensions and Public Assistance, Guyana’s opposition political parties on Monday signaled they would be moving to scrap the Former President’s (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009.
A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Carl Greenidge is tabling a motion for the law to be scrapped- a move the Alliance For Change (AFC) will support. AFC Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan also plans to table an amendment for the law to be repealed.
Ramjattan says the AFC will likely support APNU’s motion in exchange for support for its amendment to be repealed. While the combined opposition can use its one-seat majority of 33 seats to pass Greenidge’s motion and the AFC’s amendment, Ramjattan says the president can refuse to assent the amendment but face public ridicule.
“The president might very well not assent to the Bill but he will have to show the nation, their supporters, the ordinary people how they are hypocrites and their rhetoric does not match their reality,” Ramjattan told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com )
But government spokesman Dr. Roger Luncheon on Thursday appeared bemused at Greenidge’s motion.
“I don’t see what on earth a parliamentary motion can do in the face of statute. If I could be presumptuous and I suspect I would be considered so … he would know that the only way you could repeal a piece of legislation is not by parliamentary motion, that indeed an act of parliament to amend or repeal the extant legislation is the only way to so do.”
According to Dr. Luncheon, the move by the APNU parliamentarian is mere “grandstanding.”
Decisions to challenge the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 were made known after last Friday’s announcement in the National Budget that Public Assistance will increase from GUY$5,500 to GUY$5,900 monthly and Old Age Pension from $7,500 per month to $8,100 per month.
The opposition has been voicing concern that while Former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s pension alone would be an estimated GUY$1 million monthly, the law tabled in 2009 gives him another GUY$2 million monthly in electricity, telephone, vehicles, fuel, security personnel and other staff.
“It is now obvious that when compared to what the ordinary pensioner is getting, the facilities and benefits must go,” Ramjattan added.
The Guyana government has vehemently denied that Jagdeo is getting such a hefty package of benefits and other facilities.
Greenidge, in his motion, agrees that the National Assembly should make appropriate, adequate and reasonable provision for a president to enjoy a comfortable and dignified retirement. At the same time, he argues that it must be linked to the ability of Guyana to pay.
“Former President’s (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 has caused concern and resulted in adverse reaction among sections of the citizens of Guyana, in particular as to the ability of the country to sustain the benefits set out therein,” says Greenidge in his Motion.
He wants the 65-seat House to “immediately take steps to repeal the legislation “without prejudice, however, to the payment of benefits.”
Greenidge, a former Finance Minister, instead recommends that a Parliamentary Committee examine the Pensions (President, Parliamentary and Special Offices) Act, Part II Section 4 (Rate of President and Calculation of Pension 7/8 Ceiling of Pension) and to make proposals for their revision.
He will also ask the House that a Special Parliamentary Committee submit as a matter of urgency a revised superannuation benefit package for those persons to whom the Parliamentary and Holders of Special Offices Act applies and for those other categories of employees catered for by other government pensions and arrangement/plans.
The revised superannuation package, he says, must be sent by the Special Parliamentary Committee for consideration and approval by the National Assembly.