GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 10, 2017 (CMC) – The Guyana parliament has approved a pension package for former prime minister, Hamilton Green, insisting that it “rights a wrong that should have been corrected a long time ago”.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, told legislators, yesterday, that “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere” and that when principle has to trump personality, the result was what occurred in the parliament with Opposition legislators resorting to attacking personalities.
He said that whilst public servants were only getting five percent increases, former president Bharrat’s Jagdeo’s salary was adjusted more than 300 percent.
He said that the Hamilton Green Pension Bill capped Green’s pension to 7/8 of the current Prime Minister’s salary, and described the legislation as fitting for someone who, at 82 years old, had served Guyana and “rights a wrong that should have been corrected a long time ago”.
Jordan said the legislation was necessary to enable the only prime minister, who has never received an adequate pension, to do so and that it was “an opportunity to treat Green with the dignity he deserved”.
Green served as prime minister from 1985 to 1992.
In his contribution, Opposition parliamentarian, Anil Nandlall, questioned the Bill’s provisions, likening them to “tokenism.”
He asked why similar adjustments were not being made for public servants and teachers, noting that adjustments must be made in an even-handed way.
Another opposition legislator, Gillian Burton-Persaud, questioned the “indexation” of the Bill and asked why a similar process was not used to calculate the pensions of public servants.
“It should be all for one and one for all, she said, calling for similar provisions to be made for former parliamentarians
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, questioned how former presidents, such as Donald Ramotar, Sam Hinds and Jagdeo, would be treated in the future, due to the changes or caps placed on the presidential benefits by the government.
She said that while her People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was not opposed to Green getting an ex-gratia payment instead of a pension, the legislation was “out of order and unconstitutional”.
But Attorney General, Basil Williams, reminded legislators that the one-off Bill “will correct a historical wrong” and that the former heads of state bill catered for past presidents and only one prime minister with “uncapped benefits”.
He described as repugnant the fact that the controversial Bill was then modified to cater for one person, Jagdeo, resulting in his pension being linked to 7/8 of the serving President’s salary and “each of his successors in perpetuity.”
Williams called on the parliamentarians to stop being cruel to each other, as when the power shifts in the Parliament they will need compassion.
He said the Bill would enable Green “to live a life of dignity he deserves.”