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Parliament resumes with a heated debate on the benefits of Former Presidents – 25th Jan 2013


The opposition coalition APNU brought to the National Assembly the former President’s Benefits Bill. The old Bill of 2009, which dictates what benefits the former President should receive is very vague, the opposition felt, and needed to be streamlined. For example, the bill does not say exactly how many security guards or how many vehicles the former President would benefit from.

The Government sees the new law as being vindictive, and as a way of getting back at former President, Bharrat Jagdeo, in fact, the only former president still alive. This is despite the Government’s own argument that the Bill is not retroactive, so it would not affect Jagdeo anyhow. But the Government still trumped up its argument of vindictiveness.  Housing Minister, Irfaan ali, said, the Bill was intended to strip the former President of his dignity, since for example, only 5, 000 is allotted to cover the former President’s electricity, water and telephone bills.

Dr. Rupert Roopnarine of the opposition coalition APNU, sought to suggest that the Minister was perhaps going a little overboard, since the former President could take out from his rather generous pension package and meet his expenses. The former President’s pension is almost one million cash in hand. This is minus all his other benefits, such as medical care, security, and house staff; including maids and gardeners.

The Housing Minister was up in arms about the fact that the Bill does not allow for medical care for children that might become dependent on the former President, such as if he adopts, or if he marries a woman who already has children.

Dr. Roopnarine said that the intention of the Bill was not to deprive rights of any children, and he suggested that that part of the Bill could be amended.

Regarding security, the Housing Minister argued that the law should not dictate the level of security for the former President, since that is a function for the Police.

Dr. Roopnarine said, that the real function of the Bill was to correct an injustice that was made when uncapped benefits were passed into law for former Presidents.

At press time, the Bill was still being debated in the House, but even if the opposition uses  its majority to pass it in the National Assembly, it is unlikely President Donald Ramotar will attach his signature to it.

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