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Unconstitutional to deny former presidents, Granger hefty benefits

Former President Donald Ramotar (left) and his successor, David Granger (file photo)

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on Monday said a new law that seeks to cut the benefits and facilities of former presidents on grounds that it would be unconstitutional.

Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall argued that three ex Guyanese Presidents and current President David Granger cannot lose their benefits because the constitution guarantees right to property, employment and security of salaries and benefits to the highest amount.

He told a public forum at Red House, High Street, Kingston that the Former President’s (Benefits and Facilities) Bill 2015 would benefit current President David Granger and his successors, but would not be applicable to former presidents Samuel Hinds, Bharrat Jagdeo and Donald Ramotar as well as Granger

“It is important that I emphasise that the Bill seeks to repeal and no amend the 2009 Act. If it is enacted, therefore, it cannot retroactively or retrospectively affect the entitlements conferred by the 2009 Act. These are entitlements which have already accrued to the former presidents,” said Nandlall.

In the case of President Granger, these benefits accrue to him under the existing legislation and would become due only after he demits office. “When he assumed office, the 2009 Act was in force,” he said. Nandlall reasoned that the 2015 Bill does not amend the existing law passed in 2009, but rather repeals that law.

Nandlall explained Guyana’s Constitution (Article 222(3) says certain officeholders are entitled to salaries and allowances as well as other terms of service “shall not be altered to his or her disadvantage after his or her appointment” and those terms should be taken to the “more advantageous than any other terms to which he or she might have opted.” That constitutional provision, he said, applies to the President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Clerk of the National Assembly among others.

“The point is that these office holders, their salaries, their allowances, their terms of service cannot be altered to their detriment after their appointment,” he said, adding that Granger assumed office with the 2009 Act in force that guarantees him certain entitlements.

Nandlall further contended that since the salaries and allowances are charged on the Consolidated Fund, they are not subject to the approval or the disapproval of the National Assembly.

The former Attorney General also outlined that the constitution guarantees protection against the compulsory possession of any property except by or under the authority of a written law without prompt compensation.

Nandlall also argued that 2015 Bill collides with the constitution over the loss of benefits by a former President if he or she is employed for reward. He highlighted that the constitution guarantees the fundamental right to work.

The Former Presidents Benefits and Facilities Bill 2015, he said, discriminates against adopted children because it only refers to children born in or out of wedlock as beneficiaries.

While the Bill does not seek to amend former presidents’ pension which is around GUY$1.2 million per month, it does not provide for unlimited allowances for water, telephone and electricity. The Bill  proposes to limit personal household staff of former presidents to three and clerical and technical staff to three .

Former presidents and their children, if the bill is passed, will also be subject to “a financial limit of $200,000 per annum, free medical attention and treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by – a former president himself and his children below the age of eighteen years.”

Former presidents and their children, if the bill is passed, will also be subject to “a financial limit of $200,000 per annum, free medical attention and treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by – a former president himself and his children below the age of eighteen years.”

The spouse of the former president will also be covered under this provision which is encapsulated in Section 3 (d). The same legislation, however, dictates that reimbursement will not be given for medical attention attained abroad where it could have been received in Guyana at government institutions.

Section 3 (f) proposes that former presidents be allowed “not more than two motor-vehicles owned and maintained by the state.”