…Guyana is too poor to bankroll politicians, party stalwarts
Government is under immense pressure to withdraw the Hamilton Green Pension Bill 2016 which is being regarded by local transparency watchdog as a reward from the People’s National Congress (PNC) faction of the coalition government to its strongman at the expense of the public purse.
Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI) in a strongly worded missive, contends that the Bill is “vulgar, politically partisan and reeks of cronyism” and has no basis for justification.
Parliamentarians will be heading to the National Assembly later today, fully prepared to debate the Bill, which was specifically crafted for former Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green, and provides for him to be paid an extravagant pension for his controversial tenure as Prime Minister between 1985 and 1992.
The pension is to be based on the salary of a current Prime Minister – a salary Green did not earn. In addition, Green is to receive the full benefits of a former President – a position which he never held.
INSULT TO GUYANESE
TIGI argues that the Bill is a blatant insult to Guyanese, especially those who have contributed exceedingly more to the development of the country than Green ever had; such as former Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson.
“And what about those who stood up to Mr. Green and his unacceptable conduct? People like Eusi Kwayana and Moses Bhagwan, who for their long-suffering service and sacrifice to protect Guyana from Green’s authoritarian and policies have been overlooked,” the body highlighted.
It contends that the sheer extravagance of the provisions of the Bill specifically for Green who is a longstanding PNC politician is an insult to all hardworking nurses, teachers, police, and public servants who are denied a substantial increase in their salaries.
“Haven’t these people been “skimming” by for too long? Guyana is too poor for its poor citizens to bankroll politicians and party stalwarts.”
The organisation blasted government for making such a decision to grant Green, who had a not too peaceful role in workers’ struggle for bread and justice, a pension and benefits for positions he never held and for contributions he never made.
“The failure of the police to interview him in relation to some grave high-profile criminal events remains a blot on its reputation and this goes a long way in explaining the distrust of the institution that continues today,” TIGI reminded.
TIGI also asks if government has conveniently forgotten that Green was only once democratically elected as Mayor in 1994 and that during his tenure, he spearheaded no policy or initiative to the benefit of the city.
TIGI anticipates that arguments will be made about the “pittance” which Green receives as a pension for his service as Prime Minister decades ago, but pointed out that at the time the law was passed, Guyana’s economy and exchange rates were reasonable.
TIGI also questions the genesis of the Bill and the licentious haste in which it was secretly written to be presented in Parliament, without significant public knowledge beforehand.
According to the organisation, these circumstances confirm the impropriety of its legislative intent.
In this regard, TIGI is demanding that government divulge the date of the cabinet decision that lead to the drafting of the bill and to explain the lack of public disclosure via post-Cabinet briefings which served to negate robust public debate.
The transparency body also observes that since the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition assumed office, it has been “unashamed and apologetic about lining the pockets of politicians and friends of the party.”
“Should this bill be rushed through parliament on Monday (today), it would confirm the position that the political elite of Guyana, on all sides of the political spectrum, are primarily concerned with protecting the financial interests of their own at the expense of the Guyanese people,” the entity asserts.
Moreover, TIGI is shocked that in such critical times when citizens are faced with an upsurge in violent criminal assaults on their persons and property, unemployment, economic hardship and high cost of living; the government finds time and effort to craft legislation to benefit one controversial individual of nebulous contribution.
TIGI demands government terminate the Bill, which it contends is blatantly repugnant since it is made in the name of a single individual rather than for all prime ministers, gives Green access to benefits of which he is not entitled based on the offices he held, provides him with a pension based on a salary that he never earned, gives special consideration to a man who is especially undeserving of such recognition given his historically divisive role in society, perpetuates the enrichment of politicians and friends of the government at the expense of the citizens, made possible only through the power entrusted to those in government and is rushed to the process without regards to transparency and good governance in general.
TIGI also calls on the AFC faction of government to clarify its position on this Bill and set out cogent reasons why it presumably supports it, given the absence of any strenuous objection from AFC.