By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Opposition Leader and former President, Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that he will not beg the APNU+AFC government to uncap the benefits he is entitled to under the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act.
Jagdeo along with former President, Donald Ramotar have sued the State for passing a Bill in the National Assembly, which caps their benefits. The Opposition Leader during a press conference at the PPP’s Headquarters on Wednesday, December 09, 2015 said that he and Ramotar are simply seeking a declaration that the Act which was passed is unconstitutional.
He pointed out the irony in the government cutting the benefits of former Presidents, but then gave government ministers and other officials a salary increase.
“So I must forego… myself and Ramotar, to prove a notion that we are not corrupt; we must forego benefits that Arthur Chung enjoyed…Janet Jagan enjoyed, all the other Presidents…it’s not new, it was enjoyed by Presidents in the past,” Jagdeo argued.
He further noted, “Just to prove that we’re not corrupt and then in the same token, they take a huge salary increase and accuse us of corruption. These are entitlements, benefits that were there for Presidents in the past.”
According to the former President, he has never abused his benefits as set out in the legislation.
“It’s not the caps we are worried about… the cap is higher now for household staff than I currently have and had under the PPP. So it’s not like the abuse about the caps, it is about entitlements. They want to deprive us of things that previous Presidents had,” Jagdeo told reporters.
He made it pellucid that he has earned his benefits and will not beg the APNU+AFC government to uncap them.
“We’re using the courts; we’re not going to beg them because I think they want us to go and beg and grovel and we can live without this [benefits] but we’re not going to allow them to take away rights and benefits that we have earned.”
The amended Act limits expenses incurred for utilities such as telephone, water and electricity to $25,000 each month. It also states that “services of personal and household staff, including a gardener, provided that the total number of such staff shall not exceed three persons, including any member of the staff who may be on earned vacation or sick leave.”
Further, the Former Presidents are subject to a financial limit of $200,000 per annum to cover medical expenses; however the reimbursement is only given if the said medical treatment is not available at local public health institutions.