Jagdeo will not get pension plus parliamentary pay – Ramjattan
As he addressed the National Assembly on Thursday, Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, made it clear that former Presidents who choose to return to Parliament will not be given their full pension. Ramjattan’s comment was contained in the debate on the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill which was eventually passed. As he was stared by empty benches on the opposition side of the House, the Vice President said, “We all now know that the former President Mr. (Bharrat) Jagdeo might soon come to this House as Opposition Leader. We might have him being a Legislator now and he might want to argue that he is entitled to pension as a President and also salary as an Opposition Leader.” Before Ramjattan could have uttered another word, his colleague, Minister of Social Cohesion, Amna Ally shouted, “nah, nah, nah…not at all.” Just as the Vice President was about to continue, he was interrupted by the Speaker of the House, Dr. Barton Scotland who asked him to “confine your observations to the merit of the Bill before us.” Ramjattan responded that his point was directly related to the Bill, noting that there was an urgent need for clarity. The Minister promised to be short on his point but noted that numerous members of the public as well as first time Members of Parliament have been asking him related questions. The Minister was therefore allowed to continue. He said, “It will not be the case whereby he (Jagdeo) will get both sums as there is a law in place that prevents such.” Ramjattan, an Attorney-at-Law, then quoted the “Pensions of Presidents, Parliamentary and Special Offices” law saying that that legislation makes things “very clear”. The law as quoted by Ramjattan says, “The President’s pension and the Prime Minister’s pension shall, if the person to whom it is payable become entitled to a salary as a legislator, cease to be payable during the period in respect of which the person is in receipt of that salary as a legislator. But where the President’s pension or as the case may be, the Prime Minister’s pension, exceeds the rate of the legislator’s salary, nothing in this subsection shall prevent the payment of such pension to the extent of such excess.” The Minister said that his interpretation of the law is that whenever a President is going to be paid as a Legislator, as in the case where Presidents are currently entitled to $1.4M as the President’s pension, he or she will be paid his or her salary as a Legislator, plus the excess that will bring him or her up to the pension amount. “So there will not be an additional but just to the extent of such an excess, and I want to make that point clear so if Jagdeo, or any other former President feels like they will get both, no, that is not the case,” said Ramjattan. The Minister’s point was met with loud applause from his colleagues to the extent that it sounded as if both sides of the House were occupied. Ramjattan continued, “And so notwithstanding there being an argument that he has to be paid both the pension of a President which is $1.4 M and Leader of the Opposition salary which is another $600,000 or $700,000 bringing it to about $2M, that is not going to be the case and in any event, this administration is not going to double dip for that former President or for any former President for that fact.” For that statement, Ramjattan was given yet another round of applause.