Why has Mrs Hoyte not been paid her late husband’s presidential pension?

Dear Editor,

I once again express utter consternation at the refusal of President Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C government of Guyana to pay the pension owed to the late former President of Guyana, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, to his surviving 76-year-old widow and former First Lady of Guyana, Mrs Joyce Hoyte.

A pension is not a privilege or a gift. It constitutes an accumulation of monies which one regularly paid into a fund over the period of one’s career, which must then, upon retirement, be paid back to that individual as retirement benefits. This is why pension plans are regulated by law and are an ‘entitlement.’

Therefore the refusal to pay Mrs Hoyte her husband’s pension is against the law. Such callousness lacks basic human decency and is unacceptable in a civilized society. It is an embarrassment for the Guyanese people. After all, what nation on earth refuses to pay its former First Lady – a 76 year-old widow at that, her dead husband’s retirement benefits to which she is lawfully entitled?

Since President Hoyte demitted the Presidency in 1992, the PPP/C government has refused to pay his presidential retirement benefits. He had insisted to his staff that he would never go to the PPP begging for a lawful entitlement. Sadly, he died in 2002 without receiving his pension. But let there be no mistake;  I am in close communication with Mrs Hoyte. I will fight for her with every ounce of energy in my being, without relenting, until she receives her money. For this cause, I call on all Guyanese to join with me.

Under extant laws, President Hoyte would have been entitled to a pension equal to seven-eighths  of the current President’s salary. That is approximately $800,000.00 per month. The other former First Lady, Mrs Doreen Chung, currently receives her late husband’s pension. So what makes Joyce Hoyte different?

I first raised this matter in the press on November 16, 2008. President Jagdeo immediately thereafter personally contacted Mrs Hoyte and said he was unaware of this issue.

President Jagdeo assured Mrs Hoyte that upon his return from an overseas mission upon which he was then embarking, he would ensure its speedy resolution. However today, five months later, the matter remains unresolved.

Moreover, I previously called President Jagdeo and Police Commissioner Henry Greene’s attention to the lack of adequate security at Mrs Hoyte’s residence. Yet, nothing has been done.  Mrs Hoyte currently has one police guard at her home per shift.

The day guard also serves as her driver. Whenever that driver is out on driving duties, the former First Lady and her property are left unprotected. Is this how the state proposes to repay her for her husband’s service to Guyana?

Mrs Joyce Hoyte does not involve herself in partisan politics. She is a non-partisan symbol of the state and therefore deserves to be treated with respect and dignity by the government of the day. Therefore, I refuse to stand idly by while the Guyana government treats her with indignity.

The only payment she currently receives is a presidential widow’s pension of approximately, $100,000.00 per month from the Parliament. That may just be enough to cover her electricity bill.

Under the law she is entitled to a housekeeper, a gardener and adequate security. Currently, she receives none of the above. Why?

The Government of Guyana owes Mrs Hoyte her husband’s pension from 1992 to date. I call on President Jagdeo to put aside petty partisan politics and pay Mrs Joyce Hoyte her husband’s pension to which she is lawfully entitled.

Yours faithfully,
Rickford Burke
Caribbean Guyana
Institute for Democracy  (CGID)

Editor’s note

We are sending a copy of this letter to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, for any comments he might wish to make.

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