The members of the National Commission on the Elderly (NCE) are perturbed that they have not had a meeting in two years and see this as reflecting a lack of support from the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security in the execution of their mandate.
The NCE was set up to administer the disbursement of financial and other forms of assistance available to senior citizens.
“This is one of the most important commissions in the country. We are concerned that it is not being encouraged to function for so many elderly persons who are in need of services,” Chairman Donald Trotman said.
He told Stabroek News he arranged with the Ministry of Human Services to convene a meeting two months ago, however on the day arranged, only he and the commission’s Secretary Govind Singh turned up.
Upon enquiring about the absence of the other members, he said the excuse provided was that they had not been notified about the meeting. He indicated that the meeting was important since it was supposed to have represented the resuscitation of the commission.
When contacted for a comment Minister of Human Services Priya Manickchand said, “I can’t tell them to function.” She said that it was the duty of the commission to set up its meetings.
However, NCE member Volda Lawrence said meetings were usually called by the ministry. She explained that under former ministers Indra Chandarpal and Bibi Shadick, there were statutory dates set for meetings.
“There have been no meetings under Manickchand; I’m really upset at this,” Lawrence said. She added that the Month of the Elderly passed with no input from the commission. “Nothing has been happening.”
Although there have not been any meetings, Trotman said, he had received letters from the permanent secretary informing him that the life of the commission had been extended. “There is a lot of work to be done,” he stressed.
He indicated that while Chandarpal had been very active in encouraging and facilitating the work of the commission, subsequent ministers had not been as attentive.
Over time, some of the commissioners have died. While replacements have been identified, they are unknown to the current nine members because there have been no meetings. Other reasons advanced for the failure to meet include the unavailability of accommodation, or a secretary.
Trotman said the current secretary was quite interested but his work was not being encouraged.
“We regret that October – Month of Elderly – has passed with no communication with me as chairman of the commission to be involved in programmes organised,” he said. However, he indicated that he intended to continue to make efforts so that a meeting could be arranged before year end.
In May 1999, Cabinet appointed the National Com-mission on the Elderly, comprising 15 persons, as a welfare agency, to advise the government through the Ministry of Human Services and make recommendations on measures that would improve the welfare of elderly persons in Guyana.