Candidate at the recently concluded general elections, Desmond Trotman has moved to the courts challenging the constitutionality of the controversial benefits bill which was passed by the Jagdeo administration and signed into law in 2009.
That law which gives a series of benefits without caps to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and any other former President has been widely condemned by the opposition and parts of civil society and was one of the major planks in the recent general election campaign.
The attorney general has 10 days following service of the writ to enter an appearance in the matter. The matter will be heard in chambers.
In an affidavit in support of the application for a conservatory order, Trotman says he has been advised that the Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act 2009 is unconstitutional.
Referring to Article 181 (2) of the Constitution which says that “A person who has held the office of President shall receive such pension or, upon the expiration of his term of office, such gratuity as may be prescribed by Parliament. Any such pension or gratuity shall be a charge on the Consolidated Fund”, Trotman says he has been advised by his attorney that the Act assented to in 2009, to wit Sections 2 and 3, violate this article of the constitution.
Trotman said that he then caused an action to be filed and was seeking the following orders: a declaration that the Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 which purports to amend Article 181(2) of the Constitution without complying with the special legislative procedure set out in Article 164 of the Constitution is unconstitutional, null and void.
Trotman, a longstanding member of the Working People’s Alliance and a candidate for A Partnership for National Unity at the recent elections, is also seeking a conservatory order preserving the status quo which existed prior to the date when the Act came into force until the determination of the proceedings.
The sections of the Act cited by Trotman as unconstitutional are:
(2) Every person who having held the office of President and ceased to hold that office by virtue of the provisions of article 92 of the Constitution or otherwise shall, during the remainder of his lifetime, be entitled to the following –
a) payment in respect of the expenses incurred in the provision and use of water, electricity and telephone services at the place of residence in Guyana;
b) services of personal and household staff including an attendant and a gardener;
c) services of clerical and technical staff, if requested;
d) free medical attendance and medical treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by him for the medical attendance or treatment of himself and the dependant members of his family;
e) full-time personal security and services of Presidential Guard Service at the place of residence;
f) the provision of vehicles owned and maintained by the State;
g) toll free road transportation in Guyana;
h) an annual vacation allowance equivalent to the cost of two first class return airfares provided on the same basis as that granted to serving members of the Judiciary;
i) a tax exemption status identical to that enjoyed by a serving President.
Section 3 of the Act says: The Minister may, subject to negative resolution of the National Assembly, make regulations for giving effect to the provisions of this Act.
The summons was taken out by attorney at law Christopher Ram.