APNU candidate challenges legality of presidents’ benefits law

The Former Presidents (Benefits and other Facilities) Act, which was passed by the Bharrat Jagdeo administration and signed into law in 2009, gives an uncapped series of benefits to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and any other former President. It 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.

In an affidavit in support of the application for a conservatory order, Trotman said he has been advised that the Act is unconstitutional. Further, he said he has been advised by his attorney that the Act, in sections 2 and 3, violate 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.” Section 2 of the Act describes the benefits due to former presidents, while Section 3 allows the Finance Minister, subject to negative resolution of the National Assembly, to make regulations for giving effect to the provisions of the law.

Trotman is seeking 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 APNU 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 summons was taken out by attorney at law Christopher Ram. The Attorney General has 10 days following service of the writ to enter an appearance in the matter, which will be heard in chambers.

Questioned about Trotman’s filing, Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira yesterday said that she did not understand the action and queried whether the court was going to rule on a constitutional issue.

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