Dear Editor,

A pensioner related to me that just about a year after he retired he became ill and was hospitalized at a considerable cost – some $150,000. He subsequently went to the National Insurance Scheme with a medical certificate and bills expecting some assistance, but to his chagrin was denied; the reason, according to NIS policy – the law – a pensioner is not entitled to any benefit/assistance for a medical condition he never had or was never noted during his period of employment. What a law! Was this law made in the best interest of the ordinary working man, endorsed as it was by parliamentarians for whom he cast his vote? Some years ago in the heyday of PNC rule, the dynamic orator Rupert Roopnaraine in one of his ‘blasts’ at a public meeting when he grabbed the rapt attention of a large crowd with profound logic and style of delivery, pointed out that not because a something has been made law that “makes it right.“ The question, he said, which must always be asked is: “Is it right?”  He beseeched the audience to always examine carefully that which was made law, and further said that they  had a civic duty and moral responsibility to confront, challenge or oppose any law if it was found wanting or was downright unjust. Dr Roopnaraine’s reasoning was in total conformity with what Mahatma Gandhi stated a very long time ago: “An unjust law is no law.“

Editor, there is nothing pleasurable in highlighting damning and unconscionable things; it is just that they need to be revealed.  Quite recently I went to the NIS in Brickdam to query a matter I have been attending to on behalf of someone for almost a year now.  I spoke to a young woman, Ms Rhonda Wilson, who was very polite and reassuring; so reassuring was she that I left with a spring in my step – a really good feeling! She reminded me of another worker, Mrs Barton, who works at the Camp Street branch and was also very polite and helpful. In my heart I know that there are other charming workers within this institution.  So how come then so many knots, bottlenecks and a multiplicity of problems are encountered at NIS? Definitely then, the rogue has got to be the system itself and not those willing and helpful workers.  During my query to Ms Wilson I took the opportunity to raise the issue of the pensioner mentioned above, and she explained to me the requirement, which is their policy. The trite explanation was that it is invariably tardiness/negligence on the part of the worker(s) which was responsible; and there was need for them to understand NIS laws and so on, which state bla bla bla, etc, etc.

Honestly I detest hearing these things. These rules are written in technical, high-flown language that is way above the worker‘s comprehension, and the authorities know very well that he will have to seek a lawyer’s service to unravel them.

Ms Wilson even mentioned their television programme which clients should become familiar with. And I didn’t forget to let her know my estimation of their mode of operation, to which she responded by saying she hoped such negative perception sooner rather than later changes through positive results. But the things people constantly complain about are not perception; they are real everyday experiences – nothing abstract.   Though I need to mention that in just about a week, as she had promised, I received a call from her with good news, for which I’m very thankful. But sadly, nice as she was or other colleagues would be, it is not their courtesy, their reassuring utterances or the perennial smile of their PRO that will make things any better, but rather an efficient system that is satisfying to contributors.   This NIS policy regarding a pensioner afflicted with a “new sickness,“ a condition that was never there before retirement ought to be revisited; it just doesn’t make sense to me, since a condition just doesn’t come suddenly, and most likely it would have been dormant there over a period of time.

I know of an elderly man over 80 years old who only knew of a condition he had when he went for an eye operation. Should such a man be denied assistance? Just as NIS deductions are mandatory, similarly it should be the case that any challenging medical condition found when the worker visits a doctor should be recorded and kept in his/her file which will finally be submitted to NIS.

While the TV programme is good this should not be solely relied upon; it will never reach all workers and many workers have never seen it. But what makes this policy even more absurd is that NIS was created to serve the worker after retirement or if incapacitated, so how come when s/he is working assistance is given but when s/he is no longer earning and health wanes, assistance is denied? Sadly, most workers only become aware of such rules when they become of age and are faced with a condition where help is needed.   This law is not only contradictory, but callous, anti-working class, uncivilized, wrong and unjust. I doubt if all those charming and courteous workers at NIS whose parents are in line to become pensioners or who themselves will one day soon become pensioners, would be bold enough to  stand in front of those thousands of retired workers, many who are victims of this law and with a straight face defend this policy.

Yours faithfully,
 Frank Fyffe

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