Former president Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday defended his palatial home and contentious presidential benefits package, saying he was sure that the late President Cheddi Jagan would not have wanted his ministers living in an underprivileged manner.
Further, Jagdeo stressed that since he demitted office over three years ago he has not received any money for medical expenses, contrary to public opinion that he bleeds the state’s treasury.
“I don’t believe ministers should have to live in a logie to prove that they are not corrupt… Cheddi Jagan didn’t have to prove that by living in a logie,” Jagdeo said, when asked if he believed that his posh home and the rapid accumulation of wealth by ministers in the PPP/C would be within the late president’s ideals.
“I don’t think Cheddi Jagan, living in Bel Air Park (Eds note: the Jagans lived in Bel Air) at that time, in a nice house, was typical of Guyana. But Cheddi Jagan lived at that time there. Did that weaken his commitment to the cause? No.
At that time that was a prime area. It was a big piece of land, nice house and it still is a nice house,” he said.
“Did that weaken his commitment to the cause? Did that make him corrupt or anything of the sort? What is the point they are making?
My thing is when I built my first house, they said it was too big. Then, secondly, that I sold it for a lot of money, which is not so much now—because I know you have other people selling their houses for two and three times more than I sold mine,” he added.
He said too that Jagan would also not want them having meagre means of transportation. “Cheddi Jagan wanted us to ride motorcycles all our lives?” the former president questioned.
According to Jagdeo, he has been bombarded by questions and has received criticisms about where he acquired money from for his home and posh lifestyle. He said if those are the only criticisms to his 20 odd years of serving in public office, he could not be bothered. “If, in 20 odd years, the worst thing that they can say about me is that I have a big house and I earn a lot of money abroad, then I am good… everything that I do, I am transparent about it. We would like to see everybody progress. Everybody,” he said.
Critics have asked him to justify his holdings based on the presidential salary and benefits he received over 12 years.
Speaking on medical assistance received from the state, he made it clear that while he has submitted invoices for two medical checkups, he has not received any money for these to date.
“That’s none of your business. That’s a private thing and the state did not pay for it,” was his abrupt response when asked about the source of payment for his private medevac to the United States back in 2013.
“Since I left office, I’ve been on two checkups, that’s it, privately, and I have not been reimbursed for it. I have not received a cent from the state since I left office.
Not one cent. The state did not pay, that is my private business. I have not received a single cent from the treasury for the three years I have been out of office for medical expenses,” he went on to add.
Last month, Colin Pilgrim, a Charlestown resident, filed a motion in the High Court seeking several orders, including one for the issuing of the requisite regulations under the controversial Former Presi-dents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act 2009 to permit Jagdeo to tap a broad range of benefits. The action signaled that Jagdeo had not accessed all of benefits enshrined in the Act.
The Act, which had generated severe criticism from opposition parties and other sections of society over what they said was its extravagance, was passed in 2009 with the PPP/C administration using its majority.