Green pension Bill should have said ‘former prime ministers’

Dear Editor,

It is ironic that on the same day when media houses, both electronic and print were highlighting the Guyana Public Service Union statement, which lamented the foot-dragging by the government on the deadlocked wages and salaries negotiations with the union, Guyanese were informed of the regime’s decision to table in parliament a bill to give a million plus dollars in pension benefits to former Mayor of Georgetown, Mr Hamilton Green.

In examining this issue I begin by recognizing that there are a number of factors which may have impacted on the decision to resolve this matter. Some of these considerations I do not feel competent to address since I am not in a position to offer an informed comment on them. Therefore this letter is limited in its scope. However, I want to say that over the years throughout the 23 years of the PPP/C’s rule there have been acts of injustice committed by the regime against long-serving, dedicated and faithful Guyanese. It is in this context that the Green pension pack has to be seen. But he should not be singled out for special treatment.

To the ex-Mayor’s credit, while welcoming the government’s decision he felt it necessary to pose the question – why is the bill restricted to him? Green said, “I thought the bill would have just said Prime Minister, I don’t know why the bill should carry my name. The bill shouldn’t carry my name. The bill should say former Prime Ministers.” These utterances demonstrated Green’s profound disappointment and sense of abuse. It is clear that the former Mayor felt embarrassed and he is justified in feeling so.

This recklessness gives the opposition PPP/C the ammunition they need to continue their relentless attacks on the APNU+AFC government. I can’t understand why the cabinet would make such a controversial decision, particularly in light of its failure to reach an amicable agreement with the public servants and their representatives.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the way the cabinet does business.  There seems to be no political discussions which inform these decisions. The frequency with which these missteps are made indicates the existence of a ‘crisis’ in the coalition’s governance culture.   You don’t have to be a political scientist to know that it would have made more sense for the bill to apply to all former prime ministers. If the cabinet felt that doing so was putting too huge a burden on the public purse I will contend here that it would have been better to offer Mr Green a one-off payment.

In closing I will posit that the present situation is politically counterproductive, since it hurts the APNU+AFC coalition in the eyes of the public, and it undermines the legitimacy of victims of the PPP/C regime for redress. In personalizing the bill in the way the government has done is a disservice to a longstanding comrade. Politically the only winners in this ill-conceived endeavour are the opposition PPP/C.

 

Yours faithfully,

Tacuma Ogunseye

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