I avoided responding to the comments made by Leader of the Opposition Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and former Attorney General on the government’s proposed legislation to grant to former Prime Minister Hamilton Green a long overdue pension. However, when a reputable and key stakeholder organization like the Guyana Human Rights Association could descend to the level they did in their recent press statement it precipitated my contribution to the discussion.
Despite our politics, leaders must demonstrate a level of political maturity to recognize and respect the contribution of other leaders despite their political affiliation.
Former Prime Minister Hamilton Green gave his entire life in service to his fellow countrymen and women at a political level through the leadership of the Peoples’ National Congress and the Good and Green Georgetown/Guyana. He was a legislator and minister of government during the period 1969-1992 and Mayor and Councillor of the City of Georgetown. During the period 1985-1992 he held the second highest office of the land, a period when Guyana saw fundamental changes in all facets of national life.
He could have chosen a different career but he stood by his countrymen and women, and his stick-to-itiveness and singleness of purpose must be recognized.
Therefore this discussion should not be clouded by personality and partisan politics but an objective and patriotic discourse as to how we reward those Guyanese who would have served this country, particularly those who held public constitutional offices.
If the period during which these individuals served and alleged occurrences at the time constitute the barometer by which to measure entitlement to government’s pension, then the entire leadership of the former government which served during a dark period of post-independent Guyana 2003-06, will automatically be disqualified.
It is unfortunate that the Guyana Human Rights Association’s contribution comes on the eve of Guyana marking the tenth anniversary of the brutal assault on press freedom with the seventeen months’ suspension of state advertisements to the Stabroek News for having a different view from that of the previous government. May I hasten to say that Hamilton Green was the second in command of the state apparatus when the freedom of the press was expanded and independent television and newspapers made their entry to Guyana.
Therefore it is my view that the legislation is timely and will set the stage for future holders of that office to benefit. Additionally, I trust that a similar initiative will be taken to consider those members of parliament and former ministers prior to 1992 who gave dedicated and distinguished service to Guyana and are currently surviving on less than a hundred thousand dollars a month from a parliamentary pension. Individuals like Sir Shridath Ramphal, Rashleigh Jackson, Eusi Kwayana Dr Mohammed Shahabuddin and Isahak Basir.
Finance Minister Winston Jordon in his first budget presentation gave an undertaking to “examine the plight of Members of Parliament and Ministers, who held office prior to 1992, and, currently, receive pensions that are a fraction of those of the present occupants.” I am confident that this legislation is part of a series of laws aimed at addressing the discriminatory posture of the previous administration.