Govt and next govt to themselves?

By Winford James
June 26, 2014 –

Dr. Winford JamesThe opposition last Friday joined with the government in passing the Judges’ Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2013 and the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) (Amendment) Bill, 2014. The collaboration was for me not only momentous, but also staggering in its bold exploitation of opportunism and power.

The Government and the Opposition had teamed up to aggrandise themselves for life! And, in the process, they had gone over the heads of the Salary Review Commission with cynical impunity! After all, they are the lawmaking body of the land and no foot-dragging, dinosaurian, crummy little commission was about to dilute their power and authority.

Both bills seek to improve salaries, pensions, and retiring allowances for judges and parliamentarians to such an extent as to keep them not merely financially comfortable but rich for the rest of their lives, during both active service and retirement. More specifically, they seek to index the pensions of judges to not only their tax-free salaries but also their tax-free allowances; to include allowances in the pensions of parliamentarians and to index the inflated pensions to MPs’ current taxed salaries and allowances, but to provide a graduated percentage of these salaries based on years of experience; and to provide a termination benefit for MPs to the tune of half of their annual salaries in addition to their termly gratuities.

People, including my fellow columnists, were alarmed. Michael Harris had some choice words for the act and the collaboration: “most blatant and boldfaced act of self-enrichment ever witnessed in our political history”, “political grand larceny”, “thieves in the night”.

The strident public outcry has caused the Government to back-back on the bills. The PM issued a statement to the effect, having decided “not to proceed with approving the bills until all perspectives and opinions are ventilated”. Further, she is willing to have a Senate Select Committee review the matter and to have her Government bound by its recommendations.

I too was alarmed by the collaboration. I thought I had heard the Opposition say after Section 34 that they would never again co-operate with the Government, given the egregious degree of their deception of the Opposition and members of the judiciary. I knew that Dr Rowley had said in the past that the emoluments of judges and parliamentarians badly needed to be increased, but I did not know that he was still collaborating legislatively with the Government.

Indeed, the Prime Minister exclaimed in her statement putting a hold on the bills: “It is rare that the Government and the Opposition ever agree on anything.”

If she is right, why would the Opposition collaborate with the Government in this case? Because of the prospect of permanent personal financial security?

But I was so incredulous at the development—at what seemed to be the naked greed of our representatives and the sheer abuse of parliamentary power—that I decided to do a little research. I wanted to find out if the Opposition had not been collaborating legislatively with the government all along but had decided to change their mind in the case of these bills from which they stood to benefit handsomely.

I checked data on the voting behaviour of the Opposition in respect of bills introduced in the four sessions of this Parliament since 2010. A surprise was waiting for me. Here’s what I found — In the first session of Parliament—June 2010 to June 2011—there were 43 bills. Fourteen lapsed, one was withdrawn, the Opposition supported 27, and they rejected one.

In the second session—June 2011 to June 2012—there were 27 bills. Nine lapsed, one was withdrawn, the Opposition abstained re one, they supported 13, and rejected four.

In the third session—June 2012 to June 2013— there were 26 bills. Nine lapsed, the Opposition abstained re one, they supported 12, and rejected four.

In the fourth and current session—July 2013 to June 2014— there have been 28 bills. Ten are at the reading stage, three at the committee stage, the Opposition have supported seven, and they have rejected seven.

In summary, then, there have been 124 bills in the current Parliament. Thirty-two have lapsed, two have been withdrawn, the Opposition have abstained from voting on two, they have supported 59, they have rejected 16, ten are at the reading stage, and three are at the committee stage.

It is clear then that, in collaborating with the Government on the money bills for judges and parliamentarians, the Opposition was continuing a practice in this Parliament of collaborating with the Government, contrary to Ms Persad-Bissessar’s claim of rare agreement between the two bodies. Was she distorting the truth, you think?

5 thoughts on “Govt and next govt to themselves?”

  1. Now doing what should have been done before

    Guardian Editorial

    Faced with the prospect of a barrage of criticism from the Independent Senators, that was already engaged in by significant newsmakers and a public cynical about the motives of a government bringing legislation to enhance the pension benefits of MPs and judges, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has done the sensible thing and temporarily put a halt to debate on the bills.

    As a means of appeasing conflict and achieving a more balanced approach to updating the pensions of these public officers, the PM has suggested referring the bills to a select committee of the Senate. The committee should seek the advice of experts in the field of actuarial science and other such professionals in an effort to calculate the long-term impact of the projected increases on Government’s fiscal operations and comparisons to the pensions of similarly placed workers.

    The absence of such facts and figures to back up the bills is one of their weak points. And as pointed out by retired head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas, this consultative approach should have been adopted before the bills were brought to the Parliament.

    Heated pension debate in the Senate

    “This legislation has elicited quite a lot of acrimony in our society. It has resulted in some rats coming out of their holes,” Robinson-Regis said, getting desk-thumping support.
    “Determining that in the situation where persons who have served this society, and now find themselves almost in a state of mendicancy, are being attacked unfairly by persons who are perhaps millionaires,” Robinson-Regis said to deskthumping, and drawing satisfied “aaahhhhhs” from both Government and Opposition benches.
    “There has been a feigned outcry, feigned ignorance and there has been an unexpected level of hypocrisy,” she said. “Parliamentarians must be treated like dogs,” she said, drawing the response of “yes” both Government and Opposition senators. “That is what this society believes…You must work hard and at the end of the day, you must be kicked, be ill-treated,” she said, stating that both judges and parliamentarians give public service.
    Full Article :

    Dumas: Robinson-Regis’ rat statement disrespectful

    Retired judge: Pension review long overdue

    The right thing but wrong reason
    Politics, principle and public opinion mesh only infrequently, but Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s decision to put the pensions legislation on hold is one of those rare occasions.


    Speaking of governmental bandits, and those in waiting, ain’t this a rather loquacious ,second division officer?Who is in charge here Commissioner Williams?
    Ummmm,…. I take that back, for the guy do have a point.
    Translation:- That clueless Tin pan soldier, turn National Security Minister, big wig, and the over hyped, so called legal luminary,more so , bully of an AG, are the ones pulling the Police service strings.
    Two clueless, non-elected, political comedians, that can do no wrong , since they seem to always have the ears of their PM.
    Notice however folks, that for all the empty, over the top rhetoric, and excuses, re law enforcement failures, no one is talking about the perception , by most across our pooukation ,of ‘unequal playing field justice,’ and the fact that ‘white color rogues, and vagabonds’-many with political connections- are getting a pass, si?
    Everyone just seem to get a hard on for low end blue color tugs, unable to hire Israel Khan,Gilbert Peterson, Lady Elder, or Ramesh Lawrence Maraj, to defend them before the Privy council.
    Yeah , continue to denigrate Public Servants,or worst yet , destroy the moral of Police Officers , and expect miracles .
    We get it,Rudy Gulliani is the grand , pro electioneering ,Trini crime solving, micro managing PP plan!

    Won’t it be ironic, if his advice entail zero tolerance for crimes committed in all enclaves , across T&T, including those favored by ‘rising sun nation?’
    I unlike our PM, and her handlers , was fortunate , to have find guidance , from the wisest woman that ever lived , in the body of my late, extremely wise, Tobago granny.She would often say to yours truly , vack in de day- ‘show me your companion, and I’ll tell you who you are.’ Put differently,’birds of a feather, flock together.’
    Rudy loved him some Bernard Kerik, even if most of law abiding America didn’t. The question is ,just why did Jagdeo Guyana love Guliani, and now Kamla do?

    Such “a tragedy of errors,” hummm?
    I’ve said it once , twice, but it’s worth repeating-‘de man , or woman , who can make me hate dis land,ennnt born yet!’

  4. Pensions and poverty
    MARION O’CALLAGHAN Monday, July 7 2014
    HERE IS something unreal about the pensions debate. And unseemly. It is likely to increase the suspicion that politics is only another way of grabbing status and money. And that on this Government and Opposition members are agreed. They agree on nothing else. This is the “interest” which links them.

  5. Do you expect anything different from bandits? Of course there are two kinds those that are easily caught and jailed and those who are always one step above the law. It helps when you pass the laws but have no intention of enforcing them especially when you and yours are breaking them. Whether it is cocaine in orange juice or emaiigate or section 34 or whatever ….and last but not least when you put a zipper on the President’s mouth. Huh it is a lucky thing… that God doh sleep. There will be endless suffering to come …Patrick can surely tell you that.

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