Former Presidents (Benefits and Other Facilities) Bill 20123178 25 Jan, 2013
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, I believe at some point in time this Assembly has to behave in a very mature manner. At some point we have to discuss things and look at all aspects of it. We should not be concerned whether it is People’s Progressive Party (PPP), A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) or AFC. We are discussing the benefits of a person who was the President of our country. I am not getting involved in personalities. If we do that, we cannot compare the President of a nation with a clerk or a mason. We cannot. The relationship is entirely different. So even though I recognise Mr. Nagamootoo for his flamboyance, I understand clearly that he is being over political. Let us be a little practical.
I want to go back to the Hon. Member whom I respect, Dr. Roopnarine when he spoke about partisan and non- partisan participation in activities of Presidents of America. I want to caution him, maybe he read two sentences. When Mr. Bill Clinton travelled to campaign for President Obama and the other senators he does not leave the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) behind, they go with him. When the Bushes campaign for the other Republicans they do not leave the FBI behind. They walk with them. We have to be careful in how far we go in placing limitations on what Presidents do. Bill Clinton campaigned. The Carter Office had over 4,000 square feet of office space and he paid US102,000 annually; Bush, 4,574 square feet office space, US$175,000; Bill Clinton, 8300 square feet, US$516,000 per year. You did not hear the Republicans going to Congress and saying let us change this equation. [Mrs. Backer: What is their Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?] That is not the point. You did not hear the Republicans saying that Carter only get US$100,000; you did not hear them say that Bush get US$100,000 but yet you pay US$500,000 to Clinton. [Mrs. Backer: What is their GDP?] It is not about the GDP it is about the concept, the philosophy of being a president and the respect for presidency. The problem in this country is that we tend not to respect things. The onslaught from this Bill is because we do not respect system and institutions. That is our problem. The Bill says three or two security. Most Presidents throughout the world, including America, have security for life. They do not cap security. You cannot cap security for a person who had to make all kinds of decisions - controversial, some for and some against. [Mr. Ramjattan: Any terrorist want Mr. Jagdeo?] Maybe you are the terrorist, I do not know. I do not know your background. [Interruption] I am responding to him. He is in the House he needs to be quiet.
Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Member, my long standing friend, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo spoke. [Mrs. Backer: He was in the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) with you?] We go way past that. We walk the dangerous roads together; the days when we had to fight you - dangerous days. He knows of the days.
He spoke about the lack of health services for the sugar workers. Mr. Speaker, as far as I know every citizen of this country can have free health service, every citizen of this country can have free education up to secondary; every student in this country can pay $136,000 a year to go to the University of Guyana and wait 20 years to begin to repay that Bill.
Mr. Speaker, a pension is a must for most public servants, but the problem I have today with this Bill is not the song but the singer. There was the movie the singer and the song. I do not have a problem to debate the song but it is the singer. It is not about Member of Parliament (MP) Greenidge, it is about a human being who for years participated in the destruction of the national economy and has the nerve to come here today and debate this matter. It is not about the song it is about the singer; wrong person.
Mrs. Backer: Mr. Speaker, on a Point of Order, unless the Hon. Member is prepared to produce evidence that Mr. Greendige destroyed the economy, I respectfully submit that he should withdraw it until he could bring that information.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, I am going to rattle out the evidence, 38% interest rate, 60% unemployment, no light, no water, no house lot, no roads…[Noisy Interruption]
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, Mr. Lumumba, one second, please. Hon Members it is well known that both sides of this House made statements accusatory of each other - destroying the economy, destroying the moral fabric of Guyana destroying the social fabric, destroying the security sector, destroying the legal sector, participating… So it is not a new claim one way or the other, and I do not see that it has to be withdrawn; it has to be defended, but I do not see that it has to be withdrawn.
Mr. Lumumba: Mr. Speaker, I am saying that the mover of the motion participated in the national destruction of our economy and has the nerve to come in this National Assembly today…
Mr. Greenidge: Mr. Speaker, I urge you to exercise the powers you have in order to keep this debate within the realms… if I got up here and started to accuse Mr. Lumumba of being a criminal, I would be asked to withdraw; nobody is going to tell me to establish that. This is not a permissible attack.
Mr. Speaker: Mr. Greenidge I take your point. The claim is that you participated in… [Interruption] Yes, that is the word. The word used was participated in. [Shouts of No from Opposition Members]
Mr. Lumumba: Alright, Sir, I will use the word “participated”. I stand to be corrected; “participated” not “headed”. Being the head is debatable.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Member Mr. Lumumba, what was the word you used?
Mr. Lumumba: Participated. [Shouts of no and liar from Opposition Members] How in this noble House my colleagues can call me a liar.
Mr. Speaker: During Mr. Nagamootoo’s presentation Mr. Neendkumar was making a lot of claims about “liar, liar, liar”. I was hearing them coming quite distinctly. So you have to take them.
Now, we are not to impute any ill motive against any Member of the House. There is a broad statement made. If you say that he was participating in a government in which the economy was destroyed, it is permissible. I will permit that. That is your opinion; I will permit that.
Mr. Lumumba: Thank you, Sir. Mr. Speaker, let us not get confused, this Bill is not about President Jagdeo’s pension or entitlement it is about the grouse of the nonproductive elements of society. I cannot call names. It is about pointing fingers. President Jagdeo has taken this country out of a backward economic condition and pointed us to progress. [Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Harmon: Cheddi did not do anything?] [Mrs. Backer: The two Jagans did not do anyhing?] We do not need you to defend Mr. Jagan, we can do that ourselves. You can stay out; this is a family business.
I believe the real reason behind the onslaught against Mr. Jagdeo is because of the economic differences in framework in the society today. I do not want to blame Mr. Granger, but Mr. Granger was the Minister of Finance…[Interruption] Mr. Granger, I must apologise. You were responsible in charge of the guns. I am so sorry. You were in charge of the battalions, but you can understand why I confuse you with him as the potential leader.
Mr. Speaker, I want to emphasise the distinction between the gentleman and the Member of Parliament who proposed this Bill. This distinction is important as we seek to deal with this issue. I believe that if a different MP has raised this Bill, then both sides would have been in a better position to sit down and articulate the issues and see where there are differences and where we probably can make some compromises. I do not think anybody on our side has problems in some of the wider areas, but the relationship and what has been proposed is as if there was some sinister plot by the PPP/C to enrich Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo has three honorary doctorates since he left the Government. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo is capable of taking care of himself. Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo is capable of making money in any part of the world, so we do not need to have a Bill that is going to go against Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo. We need to deal with a Bill that makes sense for Guyana. All I am saying is that at the same time we are talking about protecting and preserving tax payer’s money, I believe that I have the right to say that Member of Parliament Greenidge for ten years did not protect tax payer’s money. I have the right to say that. Why I cannot say that? The same tax payer’s money he wants to protect now for ten years, he was incapable of telling this country what happened to the money. But, yet, he has the nerve to come with a Bill. So I say, mischief is afoot. This Bill will not hurt Mr. Jagdeo; this Bill will not hurt Mr. Ramotar, so I do not understand the reason for this Bill.
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members I am taking a break for 15 minutes. The Deputy Speaker will be in the chair.
[Mdm. Deputy Speaker in the Chair]
Mr. Lumumba: Hon. Speaker, I pledge I will be on my best behaviour, Madam.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker: I will try to control the Members on the eastern side of the House.
Mr. Lumumba: I appreciate. As neighbours, I will be careful about what I say.
Mdm. Deputy Speaker: And on the western side of course.
Mr. Lumumba: Thank you. Mdm. Deputy Speaker, I believe this Bill is petty, is frivolous, vindictive, wicked and, again, an attempt to fool the Guyanese public. It is an attempt by Member of Parliament Greendige to let Guyanese people believe that he can repent for his past disaster. Thank you. [Applause]
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