“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas says while he has “no problem in principle with increased pension” for judges, the manner in which the Government was seeking to implement the increases was highly improper and insulting to a constitutional institution—the Salaries Review Commission (SRC).
This is in the wake of passage in the House of Representatives last Friday of the Judges Salaries and Pension (Amendment) Bill and the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) Bill, which propose hefty pension increases for former parliamentarians.
The legislation, which was supported by the Opposition in the House of Representatives, provides for retired judges and parliamentarians to receive a pension that is indexed to the current salary and allowances of sitting judges. Judges’ pensions are to be tax free.
Dumas said the matter must be “looked at very carefully.” He noted a judge retired with some 60 rulings pending and some of the people involved in those matters might have already died.
Should such a judge be given these significant increases? he asked. He said the fact that the Government was seeking to approve the measure before the SRC had completed its job evaluation exercise for MPs was improper and an insult to that organisation.
Dumas said politicians seek election on the basis of serving the people, yet many constituents said they did not see their respective MPs after they were elected. He said there were many “non-performing MPs” in this country but yet they were seeking these increases to be paid by the same people they claimed to want to serve.
“On what basis is this increase being given?” Dumas asked. He said he served in the public service for 34 years and felt he served the nation well. The new bill proposes that an MP can get significantly higher pension after only four years’ service. Dumas said he, too, felt he should benefit from an appropriate pension instead of the “pittance” he now received. He said any increase should be done on the basis of performance. The move seemed to be a self-serving exercise, he added.
Debate shifts to Senate
The measure is expected to be debated in the Senate next week, leader of government business in the House of Representatives, Dr Roodal Moonilal, told the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Told that some Independent senators were concerned about the legislation, Moonilal said while the People’s Partnership Government remained committed to advancing the legislation, it would listen to the concerns of the Independents when the matter came up. He said the Opposition was expected to support the measure, having done so in the Lower House last week.
Moonilal said he was expecting “a good debate and we’ll take it from there. At this stage I don’t know any compelling argument that has been lodged in the public domain but we are quite prepared to advocate on behalf of those bills.” Moonilal said if the Independents had a different view it was their right to express that view in the Senate. “We look forward to hearing their views on these matters,” he added.
Moonilal said the Government could not pre-commit to reconsidering the legislation. “We have already considered (and) if there are compelling arguments raised by anybody one will want to listen to the argument.” He stressed, however, that the matter had already been “considered and resolved by the House of Representatives.” An Opposition senator said the matter was dealt with in the Lower House and the PNM was not expected to have any major concerns with the legislation when it was brought to the Upper House.