When Diner en Blanc took place in Jamaica last year, someone whispered it was not going to be long before it hit Trinidad’s shores.
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Debate on judges, MPs’ pension- Govt urged to pay medical costs
The Government should foot the bill for judges’ medical treatment in private facilities—up to a certain limit—and pay them for using their expertise to scrutinise legislation in Parliament, along with increasing their retirement benefits, says Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir. Mahabir made the suggestions in yesterday’s Senate debate on legislation to increase benefits for retired judges and MPs.
Saying he agreed with the legislation, he said without money “man can’t live” and the judiciary needed to attract legal scholars. Mahabir also said longevity was a factor, since people often got ill before they died and medical treatment was expensive. He called on the Government to at least consider defraying the cost of medical care in private health facilities for retired judges, up to a sum equivalent to a month of their new salary levels.
Since retired judges could not practise for ten years after retiring, Mahabir, an economist, said the Government should also consider using their legal expertise and paying them a stipend as part of a parliamentary judicial pool to scrutinise and go over the fine points of legislation. Mahabir said this was recommended rather than having legislators continue to “wrangle” over bills in the committee fine-tuning stage of parliamentary work.
“Make use of this resource,” he said. “Sixty-five is the new 45.” He also noted that PNM senator Faris Al-Rawi scolded an independent senator in a recent debate, telling that person, “Let the officers of the court speak.” Mahabir noted the Government had allocated $12 million for payments for the Chutney Soca Monarch and Soca Monarch shows. He said if retired judges were paid a pension of $30,000 a month, the total for the 30 retired judges annually would be the same as that allocated for the shows.
“We’re paying more to support Chutney Soca Monarch than supporting retired judges,” he said. Mahabir said the judiciary was one sector of stellar performance among institutions that were crumbling and failing, citing the Integrity Commission, police and Securities Exchange Commission. He said the judiciary should influence other arms to perform better.
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