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Injured municipal cop still waiting on pension, gratuity

Published: 
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
George Maharaj in an undated photograph.

Frustrated and with seemingly nowhere to turn, Port-of-Spain City Corporation municipal police officer George Maharaj is pleading for the relevant authorities to look into his situation urgently before he and his family end up homeless and penniless.

“I cry night and day in pain and to see how I served my countrymen with dignity and pride and seeing the situation that I am in now, it’s such a shame,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj was stationed at the corporation for the past 15 years and was part of a team of officers who responded to 14 murders in 72 hours in 2015.

However, four years ago he was injured on the job and as a result had to undergo cervical spinal surgery at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) in Mount Hope.

Last September, his dream of serving the country fell apart when he went before the Medical Board and was subsequently found unfit to continue working.

His hardship didn’t just end there. In January this year, he was sent a correspondence by the relevant authorities informing him that his extended sick leave was stopped and that he was now automatically sent on pre-retirement leave, which expired in May.

Speaking with the T&T Guardian, Maharaj explained how his life dramatically changed for him sending him on a roller coaster to “hell on earth.”

“As a result of being a supervisor at the Central Market Police Post I was working hard and given lots of extra duty for which I was able to take out a vehicle on loan. Now my salary has stopped and I cannot afford to pay for it,” Maharaj said.

Maharaj, who is now in a wheelchair, is seeking to get a hospital bed at home. 

He said: “Because of my injury, it is very painful for me to turn in my bed. I am diabetic, suffer from high blood pressure, contracted a coronary heart disease.”

Maharaj underwent a total disc transplant in the cervical spine, and in January, underwent a lumbar spinal surgery at the EWMSC. A second surgery of similar nature was done one month later.

In March, he was forced to discharge himself from the hospital because he felt neglected by officials there.

“Where they operated on me in my lower back, that became infected because of lack of antibiotics at the hospital (he alleged). I discharged myself and sought medical attention privately for a while up until my finances were depleted. I was now forced to return to the public hospital with the hope and prayer that they would take better care of me this time around cause I have nobody else to turn to,” Maharaj said.

He said that his medical bills cost approximately $2,000 a week, a cost he said he cannot meet.

Maharaj strongly believes that something went wrong at the corporation as he is allegedly constantly told by officials there that paperwork is yet to be organised where his pension and gratuity were concerned.

“I was told it will take three to six months to process. I am qualified for it under medical grounds, but I was told that even my increments are not up to date, so I do not know where is the delay coming from and the runarounds,” Maharaj said.

“I have been researching and calling various departments and ministries seeking redress or advice, but all seem in vain I am totally fed up and frustrated,” he added.

Maharaj is now unable to provide for himself proper medical treatment and by extension, unable to support his family.

He also recently received an eviction notice.

Maharaj was one of 153 municipal police officers who took the State to court for various reasons, including infringement of their constitutional rights back in 2003.

The matter was heard in the Privy Council and a judgment was given in the officers’ favour against the Attorney General. However, from January 2015 to now the officers are yet to be compensated.

Maharaj again needs to have corrective surgery on the spine but is calling on the relevant authorities to intervene.

“I need my pension, gratuity, NIS, medical treatment and medications. It’s all I am asking for—help!” Maharaj said.

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