“Unfortunate and disrespectful!”
That is how former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas yesterday described statements made by PNM Senator Camille Robinson-Regis that the two pension bills had “resulted in some rats coming out of their holes”.
Dumas said that he was “deeply, deeply disappointed” by the remark. He said a wide cross-section of people across the country and across the political spectrum who opposed the Judges Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill and the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) (Amendment) Bill, did so essentially because of the quantities of money involved. Both bills radically alter the pension arrangements of judges and members of Parliament which would lead to former, current and future judges and parliamentarians receiving substantially enhanced pensions.
He said comments that people are “hypocrites” who want to “ill-treat parliamentarians” and who are “rats” were an “assault on a wide cross-section of the population”.
“Isn’t the public allowed to question the decision of parliamentarians, whom we put in Parliament, without being insulted by the parliamentarian? Dumas asked.
“I wouldn’t call Ms Robinson-Regis a rat. It would never cross my mind,” he added.
Dumas said the PNM would come to ask those whom Robinson-Regis had disrespected for their vote.
He had stated he was, in principle, supportive of increased pensions for judges and parliamentarians. He said, however, he had stated that what he disagreed with was how it was done and the basis on which the pensions were being computed.
“Because while you have judges, who according to Mr Ramlogan, cannot afford to buy adult diapers, there are other people in the society who have given long public service, who are in the same situation. What about them? Don’t they count? They have served the country conscientiously for longer than Ms Robinson-Regis,” Dumas said.
He said if Robinson-Regis thinks that parliamentarians are ill-treated, she must try to speak with some retired public servants- teachers, nurses- who have helped to build the country as well.
Dumas said this was why he and former independent senator Martin Daly, SC suggested there be interim payments, especially to those who have suffered ill-health or are in need. He cited former ministers like John Eckstein and Hugh Francis, both of whom suffered massive strokes and Lincoln Myers, who is in a wheelchair.
“You have to take all these cases into consideration and we suggested that interim payments to those persons who are in need, until such time as things are worked out.”
Dumas said retired judges got pensions equivalent to these salaries (where they served 16 years or more) and they paid no taxes.
“Whatever they get may be infinitely more than what I as a retired head of the Public Service get. And I still have to pay a small tax,” he said.