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Senator: Pension bill will rile up the people

By \\\\\ Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Two independent senators yesterday signalled that the bill which proposed increases to judges’ salaries and pensions can cause discomfort and uproar among the people.

Independent senators Rev Joy Abdul-Mohan and Elton Prescott SC, speaking on the debate of the Judges Salaries and Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2013, expressed their concerns over the legislation.

Abdul-Mohan said while she noted the noble attempt to repair the deficiencies that exist in the legislation and provide more for judges, the issue of equity must be looked at.

She said she cannot support such increases and then face her congregation.

“As a servant leader to the grassroots, I cannot support any legislative framework wholesale that may and could possibly breathe inequality or threaten the values of equity and the common good of all citizens.

“If I do, Mr President, I would not be able to honestly face my congregation on a daily basis, the very simple people, the rank and file of the community,” she added.

Abdul-Mohan said sending the bill to a Senate special committee will also not be fair as the Senate can be accused of “looking after our own needs”.

She said the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) has seemingly lost credibility and therefore the best way forward was to send the bill to an independent committee for further deliberations as the national interest must be served.

Prescott pointed out the Constitution dictates that the Parliament must make laws for peace and good order.

“That peace and good order can be exploded if this Parliament should dare to pass this bill unamended,” he said.

“It won’t take very much to cause our people to say enough is enough and we know now, as our history tells us, July is a good month for that, people can get really riled up to the point where they would wish to make their own decisions, even in the Parliament,” he added.

Prescott said he has never been fearful of expressing cynicism in the Senate and questioned whether the proposed bill was a way of persuading the Chief Justice to demit office.

“I think our current Chief Justice is rapidly closing in on 55, could it be that somebody thought that he could be persuaded by the promise of the same money he’s getting today to leave as soon as he gets there?” asked Prescott.

He questioned the rationale in giving judges a pension equivalent to the salaries they receive, asking what would be the incentive in asking for them to stay on.

Prescott also knocked the condemnation of the SRC, saying the argument that the Parliament must deal with the issue of judges’ pensions because the SRC failed to do so could lead to “disruption” in society.

He questioned if the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) does not do its work, whether the Parliament would take it upon itself to move and appoint a Chief Justice.

Prescott said the issue should be reverted to the SRC and they should be allowed to do their job.

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