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Senator Leacock denies claims

Senator Leacock denies claims

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Senator St.Clair Leacock refuses to be the ‘fall guy’ in the controversial matter of pensions and gratuities for Parliamentarians.{{more}}

Both Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the Speaker of the House of Assembly Hendrick Alexander share the view that recent statements made by Leacock were the motivating factor for placing the issues of pensions and gratuities for Parliamentarians on the agenda of the local branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) meeting.

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, mindful that a similar issue helped bring his New Democratic Party (NDP) administration down, publicly declared on Tuesday that the Unity Labour Party (ULP) led Government was up to something sinister.

Gonsalves responded Tuesday night by saying the Speaker had placed the item of enhancement of pensions for Parliamentarians on the agenda as a result of Leacock’s statements which advocated that senators should get pension and gratuity.

The prime minister noted that although he expressed concern with Leacock’s suggestions, he suggested a contributory health scheme be put in place. Hence, both issues were identified by the Speaker as matters for discussion at the sitting of the local branch of the CPA.

Alexander has corroborated Gonsalves’ explanation and said that Leacock’s statement on February 19, 2010 regarding a pension being paid to former Government Minister Alphonso Dennie was the motivating factor for placing the issue on the agenda of the local CPA. On that same day, bills were also passed to allow former Parliamentarians Aflick Haynes and Offord Morris to receive pensions of EC$1,200 each, along with Dennie.

Leacock, however, will have none of this.

“My comment on the subject was only an afterthought when the subject was brought to the Parliament for a gratuitous payment to Mr. Dennie, Mr. Haynes, and Mr. Morris.

“I was simply at the close of my contribution, making an observation that from time to time the Parliament comes to assist individuals; sometimes politicians in their destitute states, but rather being able to arrive at a wholesale deal with a matter, they have chosen a piece meal approach, which basically leaves people dependent on political favours,” said Leacock.

Leacock said he never initiated, originated or stimulated any such discussions and therefore the Prime Minister’s call for medical assistance has no relation or genesis to anything to which he is associated with.

“He must therefore stand on his own. I do not associate with the Prime Minister’s remarks,” said Leacock to SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday.

He added: “The Prime Minister’s statement is wholly dishonest, intended to mislead and once more to manipulate people.”

When contacted, Alexander explained when the issue of Dennie came up, Leacock thought that the way the system operates wasn’t really acceptable and therefore he thought that while they were at the issue, why not fix it.

“Because he doesn’t want that somewhere down the road somebody has to bring a bill for another person and therefore that person has to wait ten, twenty, years before somebody pity them and give them a pension. So he said look, let us deal with the matter once and for all. Let us fix it,” said Alexander.

At that stage, Alexander stated, the prime minister got up and said that he had no intention of awarding pensions and gratuity to Senators. However, the health issue should be addressed.

“I thought since we have an association, let us discuss the matter there because sometimes we may have a different view when we meet at that kind of level. So I thought it would have been the better place to discuss the issue there, rather than at the Parliament floor where you have Government views and Opposition views,” said Alexander.

“I was responsible. Nobody else was responsible for formulating the agenda. I make that abundantly clear, because the way the issue is being touted now, somebody is seeming to think that the issue came from the government. I am the one who formulated the agenda, sent it out.

Alexander said he was surprised that Eustace and other Opposition members refused to attend the meeting, because on Monday this week when Eustace had called Nicole Herbert, the Clerk of the House of Assembly, to protest that the Cuban Ambassador should not address the association at this time, he said nothing about the issues of pensions and gratuity and health insurance for Parliamentarians.

“I have been speaker of the House of Assembly for nine years and a lot of things have been thrown at me and I have never responded to anything… I must say this is the one that actually floored me,” said Alexander. (HN)

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