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Sir James lambastes civil servants, police, professionals

Sir James lambastes civil servants, police, professionals

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Almost 10 years after the New Democratic Party (NDP) Government was brought down by Vincentian professionals, former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell declares the passage of time has allowed him to see how “stupid” those responsible for the collapse of his administration were.{{more}}

Sir James publicly expressed his feelings on the issue last Thursday evening at the Calliaqua Anglican Parish Hall.

In 2000, a series of protest actions led by the Organisation in Defence of Democracy (ODD), a group of civil society organizations, forced the Government out of office, after, among other things, the government refused to grant public servants the 30 per cent increase in salaries that they had requested. Public servants expressed at the time their actions were justified because at around the same time, Sir James and NDP Members of Parliament had passed a Pensions and Gratuities Act which was expected to bring increased benefits for parliamentarians, especially senators.

Sir James, at the political meeting held to endorse Dr.Linton Lewis as the NDP’s candidate for East St.George, was of the view that the passage of time had vindicated his government.

“I want to know if those Vincentians alive: Civil servants, professionals, police, teachers, all of them, now understand that to demand a 30 per cent salary increase from a Government, and you say you intelligent, shows you are stupid.

“You went for a trap and you trap not Gonsalves or ULP, you trap yourself. You allow politicians to give you great promises. You see none,” said Sir James.

Sir James added: “A lot of people at one stage wanted to get rid of us (NDP) even in East St.George, but this democratic process, if you live long enough, allows you to discover your own mistakes.”

The NDP’s fourth term in office was cut short by recurring protest actions, some of which were staged by the Opposition Unity Labour Party (ULP).

Mitchell said his Party, the Government, and he, wanted to give gratuity to Senators because it was felt that they deserved it.

“Are senators worse than any other human being in this country? You know if you have a job even sweeping out this hall, after two years you are entitled to gratuity. So what happen, parliamentarians mustn’t get after two years?”

The NDP had received early warning signs in1998 that the Pensions and Gratuity Bill meant trouble, as it had received serious opposition while trying to amend the existing Bill.

The then government, however, wormed itself around the problem by setting up the Venner Commission, which included Sir Dwight Venner, Governor of the East Carribean Central Bank (ECCG), retired Grenadian jurist Barrymore Rennick, the former President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Martin Barnard, and the ECCB representative at the time, Henry Gaynes, to review salaries, allowances, pensions and conditions of service of parliamentarians.

In February 2000, the government borrowed from the basic provisions of the draft bill submitted by the Venner Commission.

Under the proposed bill, future Senators would have for the first time been entitled to a pension and gratuity.

Their gratuity would amount to a quarter of the aggregate salary they received during the period served.

Elected MPs were also in for bigger benefits under the new bill.

The Prime Minister would have been eligible for a pension equal to three-quarters of the highest yearly salary received once that person had been in service for more than 11 years continously.

If he had served for fewer than 11 continous years, the pension would be three-fifths of the highest annual salary.

Elected MPs were expected to get a half of their highest annual salary as a pension and their wives and husbands also stood to benefit.

Where the wife or the husband of the Prime Minister is concerned, once the Prime Minister dies in office, she or he would have been eligible to half of the monthly pension to which Prime Minister was entitled, while the widow or widower of an elected member of the House of Assembly would be entitled to a quarter of what their spouse would have received every month.

The pension would, however, have been discontinued if that person remarried.

As soon as the Bill, also known as the “Greedy Bill”, was passed on Wednesday, April 19, 2000, the street protests that erupted ultimately brought the Government down.

Although the bill was passed, it never came into law, as after the protests, another Act was passed to indefinitely postpone the Bill’s implementation.

Under the law existing today, a Member of Parliament must serve nine years to qualify for a pension and a gratuity.

At present, MPs who qualify are entitled to gratuity payments amounting to one quarter, one third or one half of their highest salary, depending on the number of years they have served.

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