Thursday, July 8, 2010

President assents to 'Corbin's' benefits bill.

Some 61 days after the National Assembly gave its approval, Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo assented to the Leader of the Opposition (Benefits and Other Facilities) Act and has caused it to be published in the Official Gazette.
That Office of Leader of the Opposition is currently held by Robert Corbin who has managed to hold on to the post despite several controversial challenges.
The Bill that was intituled Leader of the Opposition (Benefits and Other Facilities) was first tabled by Dr Ashni Singh a year ago and had several deferrals in the National Assembly for unknown reasons before its debate and approval.
The Finance Minister had said that the Leader of the Opposition already enjoys the benefits at the discretion of the State and that the state was only seeking to put it on statutes.
The Opposition leader, by law, will be provided with a rent-free furnished office; medical attention including medical treatment or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by him for himself and the dependent members of his family; full-time security service at his official place of residence and at the office of the Leader of the Opposition to be provided by the Guyana Police Force; the services of a research assistant, an executive assistant/secretary, a clerical/office assistant, a chauffeur, a personal security officer, a. gardener and two domestic servants and salary, vacation allowance, and parliamentary benefits equivalent to those of a Cabinet Minister.
Dr Singh, who successfully piloted the Bill, had argued that the Legislation was a direct result of a series of consultations/discussions between the Administration and the Main Opposition Party, namely the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR).
This was confirmed by PNCR Chief Whip Lance Carberry who informed the House that the discussions were held between him and Dr Roger Luncheon.
The resourcing of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition will, as in the past, be undertaken by the State, and is made public in the Budget Estimates.
It was explained during the debate of a similar nature for former presidents, that the benefits were on a discretionary basis, but the administration was seeking to change this and have it enshrined in law.
This year’s estimated allocation for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition is $10.4M. Leader of the Alliance For Change, Raphael Trotman, who will not benefit from the Law currently had placed on record that he was happy to see that the benefits of the Opposition Leader was being enshrined in law.
He did question whether the staffing such as a research assistant for the Leader of the Opposition would be availed to other parties such as the AFC, given that the Leader of the Opposition is representative of all parliamentary opposition parties.

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