CARICOM asked to intervene in alleged mistreatment of former Guyana First Lady
NEW YORK, USA: The Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) on Friday again blasted President Bharrat Jagdeo and the Guyana government for refusing to pay 76-year-old widow and former Guyanese First Lady, Joyce Hoyte, her late husband’s presidential pensions.
Desmond Hoyte, who died in December 2002, was president of Guyana from 1987 to 1992.
Guyanese First Lady,
The New York based Institute has now asked Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads to intervene.
Rickford Burke, President of the institute and a former aide to the late President Hoyte, made this disclosure in a radio interview in New York on Friday.
"The Jagdeo administration’s refusal to pay a former president’s pension to his surviving wife is an embarrassment to the Guyanese nation. This level of callousness lacks basic human decency and is unacceptable in a civilized society," he said.
"What nation refuses to pay its former First Lady her husband’s retirement benefits to which she is lawfully entitled?" he questioned.
Burke raised the matter in the press last year and said that President Jagdeo personally contacted Hoyte three days later and claimed that he was unaware of her situation.
"President Jagdeo had assured Mrs Hoyte that when returned from an overseas mission upon which he was about to embark then, he would follow up the matter and ensure a speedy resolution. I am very disappointed that the President has not kept his promise and that this issue remains unresolved," Burke said.
He noted that it was unconscionable and irrational for the government continue to spite a 76-year-old former First Lady, who has done nothing but live in privacy and peace.
The CGID President added that although he previously called President Jagdeo and Police Commissioner Henry Greene’s attention to the inadequate security personnel at Hoyte’s residence, nothing has been done.
"Mrs Hoyte only has one police guard at her home per shift. The day guard also serves as her driver and whenever that driver is out on driving duties, the former First Lady and her property are left unprotected," Burke observed.
Vowing to maintain relentless pressure on Jagdeo, Burke on Friday dispatched letters to CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, as well as Secretary General of CARICOM , Dr Edwin Carrington, calling for CARICOM’s intervention in the matter.
In his letter to Barrow, Burke wrote, "I cannot accept or further tolerate the victimization and mistreatment of Mrs Joyce Hoyte, a former First Lady of Guyana and the wife of the late President of Guyana, whom I served as a Special Assistant, at the hands of individuals who lack basic standards of human decency. I reject it and so too must Caricom and the people of the region."
Rickford Burke, President of the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy
Burke asserted that the Guyana government’s was "maliciously and deliberately flouting its statutory obligation to provide adequate security and benefits for Mrs Hoyte." This, he said was "not dissimilar from the disrespect and political and racial victimization to which President Jagdeo’s government has subjected the Afro-Guyanese population in Guyana."
He contended that "When Bharrat Jagdeo and his PPP party were elected to government, I did not see them taking their personal finances to the Guyana treasury. It is the people’s money that finances the treasury. And the law requires that the people’s money and resources be properly utilized and employed to meet the obligations of the State."
Emphasizing that Mrs Hoyte does not involve herself in partisan politics, the institute’s President said, "She is a non-partisan symbol of the State and therefore deserves to be treated with respect and dignity by the government of the day. Therefore, I refuse to stand idly by while the Guyana government treats Mrs Hoyte with disrespect and indignity."
Burke contended that "Since President Hoyte demitted the Presidency in 1992, the PPP government has refused to pay his Presidential retirement benefits and he had insisted to his staff that he would not go begging for what he is lawfully entitled."
He said Hoyte later died without receiving his pension. Under extant laws President Hoyte would have been entitled to a pension equal to seven-eighths of the current president’s salary, which is GY$800,000 pension per month.
Hoyte served as a Minister of the Guyana government and a Member of Parliament from 1969 to 1985 and as Prime Minister from 1984 to 1985. He ascended to Presidency in 1985 and served until 1992. He was Opposition Leader of Guyana from 1992 to the time of his death in 2002, and is also entitled to a pension in that capacity.
The CGID President contended that "All Mrs Hoyte receives is a Presidential Widow’s pension of just over GY$100,000 per month from the Parliament." He insisted that "The government owes Mrs Hoyte her husband’s pension from 1992 to date. Other former First Ladies currently receive their late husband’s pension of G$800,000 per month. What makes Joyce Hoyte different, because she is Afro-Guyanese?"
He called on Jagdeo to put aside petty partisan politics and pay the former First Lady forthwith.