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Sunday 26 May 2019
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Mahabir: No mass exodus of Independents

Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir
Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir

Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir gave a mixed reply to queries about the future of the Independent bench in the Senate of which he is coordinator.

Newsday asked if the Independents, en masse, will offer their resignations so as to give incoming President Paula Mae Weeks a clean slate to appoint afresh?

Mahabir said offering resignations has “never been a convention” but also said that the Constitution is designed to allow a prime minister, opposition leader and President to each revoke the appointments of their respective senators at any time. “The incoming President will have options under the Constitution. Her hands will not be tied.”

Mahabir said there has been a convention, as practised by Carmona, to let senatorial appointments run until the end of the particular parliamentary session. From 2013 to 2015, the Independent bench was a mixed bench of four new appointees under Carmona and five old appointees made by former president the late George Maxwell Richards, until the latter group was ultimately replaced by Carmona appointees.

Otherwise, Mahabir hoped that future occupants of the Senate will be better paid than the $13,000 per month paid at present, he told Newsday yesterday.

“It is a lot of work. It is pure public service.”

Mahabir said the remuneration is too low to attract top talent to give up their lucrative professional earnings. “We can’t continue to rely on the goodwill of people. This is a small sum for work which occupies almost all your time.” He said senators attend Senate sittings and committee hearings, for which deep research was needed. “We have no research support, no research assistants, but must do all this ourselves.”

Mahabir hoped the Salaries Review Commission would address this.

Asked when the term of Independent Senators will end as President Anthony Carmona who appointed them demits office on March 19, Mahabir said there is no fixed term for a senator who can removed at will by the person who appointed him.

He said it is not a lifetime appointment, and neither is it even the five-year term enjoyed by an elected MP. Mahabir said the mood among senators is “business as usual”, with a heavy week upcoming. Asked his advice for anyone being newly appointed by Weekes as an Independent, he said, “You learn as you go along. Do not be daunted if at the beginning you find you are overwhelmed. It’ll come.

“Three months is enough time for a committed individual to understand the rudiments.”

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