Attorney General, Levi Peter, has said that former Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Gene Pestaina, is not entitled to a pension that of the nature he asserts he is entitled to.
Justice Minister, Rayburn Blackmoore said the government is willing to assist him on compassionate grounds if the request is made.
Both men spoke at a press conference held at the Financial Center on Friday.
Pestaina, who is gravely ill and battling for his life, has called on the government of Dominica to grant him a pension and gratuity.
After serving 38 years and 3 months in public service/ law enforcement in Dominica, Pestaina believes that he is well deserving of his payment.
“I don’t understand what prevents them from paying me…,” he told the media earlier this week.
A group of former police officers has formed a group and has appealed to the government to pay Pestaina his pension.
But Peter said Pestaina is receiving a pension under the Social Security Pension Act. He stated that Pestaina is not receiving a pension under the Police Pension Act because he did not serve long enough in the police force.
“It is clear therefore from the foregoing that whilst Mr. Pestaina has not received that he contends that he is entitled to, it is not correct, as has been stated in some forum, that he has not received any form of payment or acknowledgment of/or for his service to the state,” Peter explained.
“It is similarly not correct to say that the state has not sought to explain its position to Mr. Pestaina or representative,” he added.
Peter stated the government is sympathetic to Pestaina’s plight but there are two separate issues in the matter.
“One is what is the legal position, what is the legal entitlement properly interpreted and applying in the various pension provisions and the government position is that, the proper legal interpretation is that Mr. Pestaina is not entitled to a pension of the nature he asserts that he is entitled to,” he explained.
He said the second is, “If Mr. Pestaina cannot be accommodated by way of the pension provisions in this time of need, is there any other mechanisms through which he can be assisted…clearly this is another mechanism and the position of the government is that the government recognizes the unfortunate situation and circumstance confronting Mr. Pestaina, and the Honourable Prime Minister [Roosevelt Skerrit] and cabinet of ministers expresses its willingness to assist Mr. Pestaina in defraying his medical cost, should he be desirous of this assistance.”
Peter said from the foregoing it should be apparent that the matter is essentially a dispute as to a proper interpretation of law to be applied to various pension and constitutional provisions.
He explained that in the absence of an authoritative ruling, “we are at an impasse; because both parties are insisting that their interpretation is correct.”
Peter said the state’s records indicate that the pension benefit due to Mr. Pestaina in accordance with the applicable law have been paid to him in full in the form of a gratuity as required by section 6 (h) of the Pension’s Act Chapter 23:80, “that is where he hasn’t qualified in one aspect and there is an alternative calculation and has been calculated in accordance with the pension regulations.”
“My understanding is that has been paid to Mr. Pestaina,” Peter noted.
He stated further that in respect to Pestaina’s appointment as DPP from July 2007 to July 2013, “he is not entitled to any gratuity payments since he served for only six (6) rather than ten (10) continuous years as it is required by the Pension Act.”
Peter said the situation is a sad one.
“When one looks at his record, clearly there is no dispute that Mr. Pestaina has served the state and served the state well over a number of years,” he said.
Meantime, Blackmoore who once served as a police officer in the Dominica Police Force said that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are always willing to give special consideration in cases such as Pestaina’s.
“Having said that, there is a distinction between the whole issue of legal requirement or legal claim, as opposed to a special request being made for consideration on the ground of compassion, and the Roosevelt Skerrit administration is willing once a special case is made to consider that matter on compassionate ground,” he stated. “The Labour Party administration has built a reputation to actually take on matters on compassionate ground and ensuring that once our people need urgent assistance it is dealt with…”
According to him, “I really feel for Pestaina and his family in the situation in which he currently found himself in respect to ill health.”
Blackmoore made it clear that the intention here is not to personalize this issue, “and hope that we can actually look at the situation before hand from a value-free perspective, looking at the facts.”
Pestaina was appointed an ancillary clerical officer in the Ministry of Communications and Works in the public service January 1st 1968, after having served as a substitute for 6 months. He was transferred and enlisted in the Royal Dominica Police Force on October 6th, 1969 as a cadet sergeant. He was then promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1972, promoted to the rank of Inspector July 1 st 1976.
In June 1982 after 14 years service as a police officer he commenced studies in law at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus Barbados. In 1985 he obtained his LLB Degree.
On 1st October 1988 he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Police. He was called to the Dominica Bar on the 21st October, 1988.
In 1991 he was called to the Antigua Bar and 1996 to 2000, Director of Public Prosecutions in Dominica.
January 2001 to 2004 he was in private practise in his chambers.
From 2007 to 2013 he served as DPP in Dominica. He retired in 2013.