August 27, 2004
Looking at some small matters

by R. Andrew Cummings

When does a person become an adult in law?
For generations now, an 18-year-old person has been treated as an adult by the law. Among other things, he/she is able to vote, to enter into contracts and to own land.
In days of yore the age of adulthood was 21 years. {{more}}

Pensions Act Chapter 204
of the Laws of Saint Vincent
and the Grenadines

Several vexing anomalies still blot the legal landscape. Glaring and haunting among them is the provision in the regulation under the Pensions Act which provides, “There shall not be taken into account as pensionable services any period of service while the officer was under 20 years.”

Jane’s case: Is she brain dead?

Jane entered the Public Service in 1971 when she was 18 years of age. It goes without saying that the Public Service Commission approved and assigned her to the Ministry of Housing. She has worked in the Public Service for the last 33 1/2 continuous years, steadfastly and well. She is now taking early retirement. A full pension is payable ordinarily if a person were to serve for 33 1/3 years. Jane has served 33 1/2 years but does not qualify for full pension because pensionable service only began at age 20 and not when she entered at age 18.
The questions, which arise, are obvious.
1) What is the rationale for discounting even discrediting the years between 18 and 20?
2) Does the 18 year old not have the intellectual energy to produce having been employed?
3) Is it a question of age discrimination?
Whatever the reason, the law is not carved in stone , static and unresponsive to enlightened change. This arcane and archaic law (existing since 1948) has deprived many public servants of what is now one of their fundamental rights, the right to property. It has long been settled that deprivation of money is a deprivation of property. It is time that this provision in the regulations be laid to rest. After all, this is the era of putting right historic wrongs. The sooner the better!
I have deliberately waited to write this article until my wife’s early retirement was approved. Hers is a case in point. She will however not be a beneficiary of the likely change. Selah.


Of course, there are many categories of public servants who are employed in their mid teens especially teachers. If they go on like Jane and take retirement after 33 1/2 years their period of service before 20 years will not be treated as pensionable service.

Human Rights versus Human Needs

Look at the list of human rights enshrined in our constitution! Do they respond to violations of economic, social or cultural rights? There is now a growing demand that human rights language must recognize the basic need for food, work, housing, health and education. But can poor governments in our fragile and struggling third world economies afford to guarantee such needs? Further, is there the will to guarantee such?


Neglect or violations of people‚s needs, looked at from any perspective, are tantamount to humiliation and dehumanization.


Despite rhetoric and “old talk” the dignity of every human being must be respected and protected. If there is a will, we are sure to find a way to ease, if not cure, the festering situation.
I am sure that we are all of one mind-set that it is an urgent imperative for our constitution to protect. advance and enhance what is most human in and of us, our God-given right to life and freedom and all that that entails.