"I need my money, please"
Gene Pestaina, former Director of Public Prosecutions
Gene Pestaina was a police officer achieving the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police. He was the first police officer to earn a law degree and later, he was Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); he retired a few years ago.
Now 68 years old and ill with cancer, Pestaina says that by refusing to give him his pension, the Government of Dominica is punishing him. He wants help.
In an exclusive interview from his sick bed in Roseau, Pestaina said:
"I am hanging in there in no pain, my faith has been tested, but I have lost considerable weight…I had a 7 1/2 hours operation. I have no salaries and now have to beg people," he said.
According to Pestaina, Dominica's law states that if you serve the State for 20 years or more, you are entitled to a pension.
"When I joined the Police Force it was better if I was without academic qualifications, I would have been better off. I was the first police officer to become a lawyer in Dominica and so I paved the way for others…since then we have had well over five police officers becoming lawyers, so I have served them well," he said.
He added: "I am now surviving from the pittance left from my savings and from my friends and relatives. When I left the post of Director of Public Prosecutions everybody before or after would apply for duty free I did not. In fact, since I was working out of Dominica, I took it for granted that I am entitled to the concessions and my vehicle only cost $14,000; so I would get it out but that is not the case. My vehicle, as we speak today, is still on the Port in Dominica and I cannot remove it since I have no money. I have seen people get duty free for two vehicles and some in excess of $80, 000," the former DPP said.
He continued: "I joined the police force in 1969 having already served in the public service from 1967. Dominica is just a funny place I have done Skerrit (Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit) no wrong. In fact I never knew him before and when he was born, I was already a Sergeant of police. I have been applying for my pension without success. Anthony Astaphan SC wrote a letter on my behalf to the then attorney General Jenner Armour SC now deceased threatening to sue for my pension. I have written them from 2001 onwards and have been attaching the letter of Astaphan all along. I have not heard a word from them.
"Maybe Astaphan thinks he no longer is my lawyer, I thought that I was in good hands. If I was to sue they would drag it on and adjourn it until I die.
"I am applying for my pension having served over a period of 46 years. I have asked for help from the Dominica Bar Association and also the association of retired police officers has intervened on my behalf writing a very pleasant letter to the Government...I need my money please," he said.
He added: "It is rough, and I am now begging for what is rightfully mine. I am now like a pauper. I have to go for treatment every two weeks in Puerto Rico. Seaborne Airlines have risen there fees, where am I getting this money, the source must dry out," Pestaina said.
He says he has even tried speaking to former attorney general Francine Baron who was also his lawyer in a major case he won against the Roosevelt Douglas government.
"They want to bring politics into it, they can easily pay me what I deserve, they have the money but they are bent on letting me struggle instead. All I am asking is for what is mine. Please someone, intercede on my behalf ask them to pay me my money."
Meantime, attorney at law Gildon Richards who is a member of the association of retired police officers has confirmed that he is part of two groups dealing with Pestaina's matter.
"I have written to the Police Chief but he has not replied, instead he has referred the matter to the Chief Personnel Officer Our position is that, according to the law, Pestaina is entitled to his pension as a retired police officer and we are working hard to ensure that he gets that," Richards said.