Since when the Courts are Playgrounds?

By Stephen Kangal
June 02, 2017

Stephen KangalUpon his return to T&T after the Chilean visit the Prime Minister made the following comment on the property tax issue:

“…On the current property tax legal battle, Rowley reiterated that his Government “will respect what goes on in the courts but I think, as PM, you’ll allow me a comment and I have my concerns.” “I find it very difficult to swallow ministers of a previous government could have managed a law in a particular way, not to the benefit of the people of TT, and when they get put out of executive authority, those same persons could see the court as their playground; to the disadvantage of the people of TT…

I stand by that comment but that dos not say that I do not respect the outcome of the courts in TT and the Government of TT, the executive, we will carry our point of view to the highest court in the land, if we have to,” Rowley stated.

I have advised before that Prime Ministers must not issue important statements at the airport just after arrival because jet lag, oxygen deprivation, alcohol consumption while flying and dehydration often cloud their judgement and reasoning.

In making the above quoted statement the Prime Minister is guilty of trivialising the current court matters on the property tax even though the matter is sub judice. He has impugned the integrity of those who preside over the Courts by reducing our Courts to the status of playgrounds, gamesmanship and frolicking.

The Courts are not “playgrounds” to have fun and play games with the people’s interests as he imputes. It is a serious matter relating to law -determination. Any application for judicial review of any legislation included in our law books that is provided for in the 1976 Constitution is treated with or accorded due process.

A prima facie case must be established by litigants before the adjudication process begins to operate. The Courts are therefore no playground and diminishing its constitutional role must be resisted especially by one who is head of the Executive and who must observe the line of separation and the independence of the Judiciary free from political interventions.

This Statement by the Prime Minister is an unfortunate attack on the integrity of the judicial process. It must be condemned as being irresponsible, judicially and politically incorrect.

On a previous occasion PM Rowley had said that former Prime Minister Kamla -Persad Bissessar had benefited from the amnesty granted by her Government for the period 2010-2015 by the non-payment/amnesty of the Property Tax. He did not say how and whether in fact the Property Tax Law that is a non self-executing law was in force and effect as proposed by his Government in 2009 and which he opposed to the hilt.

I wish the Honourable Prime Minister would have read both Acts 17 and 18 and not repeat his outrageous statements because his Ministers have been forced to undertake frequent damage control on previous occasions of similar carelessness and impropriety.

The Prime Minister now owes all of us-PNM and UNC people at al alike a statement to justify and explain to us on what basis could he make the following serious allegations for a second time:

— a previous government could have a managed a law in a particular way,
not to the benefit of the people of TT,
— and when they get put out of executive authority,
— those same persons could see the court as their playground;
— to the disadvantage of the people of TT…

If the above -mentioned statements are correct then we need to ask him to explain to all of us as a matter of the greatest urgency and out of the requisite respect for us:

— Did the PNM Government of former Prime Minister Manning derive similar benefits when he refused to commence the implementation of Acts No 17 and 18 on 1 January 2010 when in these legislation he on behalf of the Executive and through Parliament said on three occasions he would begin promptly on that date and did not do so until 24 May 2010 when he was “…put out of executive authority…’

— How did the people of TT not benefit?

— How did the previous government manage a law to the detriment of the people of T&T?

— How is the current matter before the Courts working “ the disadvantage of the people of TT…?

— Who benefited from the premature repeal of the pre-existing legislation by the 2009 Manning regime and left a void or lacuna in property tax laws?

— Was it not the said people who did not have to pay Land and Building and MCA (90) taxes and therefore retained these sums although they were willing to continue to remit these funds to the Wardens’s Offices and City and Town Halls?