Looking for the justification of the May 22/June 5 Deadlines?

By Stephen Kangal
June 09, 2017

Stephen KangalThe Minister of Finance had pulled out of a hat a May 22nd deadline for the submission of the illegal return forms(VRF’s) to the offices of the Valuation Division.

He had further compounded the debacle by extending it to June 5 because Cabinet decided so. Since when Cabinet has to sanction and approve a voluntary exercise that is the sole prerogative of the Commissioner of Valuations?

Did the Appeal Court have access to this Cabinet Note to ascertain the validity/ bona fides of the voluntary submission and in fact did it do a due diligence study and investigation of this fall-back position adopted by the defence?

Cabinet had no locus standi in this matter because Cabinet cannot change the texts of Acts of Parliament. Deadlines are also not part of the corpus of a truly voluntary scheme.

The Minister of Finance was forced to back down and call it a voluntary scheme based on the self- benefiting advice of his expensive team of so-called lawyers.

I am concerned that although the trial judge had ignored this statement first credited to Senior Counsel Deborah Peake as a last minute face-saving teleconferencing device the Appeal Court readily accepted this position even though there was ample evidence that I will cite presently to show that it was not indeed such a scheme but one purported to be based on what the Finance Minister called the law of T&T.

Why would an Appeal Court intervene therefore in a voluntary exercise that cannot be based on any law and proceed to set down conditions for the operation of this so-called scheme when that would appear on the face of it to be an extra-legal consideration not sanctioned by any law including Acts No 17 and 18?

Taking into account the specific provisions of Acts No 17 and 18 on which the Property Tax regime is underpinned there is a number of concerns that must be addressed to give legal credence and justification to the actions of the Minister of Finance or what he dubbed the first phase of the implementation of the Property Tax Acts and which he had to refer as a mere voluntary information gathering exercise:

1. What is the legal basis for selecting the May 22 deadline for the submission of returns by land-owners in possession of residential properties and on what authority can he change it to June 5 virtually amending Act No 17 on the Valuation of Land?

2. Why did he tamper with, amend and mutilate the form passed in Parliament and contained in Schedule II of the amended Land Valuation Act?

3. On what basis and on what considerations of equity can the Minister of Finance selectively implement the Property Tax regime by targeting in a highly discriminatory manner the residences of citizens for property taxation under the Acts and exclude commercial, industrial and agricultural even though the former have been consistently paying their dues as assessed by the Commissioner of Valuation since 1948/1920?

4. Do the Acts make provisions for a phased/selective introduction/implementation of the new property taxation regime?

5. Is this action tantamount to a unilateral ministerial amendment of the laws of the land without parliamentary intervention?

6. Can Parliament delegate its exclusive constitutional remit and authority to make and amend laws to a Minister?

7. What are the legal considerations that prompted him to deviate from the implementation/commencement/ operational/ enforcement schedules as set out in Acts No 17 and 18?

8. Did the Parliament legislate that Act No 17 will become operational in 2010 and why was this date ignored by the Executive until 2017?

9. What were the intentions of Parliament/Legislature and the Government/Executive of the Day that were incorporated into the text of the two Acts?

10. What considerations may lead you to conclude that the new property tax regime was intended to be implemented by at least the beginning of the calendar year if not at the beginning of January 2010?

No amount of lobbying by priests and Senior Counsels talking in favour of the property tax and matters related thereto including this voluntary scheme can sideline the fact that tax-collection must be sanctioned by law and laws alone.

People are willing to pay reasonable taxes in accordance with the laws and not by Ministers playing Parliament, circumventing the laws and writing their own and usurping the role and functions of the Commissioner of Valuations as the Appeal Court so lucidly concluded and when caught so doing cowardly retreats to a voluntary exercise stamp.

Both the Supreme or High Court and The Court of Appeal severely reprimanded the Minister of Finance for transgressing and usurping the legal role and function of the Commissioner of Valuations and doing his own illegal thing in the full glare of the people and Parliament including conducting himself in a manner that amounted to a contempt of court proceedings.

That is why the Prime Minister had to lambaste him for unadulterated incompetence. But he will not learn and change his ways or modus operandi.

13 thoughts on “Looking for the justification of the May 22/June 5 Deadlines?”

  1. As a student of St Paul’s EC in San fernando, Ms Yule-Williams our teacher at the time would, on a friday afternoon have inner class debates on social issues, getting us ready for the worldless trekked, I love at times responding to your comments, because i am aware at times that you are not commenting from the heart. You wrote about act #17 that should have been operational in 2010, why wasn’t it Stephen? didn’t the UNC government have 5yrs to ameliorate and make it national law? you know the answers, what is reasonable taxes Stephen? are you telling me that certain people in T&T can have living establishments like Hollywood, Bollywood and Westmoorings ect and expect to pay reasonable taxes? man to man is so unjust, objectivity is held captive. It is a pity that your comments or observation will have no impact on the sane thinking minds of T&T.

    1. When the PP came into power in May 2010 Manning had already refused to implement the Acts beginning 1 January 2010 without telling us why.He had intended to do so by this date and that is why he repealed the two pre-existing Acts.
      On the other hand the UNC and PP always opposed this legislation from the very beginning and refused to do anything because when they assumed Government the law had already lapsed since 1 January 2010 and 1 April 2010 had already passed and the law was foolishly dated.
      Taxation must have a legal foundation- not the whims and fancies of the Minister of Finance who has been reprimanded by the Appeal Court for flagrante delicto. Taxation is not a voluntary exercise with press releases and false misleading information give to the public. The Appeal Court said so and so did Mr Justice Seepersad and that is why the Appeal Court set new criteria much to the embarrassment of Imbert.

  2. The so called property tax is an oxymoron. It is not being collected for the purpose of taking care of the citizenry where it is collected rather it is going to the general fund. To pay for the 4% interest on bonds sold abroad by the astute minister of finance. Those bonds when matured will yield above global average investments returns. Further the finance minister borrowed $10 billion in 2016 and claim he saved $10 billion. The UNC borrowed $6 billion in 3 years. The standards and poor downgraded TNT because of this minister borrowing habits.

    Prime Minister Rowley and Rural minister Khan stress at the last local government elections that municipalities will be restructured. Dr Rowley boldly stated in 2010 that he will mark money given to property tax to ensure that it will be used where collected. Today he has fallen silent on local government and property tax.

    The finance minister uses the argument that the government gives much more money out of the treasury for local govermnment. By his logic wouldn’t it be easier to keep the money collected where it is collected and supplement where needed. Allow the citizenry the opportunity to see where their money is being spent. Rather than lumping it into the treasury where it disappears.

    In foreign jurisdictions property tax is collected and handled by the municipalities. It is used for police, fire, schools, parks, housing etc.

    The logical step forward is to use the money where collected. Otherwise it should not be named property tax….

  3. It takes people like Stephen Kangal to monitor the illegal actions of government. We have two “run away” Ministers, Faris and Colm who are drunk with power cognisant of the fact Rowley is not very smart, and are attempting to exploit this situation to their personal advantage. They seem to be waiting in the wings with the knowledge that they are able to manipulate the naïve PM.
    The AG is even more dangerous than the Finance Minister because he is constantly attempting to push bad laws through Parliament by violating the requirements of the constitution in order to circumvent the Opposition.
    Kangal is correct to demand accountability. Keep holding their feet to the fire. The process for passing and implementation of this law must be followed in any democracy. Any government that wants to increase property tax to such an extent should have a fair process in place for the use, assessment and collection of this revenue. This process must involve communities and taxpayers. No taxation without representation.

    1. Well said! Some people confuse their political agendas with law. Thank you for your validating comment. I am not ruffled by mediocrity.

  4. It is a burning shame in my view that basic elemental and common laws like the composition of the JLSC to make a proper decision, the naming of two judges and the passing of the property tax, warrant being subjected to the ears of old white men in England, to tell us here in the sunny Caribbean that what we are doing is right or wrong. The mere idea that we are so divided that we can’t even agree on simple matters, is testimony to how divided we are as a country trying to find common ground. Fifty five years after Independence, the issues that divide us are mired in racial and cultural differences. Of course, you would hardly meet anyone in the judiciary admitting that what divides them are based on tribal and cultural considerations. But the evidence is all too plain not to notice them.

    Again, I speak only as a layman without any sense of what matters in law. Why is it that something as simple as the make up of the JLSC Committee to make a decision being challenged so vehemently? Why is it so necessary to fight tooth and nail to defy the President, the Chief Justice and the two judges awaiting being sworn? Whether you call it property tax or lands and buildings tax, it amounts to the same thing. It is like saying six and half a dozen, but the fight to avoid the implementation is brutal and partisan. Why something so elemental in governance becomes a battle that we need our former masters to settle? The answers may have little or nothing to do with law but a hell of a lot to do with WHO IS MAKING THE LAWS.

    The most bastardly sitting of parliament happened under the previous PP government when they found it necessary to dismiss the Opposition Leader (Dr. Keith Rowley) from sitting in Parliament. In most countries this would have been considered a crisis because the people bringing the matter to fruition were nominally Indians and the victims (yes victims), primarily African even though Dr. Rowley was the target. The Indians succeeded in what they set out to do. Which was to undermine the credibility of Dr. Rowley and make his case a cause celebre.
    There were more than enough shenanigans in that undertaking to make a mountain of it but the African population did not.

    The ill-fated State of Emergency carried out by the same government where thousands of African youths were hounded, arrested and put in jail. They even went as far as saying that the Prime Minister’s life was threatened, giving more reason for their high handed act against another tribe in the country. The African community survived that, even though in most countries that was cause for racial and strife. We endured and never found it necessary to to back to the masters for help.

    But here, those who are now in Opposition CANNOT allow themselves to obey laws passed by the same people that so callously found wanting while they occupied the seats of government. WHY? WHY? WHY? There is only one answer to that question and WE ALL KNOW IT – RACE (is the bogeyman).

  5. Unless you introduce the element of race as Imbert has done you cannot conduct a decent argumentation on anything.
    The property tax law was made and passed by the Manning Administration in December 2009 and opposed by the UNC/PP an issue on which the PNM lost the 2010 elections.
    What do you have against white judges in the Privy Council when Rowley said recently that he will go there to get justice? Is it a problem only when Indian lawyers go there on the basis of their Constitutional right? You are confused and convoluted in your thinking.Try to be more a little more objective and less tribal.
    I am sick and worn out by those who see race and reduce everything to we-they, Indian-African etc that is indicative of
    a pathologicaL level of intellectual bankruptcy

    1. Before addressing your ill-conceived reply, I must make a few definitions about my identification and what it means to me to be called a Trinidadian. I was born in a country called Trinidad in the Caribbean. My country is populated with people with people of varied ancestry with divergent cultural practices, out of this, there is a constitution by which we are all subjected and I for one pay allegiance to.
      I see myself primarily and culturally as a Trinidadian, my allegiance and love for my country is first and foremost as I identify myself. My blogs are primarily about my concerns for this country and the security and character it entails, whether locally or internationally. ALL my statements are defined and qualified so as not to invite ambiguity. In it is in this regard I reply to your somewhat confusing comments, that are at times taken out of context.

      Now, to answer your accusations about my comments:

      1. “Unless you introduce the element of race as Imbert has done you cannot conduct a decent argumentation on anything.”
      Answer: If you read my comments carefully, you would find that my comments are of things that are really happening; what I do is use contents from those incidents to analyze based on my Trinidadian experience to interpret what they mean. And yes, YOU AND YOUR KIND A-L-W-A-Y-S talk about race, almost without exception.

      2. The Property Tax.
      Answer: Yes, I am aware that the UNC was on opposite side of the issue. And that is the consistency with which I speak. Of all the divergent groups within the country, the UNC supporters (mainly Indians) are the ONLY ones who expressly oppose its imposition. That is the gist of my statement and my conclusion. This does not show that I am racist, in fact it shows that there is a consistency by the Indians who support the UNC that they are against anything passed by the PNM – am I right Stephen?

      3. “What do you have against white judges in the Privy Council when Rowley said recently that he will go there to get justice?”
      Answer: Personally, I have absolutely nothing against old white judges in the privy council in the UK. They are there to do their jobs. What I am against is those who only feel vindicated when local issues that Indians are not in favor with, are the only verdict that people like you Mr. Kangal seem to respect. Dr. Rowley used the statement about the Privy Council because he knows that it is the only place that you feel satisfied, with the verdicts they render. So, in the context in which he made the statement, he was absolutely correct.

      4. My blogs are objective – very objective. What I am saying and with qualifications is that you and your kind only have interest in ALL things Indian and not necessarily Trinidadian. Is that objective enough for you?

      5. “I am sick and worn out by those who see race and reduce everything to we-they, Indian-African etc that is indicative of
      a pathologicaL level of intellectual bankruptcy”
      Answer: That is exactly what we see when you and your kind speak and act and that also is what I have been saying in my blogs. When will you people see yourselves as Trinidadians? You are the ones who emphasize “we and they”, “us and them”, “diversity, difference, culture, traditions”
      always meaning a way to show how different yo all are from the rest of us Trinidadians. It too is also the reasons you use to get whatever you want from the rest of the population.

      I too am fed up and tired about the race problem and that is exactly why I want to be explicit about it. You will aALWAYS GET AWAY WITH IT when you use words of comfort to describe your (Indian) problems, separate from the rest of us but try to chastise me when I openly interpret your intentions. Yes, I will continue to call you out when you persist on Indian difference (meaning race) as opposed to the rest of the Country. The people of European descent who are largely responsible for forming the administrative processes by which we run the country have always been complementary about our governance. You (Indian) on the other are NEVER SATISFIED regardless of the circumstances.
      We too are tired of it and will speak out as is necessary.

  6. All the Trade Unions opposed the Property Tax including the electorate of 24 May 2010 and many civic society groups. Where were you in December 2009 when the Joint Trade Union Movement marched around the Red House when the Bill was being debated in the House and Abdullah was arrested under the banner of the People’s Democracy?
    You are not a Trinidadian. You are of Trinidad and Tobago nationality or Trinbagonian as we say.
    What is a cultural Trinidadian please and is it a homogeneous concept?

    1. “What is a cultural Trinidadian please and is it a homogeneous concept?”

      Ahhhh! There you go again Stephen, you never seem to understand, do you? I have a good understanding of grammar and also a good understanding of prose. You are still questioning what a Trinidadian is, aren’t you? That means you are still puzzled about what constitutes a Trinidadian.
      You see, hear and understand everything in physically optical forms and therefore cannot bring yourself to believe that one can be a Trinidadian without your narrow view of things. I will leave you with that thought and just maybe one day you will understand.

  7. Kianlal:

    Do not beat around the black sage bush. Answer me:
    What is this genre of Trinidadian culture to which you belong and are a part of?
    You are preaching in poetry but cannot respond in prose or patois.

    1. Stephen, yes I agree you are ‘different’. You are Guyanese and Im Trinidadian.

Comments are closed.