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UNC Support for the Property Tax In the Manday Accord?
Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2009

By Stephen Kangal
December 05, 2009

Political observers are duty bound to pose the question, in the face of recent bizarre public posturing of the UNC towards the property tax (PT) whether non-opposition or neutrality towards the PT would appear to be a condition of the Manday Accord. In the post- budget debate the UNC, except for the MP for St. Augustine, has been lukewarm in its limited opposition to the PT even though its current and potential political support base stands to bear the brunt of the expected $7bn punitive revenue windfall.

The UNC has 16 seats in Parliament. It has 17 offices spread across Trinidad with paid staff and enormous office/communication facilities. It has preferential, almost commandeering and ready access to the media. This in the face of the fact that PT is a highly politically- charged issue effective opposition to which can translate into huge political mileage. But more importantly the UNC will play an exclusively critical role in both houses in the parliamentary debate were the new bill to be introduced. How can they justify distancing themselves from the ongoing, pre-emptive ground assault on the grounds that it will add a political dimension to the debate.

The PT is first and foremost a political decision with fiscal consequences.

Yet the Leader of the Opposition under the ostensible reason of collecting information/insights on the PT invited the NATUC labour unions/NGO's to his meeting held at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on November 16. Being a participant at these discussions I was amazed at how quickly and based on a premeditative decision Panday abdicated his political role on this matter. He readily agreed for the Unions to prosecute the war on the PT although from a political/ parliamentary, human resource, location across Trinidad, infrastructural and the media perspectives as listed above the UNC is in a far superior and strategic position and duly appointed by the people to call for the withdrawal of the property tax.

This is what Panday wrote in his letter dated 5 November to Mr. Winston Dookeran:

"In order to present an informed position on the proposed Property Tax, I am hosting a series of consultations... with various interest groups...
The Opposition is interested in hearing your concerns, recommendations and proposals on this matter…and as such would be grateful ...if your organization would present the same at the consultation..."

I attended this consultation fully prepared to contribute meaningfully on behalf of the COP. I was dismissed as being too junior or uninformed. I formed the view that Panday wanted materials for the UNC to take control of the opposition to the PT. But he really wanted a way out to justify the do-nothing stance of the UNC.

He also prevented MP Kamla Persad Bissesar from participating in the November 14 COP AXE THE TAX Meeting. However on November 5 as mentioned above he invited the same COP to come to make representations to him on the PT. That very evening he attacked the COP in Arima.

To further humiliate the efforts of the People's Democracy (Unions/civic groups) in opposing the PT during their November 22 Rally held at Woodford Square, the Leader of the Opposition scheduled a Seminar on CHOGM to be held in POS for that very Sunday Nov 22nd date deliberately designed to distract media reporting from the Woodford Square Rally. On November 16 he agreed to work with the unions on the PT.

How can anyone trust the words of Panday when he exults in double-dealing when that is patently unnecessary. The man cannot help himself from being his innate deceptive self. That is the legacy of his karma.

Not a single UNC MP/Senator attended the PD's Woodford Square Rally. As expected Panday, a former unionist hugs the news that evening. In fact the Guardian gave four times the editorial space to the UNC's Seminar compared to what it wrote of the PD's Rally in its November 23 edition.

Mr. Manning must be really beholden to the Leader of the Opposition for his faithfulness in keeping his undertaking of strict neutrality in the Manday Accord on the Property Tax. What is the quid pro quo?

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