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Harris and Koylass Recruited to Lobby for Doomed Property Tax
Posted: Saturday, May 27, 2017

By Stephen Kangal
May 27, 2017

I read the statement issued by RC Archbishop Harris and a Guardian article penned by SC Koylass both making a misguided and ill-founded case for the collection of the Property tax outside of the the scope of the relevant legislation and quite favourable to the person who seemed to have recruited them. An exercise that is truly voluntary does not need external encouragement by the Minister of Finance bent on mobilising people to join his crusade to collectively defy the Court Order as if he is protected in Parliament.

These two persons have in fact jumped into the steel-band and dancing outa time to a tune and melody different from what the tenor pans are playing. They think it is Carnival but it is Road March against Contempt of Court by the Minister and Acting Prime Minister who ought to be setting a better example than orchestrating citizens to break the embargo placed on the first phase implementation process clearly designed to shore up his dwindling political stocks in a fast disintegrating and discredited regime that will self-destruct as the Mission Impossible Tapes/O07 were wont to do.

Let me refresh their minds on the real issues:

-- We are not opposed to paying property tax because we did so until December 2009 but we are not disposed to paying this sudden unprecedented astronomical increases that may result in increases sometimes above 6,000% over what were were paying until December 2009 because inter alia, we are in dire straits as a country and citizens are losing their jobs and Government must cut its cloak according to its cloth and band its belly as we are all doing at present because it failed to introduce progressive increases on those lands subject to the Land and Building Tax Ordinance of 1948 while the Cities and Boroughs were doing their duties and progressively updating their valuation rolls;

-- We stopped paying these taxes because the Property tax law (Act No 18 of 2009) was not yet in force and effect not even until today;

-- The Land and Building Taxes Act and The Ch.V of the MCA were both repealed by the January 2009 Act in quite a foolish manner since they could have been operating until such time as the successor regime came into force and effect. This happened through careless drafting by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and Patrick Manning who were quite sure that the Acts will be implemented in January 2010;

-- The PP Administration gave an unnecessary tax amnesty to land-owners including all the other categories up to 2015 based on its consistent position on the onerous and unjustifiable imposition of this draconian and unprecedented tax increases even before the law was passed in Parliament and even made its opposition to this measure a part of its election platform and manifesto in September 2015;

-- Mr Justice Seepersad put a hold on what Imbert referred to as the first phase of the implementation of the Acts No 17 and 18 of 2009 until June 6 and stopped all matters related to this injustice because his action and those of the Commissioner of Valuations were not founded on any legal justification but so-called self-serving advice of his team of counsels. The exercise was voluntary but had a fine attached for non-compliance as well as two deadlines of May 22 and now June 5 and used press releases to instruct the population leaving them in tax quandary, persistent uncertainty and intense stress and agony nation-wide. This is what the Judge clearly and unambiguously put on hold but the Government team is trying to obfuscate the issue and impugn the integrity of the Judge.

-- These dates that is May 22 and June 5 have been drawn out his hat and one cannot find a justification in either of the two Acts 17 and 18;

-- Minister Imbert defied the Court Order and is encouraging land-owners to similarly indulge in acts tantamount to contempt of the Court of Mr Seepersad and the Archbishop by his statement is guilty of being and acting as an accessory to this very serious offence;

-- The Property Tax Law is stale-dated, unconstitutional, unjustifiable in a democratic society ( the proportionallity principle) and and even if valid being infringed by the Minister who has usurped the law-making/ law-amending capacity of Parliament that cannot delegate its law-creating and amending powers to a Minister even if Imbert is invoking conveniently Part VII, Section 52 (1) to Section 53 (1) and (2) that gave him powers that are unconstitutional, far too ranging and not applicable to the manipulation of the date for the VRF’s since that is in the domain of Act 17 exxclusively;

Messrs Harris and Koylass completely misunderstood the core issue surrounding the tax. The former founded his appeal to citizens on the need to pay taxes irrespective of the illegality of the method or laws being used by the Minister while the latter gave a sacrosanct status to the fact that for 100 years we have been paying taxes, forfeitures were part of the penalties system for non-payment. We must go with that flow today completely oblivious to the 1976 Constitution that elevated the right to ownership of property tax and the enjoyment thereof and not to be deprived without due process of law as a fundamental right from which no derogation will be permitted except as detailed by the said Constitution requiring a three-fifths majority and an express statement included relating to the infringement of Sections 4 and 5 of the 1976 Constitution.

If the Archbishop is playing politics he cannot fraid powder and public scrutiny because he is out of his depths and should stick to the gospels that are easier to understand and interpret.

He appears as a recruited lobbyist by the Minister of Finance making a case that is as weak as he progresses into the future as all of us who are aging positively.

As for SC Koylass recently appointed to the JLSC he appears to be paying back for this appointment by his article because I cannot see how an SC can be so constricted, narrow and per incuriam in his pronouncements because he did not address the fact that the protection of property in the 1976 Constitution is unique to T&T; that this provision will render any other competing provision/law that is inconsistent with the Constitution null and void and of no effect.

When the L&B was enacted in 1920 we did not have a Constitution but now we have and property ownership and the enjoyment thereof has the status of a jus cogens or fundamental right from which only qualified and conditional derogation is permitted in and by the legislature by way of constitutional infringing statutes. Even one hundred years of practice cannot take precedence over Constitutional statutory provisions relating to the protection of our fundamental human rights.

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