Kamla threatens court action over property tax, local government elections

File photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
File photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar warned that the UNC will take Government to court if it implements property tax legislation, and also for not calling local government elections this year.

Persad-Bissessar issued these warnings during an occasionally volatile sitting of the House of Representatives on Friday, which saw Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George having to rein in government and opposition MPs.

In her contribution to debate on the Finance Bill 2022, Persad-Bissessar reiterated the UNC's opposition to the property tax which she said is justified by an August 10, 2021 memorandum from the Finance Ministry's valuations division to permanent secretary Suzette Lee Chee.

Persad-Bissessar claimed in the document, the division said it could not share information on property taxes with either the Board of Inland Revenue or the Rural Development and Local Government Ministry until the Data Protection Act is fully proclaimed.

She expressed concern that people's personal information could be shared without their permission in those circumstances. Persad-Bissessar was also concerned about what kind of information the Commissioner of Valuations could get from entities, such as the Water and Sewerage Authority and the TT Electricity Commission, about people as it populates its valuation rolls for the collection of property tax.

Persad-Bissessar told government MPs, "You canot pass this with a simple majority and if you do, we will take you to court."

Responding to an inaudible comment from the government's side, Persad-Bissessar said no one could tell her anything about the police knocking on her door.

"No one is knocking unless you send them. My hands are clean and my heart is pure!"

She also dismissed suggestions that local government corporations would benefit from the collection of residential property tax.

Reiterating the UNC's condemnation of the extension of the life of local councils by one year and of local government elections taking place next year, Persad-Bissessar warned, "We are going to court on that matter as well.

Opposition MP Rodney Charles raises an objection in Parliament on Friday. Photo by Sureash Cholai

At a news conference on November 3, Rural Development and Local Govt Minister Faris Al-Rawi said under the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill 2020 – which will be partially proclaimed on Tuesday – the terms of all councillors and aldermen will end on December 3, 2023.

He said this extra year provides time for the rollout of the local government reform package and there is a three-month period after this date within which local government elections can be held.

Al-Rawi said, "Within the extra year, we will be able to build out all the relevant sections of the law, including taking councillors who are executive members and making them into secretaries similar to the THA; operationalising 13 separate divisions inside local government divisions, including planning, engineering, audit and accounting, sporting and recreation, etc.”

He also said under the amended Municipal Corporations Act, local government corporations would be able to handle the collection of residential property tax in their jurisdiction.

In the House, Persad-Bissessar questioned the absence of the Prime Minister when there were issues of national importance to be addressed.

In a statement on Friday, the Office of the Prime Minister said Dr Rowley tested positive for covid19 experiencing flu-like symptoms and will remain in isolation. Rowley first had covid19 in early April 2021, and again on July 29 this year. He is fully vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine and has had two booster shots.

Persad-Bissessar asked, "Where is the Prime Minister? It seems that every time the heat is on, somebody goes missing in action and will not be there to answer?"

She slammed National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds over the shooting incident near Rose Hill RC Primary School on November 3.

"Should this be happening in our schools?"

While Hinds and Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke earlier in the sitting about increasing various fees related to firearms, Persad-Bissessar said this was only for legally registered firearms.

Al-Rawi and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh questioned the relevance of her comments.

To one audible comment from the government benches, Persad-Bissessar said, "I understand the courthouse is looking for every member of the NSC (National Security Council), including the Prime Minister."

On October 28, Justice Devindra Rampersad issued an order for the Prime Minister, Al-Rawi, Imbert, Hinds, Energy Minister Stuart Young and Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to appear in court the following week for the hearing of an injunction application from former police commissioner Gary Griffith to prevent the publication of the controversial Firearm User's Licence (FUL) audit report in Parliament.

On October 29, Rampersad issued a new order which did not include a summons for Rowley and his ministers in relation to this matter.

Government MPs objected when Persad-Bissessar compared the bill to "sprangers who pick up every little piece of thing on the road."

Annisette-George cautioned her. "It is not proper. I know you can do better than that."

Persad-Bissessar heeded her ruling.

"I don't refer to the honourable members on the other side at all (as sprangers)."

Opposition MPs thumped their desks as Persad-Bissessar told their government counterparts, "You will never stop me. I will take you on. Anywhere. Any time and any place for the rights of the people of TT."


"Kamla threatens court action over property tax, local government elections"

More in this section