Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 25th 2015 Contents A8
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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The Law Association of T&T
(LATT) has joined the call for the
repeal of Section 4 of the Finance Act
2015, saying even before the bill was
passed LATT spoke out against it.
The new legislation mandates that
all cases with claims of up to $50,000
will be heard at the Petty Civil Court
of the Magistrates Court, rather than
the High Court.
In a letter sent to former attorney
general Anand Ramlogan on January
14, president of the Law Association,
Seenath Jairam, SC, said the Petty Civil
Court was already overburdened and
the delivery of justice was slow, so
entrusting more cases to that court
would be nonsensical.
The T&T Guardian learnt that at
that time, the government s proposal
was to increase the statutory jurisdic-
tional limit from $15,000 to $100,000
in a bid to relieve some of the burden
on the High Court. However, when
the law was eventually passed the initial
proposal was cut by half to $50,000
and no additional resources were put
in place to deal with the increased
workload at magisterial level.
"The majority of civil claims con-
cerning money, whether it be for dam-
ages or a liquidated sum, involve
amounts less than $100,000. To rel-
egate these matters to the Petty Civil
Court would be to ensure that the mat-
ters will never be determined," Jairam
He also said that civil claims for less
than $100,000 were complex, whereas
most magistrates had a criminal law
Saying the new law was not in sync
with reality, Seenath said it seemed
only "big money" cases would have
access to the High Court, whereas the
"small money" cases would go on for
years in the magistrates courts without
"It is LATT s opinion that the juris-
dictional limit of the Petty Civil Court
should not be increased," Seenath said.
In an interview yesterday, LATT s
vice president Gerry Brooks said the
increase of the Petty Civil Court limit
from $15,000 to $50,000 would only
be feasible if proper manpower, training,
and infrastructure were provided to
the magistrates courts.
"To increase the jurisdictional limit
would be to overburden an already
ineffective system. This would neces-
sarily result in immeasurable hardship
to a wide sector of society," Brooks
He said despite LATT s call for a
complete overhaul of the Petty Civil
Court system to include improvement
in the plant, as well as for allocation
of sufficient human resources and the
implementation of a proper legislative
infrastructure, the amendment was
passed increasing the limit to $50,000
instead of $100,000.
He said LATT would be discussing
the issue at its annual general meeting
on March 20.
Ramlogan yesterday declined to
comment on the issue. However, a
senior source in the legal profession
said consultation was held.
In a letter on May 8, 2014, Chief
Justice Ivor Archie said he would sup-
port an increase in the jurisdictional
limit once there was consultation with
The official also said not many peo-
ple were fighting civil cases under
$15,000, and that, based on inflation
and the fall of the value of the dollar,
it made sense to increase the limit.
Finance Act No 3 of 1980 set the
limit at $5,000 but this was increased
by Act No 28 of 1996 to $15,000.
"This is long overdue because 19
years have passed and lawyers fees
have increased. Who is going to fight
a case for $15,000 now when lawyers
charge $10,000 and up to fight cases,"
the source said.
The Assembly of Southern Lawyers
has also voiced concerns over the new
law. President Imran Khan said once
a new executive was elected, the matter
would be raised in the public domain.
LATT condemns new law
JENSEN LA VENDE
Heads of the bargaining bodies representing the
Fire, Police and Prisons Service are accusing Chief
Personnel Officer (CPO) Stephanie Lewis of reneging
on already agreed guidelines for their salary nego-
tiations, after earlier accepting the same guidelines
in the case of another bargaining body.
Speaking with reporters outside the CPO s office on
St Vincent Street, the fire, police and prison services
representatives Leo Ramkissoon, Insp Anand Ramesar
and Ceron Richards, respectively, said Lewis had agreed
to include as a comparator the Airports Authority in
determining new salaries. However, they said, she is
now saying this is invalid since the increase for officers
at the Authority was not done by her but through the
Ministry of Finance.
A visibly upset Ramesar, who had met with Lewis
earlier, said his officers came out to work during Carnival
with certain promises and now "it is the worst day for
police." He added that he is now "daunted" having
spent the better part of two hours meeting with Lewis.
The men are requesting a 19 per cent wage increase
using seven other institutions as their bargaining com-
parators for the past couple of years. The combined
average they say was a 24 per cent wage increase and
the three associations are asking for 80 per cent of
that. The Government has, however, removed the Air-
ports Authority from the comparative institutions,
effectively reducing the combined average increase to
16.4 per cent and are offering 60 percent of that which
equates to a 10 per cent wage increase.
Ramesar said, "One of our first efforts is to try and
maintain law and order. We cannot have a Police Service
that is going to be derailed by the failures of the CPO
and the Minister of Finance to meet with fair terms
and conditions. That stability is under threat under
these salaries negotiations. The association and mem-
bership has no regrets for performing in the carnival
seasons because we know the public loved us for it.
But we are disappointed in relation to the subsequent
All three associations said they could advise their
membership to seek redress through lawful means but
warned they could not instruct them to do anything.
The heads added that they would not be divided and
conquered and what applied to one association must
apply to all when asked if any of them would be willing
to accept the counter-offer from the CPO.
Richards said there was a market survey done which
the CPO agreed to include as a basis for negotiations,
an agreement which she was now reneging on. "There
was a market shift that was agreed to, to be used as
Claim CPO reneging on salary guidelines
a guide in development of salaries. So what the CPO
is now saying that the Airports Authority is getting
illegal salaries? That will give rise to a bigger question,
how was that survey done? We will not be deterred
by that at all. We insist we need the market data. The
CPO cannot come and tell us now at this 11th hour
that those persons are being paid illegitimately; some-
thing is terribly wrong there" Richards said.
He added, "The CPO and by extension Finance Min-
ister (Larry Howai) is trying to skew the information
to bring about the market shift they want for salaries.
What we are saying is that if we are to make a decision
on salaries it must be made on honest and factual
The men said they were still operating with salaries
for the years 2008 to 2010 and their workers were not
happy. While Ramesar met with Lewis, fire and prisons
officers chanted outside the building saying the CPO
would have to out fire, arrest bandits and guard the
prisons herself if their financial demands were not
met. "If yuh can t pay we money Stephie, Party Done!"
and "You would man the jail by yuhself and catch the
bandits by yuhself" were some of the chants the men
and women sang as they marched.
Members of the fire, police and prisons associations during their protest outside the CPO's office on St
Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA
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