Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 2nd 2017 Contents A8 news
guardian.co.tt Sunday, April 2, 2017
Gupte to go after Duke
The contention between President
of the Public Services Association
(PSA) Watson Duke and Chairman of
the Chaguaramas Development Au-
thority (CDA) Gupte Lutchmedial over
allegations that zoo workers are being
exploited may head to the court.
Duke is alleging that Lutchmedial is ex-
ploiting zoo workers and not giving them
"the right to say no"
Last Monday, Duke claimed that zoo
workers were being sent to a Government
minister's farm on Mason Hall in Tobago,
sent to the official residence of Prime Min-
ister Dr Keith Rowley at La Fantasie Road, St
Ann's to care for animals, and sent "down
the islands" to work.
He also questioned why workers from a
private company (allegedly belonging to
Lutchmedial) was doing work for a public
company without pay. Duke claimed that
Lutchmedial was using his power as "the
person in charge of the zoo" and "the person
in charge of CDA" to have his "own way"
Duke added, "We are calling on him to
stop exploiting the workers of the Emper-
or Valley Zoo. Let them feed the lions and
the tigers, let them bathe the animals, let
them the work there, not take advantage
of them by shipping them to Tobago at this
government minister's farm."
Duke said Lutchmedial should "do the
honourable thing and resign from his posi-
tion because he would have supervised what
we are calling an abuse of public funds"
Lutchmedial, however, said he had no
reason to resign. He said no worker from
his private company did work for the CDA.
He admitted that because of the large debt
incurred by the last board, he has used some
of his personal funds to facilitate progress
at the state agency. The CDA has close to
$117 million in debt.
Lutchmedial told the Sunday Guardian
that he has spoken to his attorney, Justin
Junkere seeking legal advice since "Duke
has been saying things that are not true."
Lutchmedial said the board of the ZSTT
does not get involved in the day-to-day run-
ning of the zoo. The zoo's curator, Nirmal
Biptah was appointed to do that.
"What we do is set the policies of the zoo.
The Zoological Society has no government
workers. Also, it is not the Emperor Valley
Zoo that hires contractors but the ZSTT."
"Zoo workers take care of animals, they
clean cages and they see about office ad-
ministration. They are not going anywhere
to do construction. Not one of them went
down the islands as he is claiming."
"I do not know where Duke got his infor-
mation," Lutchmedial said. He said there
were many contractors associated with the
ZSTT, one of whom was private contrac-
tor Bissoon Persad who frequently does
work in Tobago. When contacted, Persad
confirmed he took seven of his workers to
Tobago and also down the islands as part of
a recent national clean-up. He also said he
has done private work like building cages
for Rowley's birds.
On the issue of workers at the PM's of-
ficial residence, Lutchmedial said Rowley
has been an honorary member of the ZSTT
for several years and when he became PM
he moved some of his birds.
"Once there is an issue, zoo workers or
ZSTT members will go and offer assistance
as they have done in the past with him and
with other members of the public."
About claims that he gives instructions
to zoo workers, Lutchmedial said he cannot
give any worker direction and that "they do
not have to listen to me"
BIPTAH: ZOO WORKERS WERE NOT SENT TO ANY ISLAND TO WORK
Lutchmedial, who was appointed
vice-chairman of the CDA in December
2015, became chairman in August last
year after the appointed chairman Antho-
ny Pierre resigned.
Since assuming chairmanship, Lutch-
medial took a leave of absence as pres-
ident of the Zoological Society of T&T
(ZSTT) "in light of increased responsibil-
ities that I expect to perform in this role
That was according to a letter dated
August 29, 2016, to the secretary of the
ZSTT. The ZSTT is a non-governmental
organisation of which Lutchmedial is a
trustee. Lutchmedial has been ZSTT pres-
ident for five consecutive terms and is a
life member. The ZSTT council members
are not paid. Their work is voluntary.
However, Duke called on Lutchmedial
to say how often he frequents the zoo,
what role he plays and asked if he's said
he's taken a leave of absence, if it mean
he has not returned to the zoo. "He must
In response, Lutchmedial said he was
a lover of animals and from time to time
visits them. "I love animals and the wel-
fare of animals is always my concern."
Meanwhile, Biptah told the Sunday
Guardian there were 42 employees work-
ing at the zoo and who were paid by the
zoo---25 zoo-keeping workers, four main-
tenance staff, eight administrative and
He said, "The zoo workers were not
sent to any island to work. There are oth-
er workers who are hired by the council
of the ZSTT so there is the possibility he
(Duke) could be referring to them. Those
workers work for a contractor but they
are not zoo employees."
Duke said it was industrial relations
knowledge that workers who were con-
tracted via an organisation were still em-
ployees of that organisation.
He said, "It is an undisputed fact. So
when we say zoo workers, it is not for us
to say if they are paid by the zoo or not,
they are associated with zoo work."
State can seize your
property if you
fail to pay taxes
If people fail to pay property taxes, the State can
seize their properties says St Augustine MP and
former legal affairs minister Prakash Ramadhar.
Ramadhar was speaking to the Sunday Guardian
about the tax for which Finance Minister Colm Imbert
said assessment notices would be distributed soon.
Ramadhar said while Imbert had somewhat ex-
plained how the tax would be calculated, there was
still many unclear, grey areas about the tax that con-
fused the average citizen.
He said there was an inconsistency in sending out
assessment notices when property owners did not
know where the valuations would be coming from.
The notices of assessment should specify the unique
land identification number, the annual rental value
of the land, the annual taxable value of the land, the
annual tax payable in respect thereof, any deductions
and allowances as well as the time when and where
the annual tax is to be paid.
For property owners who default on taxes, a further
ten per cent is added to the amount of the tax.
The notice will also state the penalties and conse-
quences for failure to pay the tax and the right to object
to the assessment.
One of the things the Government needs to be clear
on, according to Ramadhar, is the repercussions of be-
ing unable to pay the tax.
While there are exemptions for the elderly, people
receiving government assistance and other special
circumstances, Ramadhar is concerned that the law
leaves very little options for people who simply could
not afford the payment.
"The average national has very little disposable
income. They are already afraid of crime and also the
darkness of the future of the economy. People are fear-
ful of losing their homes. I am an MP and I know the
people who come before me and what their concerns
are. For those who are already on the limit every dollar
counts," Ramadhar said.
He added that even if people were exempted from
paying the taxes, that tax would still be attached to
the property, so on passing, that debt would have to
be cleared before someone can inherit.
"They try to brush over these important issues, and
now with a contracting economy to put this extra bur-
den on citizens is callous."
According to the Property Tax Act (2009) there are
over one dozen types of property exempt from paying
property taxes, inclusive of churches, school buildings,
lands used in connection of educational, philanthropic
or religious purposes, land owned or occupied by a
charitable institution, land used for public hospitals
and land owned or occupied by a foreign government or
international organisation of which T&T is a member.
Section 41 of the act also states that if any tax is
unpaid and has elapsed by 12 months, the Comptroller
of Accounts or District Revenue Officer may authorize
the levying of goods on the land. If the non-payment
extends to five years, the State has the right to order
that the land be forfeited to the State.
(1) Where any tax or any part thereof due in
respect of any land remains in arrears and unpaid
for the period of five years from the day when it
became due and payable, the President may, by
warrant under his hand, reciting that a sum speci-
fied in such warrant, due on account of the tax and
for five years in such warrant, is and has for the
full period of five years been in arrears and unpaid,
order that such lands be
Forfeited to the State, and immediately upon
the registration of such warrant as hereinafter
provided, such land shall be forfeited, and shall
vest in the State, in absolute dominion, free and
discharged from all rights, estates, interests, equi-
ties and claims of any other person.
...over claims zoo workers are exploited
Chairman of the Chaguaramas Development Authority Gupte Lutchmedial.
PHOTO: RHONDA RAMBALLY
PSA PRESIDENT WATSON DUKE
PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
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