Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 1st 2017 Contents news A5
Thursday, June 1, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Kamla again calls for rethink on tax process
This was how Opposition Leader Kam-
la Persad-Bissessar described yesterday's
decision by Justice Frank Seepersad in High
Court in San Fernando to grant another in-
terim injunction against the Commission-
er of Valuations from receiving completed
valuation return forms from the public.
The injunction effectively blocks the State
from receiving the forms and supporting
documents which Government had man-
dated citizens to submit to the commis-
sioner until the extended deadline of June 2.
In commenting on the decision, Per-
sad-Bissessar, who spoke at a press con-
ference at the Opposition's office at Charles
Street, Port-of-Spain, said, "The court, in
its reasons, found that the Government was
blowing hot and cold on the issue of whether
the exercise was a purely voluntary one.
"The judgment vindicates the position
we have taken all along in this matter. We
see this as an attempt by the Government
to deceive, trick and hoodwink citizens into
sharing their personal information with the
Government in circumstances where they
feel they have no choice except to comply
with the Government's demands or else they
could face criminal prosecution."
On forms previously submitted, she said
they should be deemed null and void as they
had no legal bearing in the court.
Calling on Government to again rethink
its position on the property tax, Persad-Bis-
sessar said Finance Minister Colm Imbert
had taken the position that the stay imposed
by the court on the last occasion was open
to interpretation and still felt the public
could send in the documents.
On the issue of energy, she congratulated
bpTT on the success in its two exploration
wells, Savannah and Macadamia, saying
this was as a result of initiatives placed
by the former People's Partnership ad-
"During the tenure of the PP adminis-
tration it was realised that companies like
bpTT needed to be incentivised to drill and
explore for natural gas.
"The incentives were necessary to in-
crease levels of drilling for natural gas, given
declining reserves and levels of production,"
Addressing the decision on his return
from Chile last evening, Prime Minister
Dr Keith Rowley said: "The Government
of Trinidad and Tobago will act based on
sound legal advice and with respect to the
Constitution and the law. And I made a
comment in the Parliament recently that
we in the Cabinet are the executive of the
country and we maintain a wall between
what we are supposed to do and what other
arms of the state are supposed to do."
He said Government will "respect what
goes on in the courts," but added: "I find it
very difficult to swallow that ministers of a
previous government could have managed
a law in a particular way, not to the benefit
of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and
when they get put out of executive authority
those same persons could see the court as
their playground, to the disadvantage of
the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I think
I can make that comment and I stand by
He also said they would carry their point
of view to the highest court of the land if
they have to.
UNC crosses another legal hurdle
Property Tax injunction stays
The state has been blocked for a sec-
ond time from collecting any complet-
edValuation Return Forms, commonly
called the Property Tax Forms, from
members of the public.
Justice Frank Seepersad granted an injunc-
tion yesterday preventingthe Commissioner
of Valuations from receiving theforms from
members of the public. The order will remain
in effect until June 27, when the judge will
decide whether to continue it or if it will be
Seepersad had granted aninterim stay on
May 19haltingthe enforcement and imple-
mentation of the form until yesterday. The
State has since appealed this decision and
this comes up before the Court of Appeal
When the case management conference
for the judicial review trial came up in the
San Fernando High Court yesterday,lead at-
torney Anand Ramlogan, who is representing
forformeragriculture minister Devant Ma-
haraj, made a freshapplication,verbally,for
an injunction to continue to prevent the state
from collecting the forms.
This was strongly opposed by lead attor-
ney Russell Martineau SC,who is represent-
ing the interests of Attorney General Faris
Al-Rawi and attorney Fyard Hosein SC, the
lead attorney for the commissioner.They ar-
gued that Maharaj's attorneys ought to have
made a written application and they were
highly prejudiced because they were caught
by surprise. Martineau also argued that the
matter is beforeCourt of Appeal andany ap-
plication for further relief should be made
before that court.
Seepersad, however, ruled that he was just
and warranted to hear the oral application.
In his 28-page judgment, Seepersad said,
"The balance of convenience and the interest
of justice is not weighted in favour of the
Respondents (AG and Commissioner) and
a greater risk of prejudice lies in the con-
tinuation of a process which on the face of
the existing law, may have been undertaken
without measured consideration and with-
out proper regard to the provisions of the act.
"Ultimately, the public interest can never
be best served if the court permits such a
state of affairs to continue before it resolves
the issues raised at the trial and accordingly
the court must now consider the sixth issue."
He added: "While the court is mindful that
the respondents have not had a full oppor-
tunity to carefully consider the claimant's
oral application, and to determine whether
it wished to adduce evidence in opposition
to same, with respect to the impact on the
rights of third parties and on any other
relevant issue, the court does feel that the
overriding objective and the interest of jus-
tice is best served by the grant of an interim
order until such time as all of the relevant
information is placed before the court and
a proper and considered determination can
be made as to whether the interim order now
granted ought to continue until the trial of
The judge set the matter, in which Maharaj
is challenging the legality of the Property
Tax, for trial on September19 at the Port-of-
Spain Supreme Court and September 21 at
the San Fernando Supreme Court.The judge
also gave directions on specific dates to file
the necessary documents and reserved costs
until the completion of the trial.
Former attorney general Anand Ramlogan SC, left, with other members of his legal team
leave the San Fernando High Court yesterday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
to probe member
in HCU collapse
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of
T&T (ICATT) has been given the green light
to reconvene its disciplinary tribunal to in-
vestigate accountant Chandricka Seeteram
for alleged impropriety in preparing the fi-
nancial records of the Hindu Credit Union
(HCU) before its collapse.
High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad on
Monday dismissed Seetaram's judicial review
lawsuit against the ICATT's disciplinary com-
mittee's ability to initiate and investigate the
allegations against him.
The committee had agreed to stay its tribunal
pending the determination of the lawsuit.
The disciplinary allegations stem from issues
raised in the Commission of Enquiry into the
collapse of insurance giant CLICO and the HCU
Seetaram had testified that he failed to dis-
close a $150 million consolidated loss at an an-
nual general meeting, concealed a $31 million loss
among "prior adjustments" in the 2005 accounts,
back-dated audited accounts and rushed pre-
paring accounts which were later represented
as fully audited accounts. He claimed this was
done upon the request of former HCU president,
Seetaram, who began doing work for the
HCU in 2003, later denied any wrongdoing,
but blamed a typist for a crucial oversight on
the HCU books.
His explanation was rejected by chairman
of the commission, Sir Anthony Colman, who
in his final report to Parliament noted that the
ICATT complaints had been filed by former fi-
nance minister Mariano Browne.
The complaint alleged that Seetaram was re-
sponsible for HCU financial statements which
were materially misleading and in non-compli-
ance with requisite accounting principles. It also
alleged he failed to inform HCU members of the
issues as required by general auditing standards.
Evidence led in the CoE was used in the com-
The ICATT's investigative committee had ini-
tially found that a prima facie case had been made
out against Seetaram and referred the matter to
the organisation's disciplinary committee.
The committee included retired banker Rich-
ard Young, Junior Frederick, Kyle Rudden, Luana
Boyack, Jo Anne Julien, Nigel Baptiste and Ray-
mond Crichton. Browne was also selected but
recused himself from taking part in the process.
Seetaram appeared before the disciplinary
committee in April 2015 but challenged its ju-
risdiction to hear the claims. His objection was
rejected by the committee, who said it had the
power to investigate breaches of the organisa-
tion's rules of professional conduct.
Seetaram was represented by Alvin Fitzpat-
rick, SC, Adrian Byrne and Jason Mootoo, while
ICATT was represented by Fyard Hosein, SC,
Anil Maraj and Sasha Bridgemohan.
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