Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar believes the courts will strike down any law passed regarding the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA), as well as the recently proclaimed section of the Data Protection Act and the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s draft order on the new Tobago seats.
Speaking at last night’s UNC Monday Night Forum, she said the TTRA and Data Protection Act sections that allow ministries to share access to people’s information are all being put together to facilitate the start of property tax.
Persad-Bissessar made it clear the UNC doesn’t support the TTRA Bill which will be debated in the Senate today, but said any TTRA law will be challenged in courts.
“Bringing this property tax amidst a pandemic when people are seeing trouble! Prime Minister, stop this tax! Take it away now. It won’t redound to the benefit of people but will have serious repercussions,’’ she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the tax will also affect those who don’t own property, including squatters who also have to file valuation return forms for land they occupy. She said deferrals will only be for two years and if owners die, tax accumulates for those who get the property. Tax will also be passed to tenants, but Persad-Bissessar asked if big industrial classes were left out because they were PNM “friends and family.”
She said the Data Protection section will be struck down by courts if it’s used and the same will apply if the TTRA’s approved.
She said Government removed the former special majority requirement for the TTRA Bill and changed it to a simple majority. But she said the bill interferes with property and privacy rights and clauses are also unconstitutional, since it allows appointees by the minister.
She noted a memo on the proclaimed section of the Data Protection Act sent from the Finance Ministry’s permanent secretary to the Valuation Commissioner. The latter said the section’s current form would make it difficult for Valuation to successfully achieve its mandate. The commissioner recommended it be repealed or the entire act be proclaimed but this wasn’t done, she said.
Persad-Bissesar also said the EBC order extending Tobago’s seats to 15 is unconstitutional and will be struck down by courts. Alleging “Rowley-mandering,” she said the EBC had said before there was no need to change boundaries but now seats have been cut in PNM’s favour.
Saddam Hosein said the three new seats will give PNM an advantage, as six PNM seats were cut into nine and some shifts caused PDP seats to be weakened.
“We have Local Government polls ahead and the EBC’s in charge of cutting boundaries. EBC hit T&T a six for a nine – it’s totally unfair what EBC has done with boundaries.’’