New queries raised in tax appeal case

The Opposition yesterday raised new questions about the possible collusion and Government interference in the Judiciary hours before the Appeal Court convenes to hear an application to overturn an injunction effectively stalling the implementation and collection of the property tax.

    A letter sent to the Registrar of the Supreme Court Jade Rodriguez by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan SC, lead attorney for former government minister Devant Maharaj, yesterday detailed the events which unfolded after Friday?s ruling by Justice Frank Seepersad blocking the process.

Thousands of home-owners have been flocking to Valuation Division offices across the country for the last two weeks to submit copies of their deeds and other documents to meet the May 22 deadline. Due to the long lines and slow process the deadline was extended to June 5. The court ruling has in effect stopped the process temporarily.

Ramlogan yesterday questioned how Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi could announce in Parliament shortly after the ruling that the matter is being appealed and the hearing had been fixed for  Monday when both the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the Manager of the Registry for the Court of Appeal told him no appeal had been listed. 

?When she (Registrar) called on Saturday night at 6.55 pm she indicated that she had ?only just? received instructions and that the Notice of Appeal in this matter was only emailed to her at 5.29 pm.?

Ramlogan also questioned if, as indicated by the Registrar, the State?s attempt on Friday to have the appeal dealt with as a matter of urgency was rejected, why that was not communicated to him. He further questioned who overrode the decision not to entertain the appeal and listed it for hearing on Monday and on what basis.

Ramlogan also questioned why the composition of the Appeal Court panel has ?suddenly? changed.

?The Attorney General has publicly stated Justice (Allan) Mendonca confirmed that he would hear the appeal on an urgent basis on Monday morning at 9 o?clock.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
If this is in fact so, why has the composition of the panel suddenly changed? The quorum now comprises Justices of Appeal Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Judith Jones.

?Did Justice of Appeal Mendonca recuse himself and if so, on what basis? This raises an even greater concern of the Court having communications with the State in this matter to the exclusion of the proposed Respondent to the appeal.?

 ?Such one-sided, unilateral communication between the Court of Appeal and the Appellant is patently unfair, improper and contrary to settled practice,? he said, adding, it ?begs the question whether there was direct contact with the learned judges.? 

Ramlogan requested that the letter be brought to the attention of the Chief Justice and for the Judiciary to respond before today?s appeal.

Interviewed by reporters at the San Fernando Hill yesterday, Al-Rawi described Ramlogan?s claims as ridiculous suggestions of a conspiracy.

  ?I would certainly invite you to remember that the Opposition even when it was in government had a habit of saying a whole bunch of things that just didn?t add up to propriety.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
I will be polite as I can on a wonderful day like today, but the truth is we have followed all the proper processes.

?Anybody who has been to court on an  emergency basis can testify to this for you and really they are condemning some of the most notable attorneys in Trinidad and Tobago.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi
Are they saying that Mr (Russell) Martineau, Mrs (Deborah) Peake, Fyard Hosein, the Chief State Solicitor, that they are all incompetent and who are in collusion with some fabric of dissonance? That just has to be ridiculous so I denounce it outright and I ask you not to pay attention to foolishness.?

In a separate statement, Minister of Finance and Acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert, stated, he ?did not utter a single word in Parliament about this matter on Friday…and any statement to the contrary is completely untrue.

Imbert said that his comment to the media on Friday was that the matter will be appealed, not that it had been appealed.

He further stated that attorneys for the Commissioner of Valuations made efforts to get an urgent hearing before the Court of Appeal on Friday, but were advised that the Court of Appeal would convene on Monday.


© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi PDVSA

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