Talk to Trump.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has advised Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to communicate with the United States to find out the intentions of the incoming Donald Trump administration with respect to the FATCA legislation and/or extension of deadline date if necessary.
This is one of the proposals she recommended to Rowley aimed at resolving the impasse between the Government and Opposition over FATCA.
In a nine-page letter dated January 4, 2017 to the Prime Minister, Persad-Bissessar outlined several proposals to resolve the impasse that currently exists between the Government and Opposition with respect to the passage of the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill 2016.
The FATCA Bill, which requires Opposition support for passage, is carded to return to the House tomorrow for consideration.
In her letter, Persad-Bissessar stated that the Opposition is committed to passing legislation that is in the best interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in accordance with the Constitution and the law and, which does not undermine respect for the rule of law which is the bedrock upon which we exist peacefully and harmoniously as a country.
She maintained the Opposition’s call for a Joint Select Committee (JSC) to examine the Bill and speaking at a news conference at her Port of Spain office yesterday, Persad-Bissessar questioned why the Government was afraid to have a JSC if the bill was so critical as they indicated.
She pointed out in her letter that at the last debate on the bill the Government decided to proceed with the committee stage and passed certain amendments to the bill that have substantively altered the content of the bill.
This, she stated, was all done in the absence of the Opposition.
The following are proposals outlined by Persad-Bissessar “to put country first” and pass good law:
1. Joint Select Committee (JSC)
Both the Government and the Opposition meet and agree a timetable for the appointment and report of a JSC to report to the Parliament on this legislation. The Opposition is willing to agree a timetable that allows for the passage of the legislation through Parliament before any deadline whether February 28, 2017 or otherwise. Such an agreement will ensure that we as a country meet the stated deadline date and the fears and anxiety of our people are assuaged.
A JSC would allow for wider and deeper examination of the bill and a number of relevant issues that would impact on the lives of citizens.
• Where important pieces of legislation with far — reaching consequences are presented to the House a JSC has been the mechanism employed to advance the law-making process and provide the most consultative process before the legislation is passed.
A JSC will have a wider membership of persons from both the House and the Senate as it would comprise of members of the House, Government and Opposition and, members of the Senate, Government, Opposition and Independents. At the end of this process when the report of the Committee is laid in the House the whole House would have the opportunity to consider and debate adoption of the Report. The legislation could expect to have a smooth passage through both Houses of Parliament and could be the subject of assent and proclamation without delay.
• A JSC has wider powers than a committee of the whole House under the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives and the Senate to inter alia to:
(i) send for persons, papers and records;
(ii) appoint specialist advisers either to supply information which is not otherwise readily available or to elucidate on matters of complexity within the committee’s order of reference;
(iii) to issue summonses to persons to produce books, records and documents to assist the Committee in ensuring that the legislation meets the aims for which it is being passed and it has proper safeguards and protections.
2. Simple Majority
• Further and/or alternatively, Government may want to consider removing those clauses in the bill which violate constitutional guarantees (by looking to the statutes of other Caricom countries which give effect to their Inter-Governmental Agreements (IGAs) and so remove the necessity for a special majority. In such a case, the legislation can be passed by a simple majority.
3. Communication with the United States
• Government communicates with the United States of America to ascertain from the new administration their intentions with respect to the FATCA legislation and/or extension of deadline date if necessary.