Rosemarie Sant Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar plans to write to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley asking him to reconsider his Government's position on the request for the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) Legislation to be sent to a Joint Select Committee (JSC).
In an interview on Akaash Vani 106.5 FM, sister station of the T&T Guardian, Persad-Bissessar accused the Government of taking a "roller-coaster approach" to the legislation. She said through Finance Minister Colm Imbert they had agreed to the suggestion that the bill be sent to a JSC, but subsequently reneged on that commitment.
"Why are they so afraid of JSC, which is a tool utilised by Parliaments around the world, and this Parliament?" she asked.
Persad-Bisssessar said the legislation needs to go to a JSC because it is complex and infringes on people's rights.
"Our Constitution, which is the bedrock of our democratic society ... our Constitution framers made sure that certain legislation required a special majority. You must pause for a cause and look at this legislation where rights are being breached," she said.
"Barbados and Jamaica have IGAs but have not gone the route of breaching constitutional rights. Why are we going this route?"
Persad-Bissessar said Government is not offered an explanation as to why it does not want a JSC. She is of the view, given what is happening in the United States, that "we should have the benefit of a Joint Select Committee which gives us a wider array of opinions and greater expertise."
The FATCA bill requires a three-fifths majority for passage. Since Government controls 23 of the 42 seats in the House of Representatives, the support of at least three opposition MPs is required for the legislation to pass.
Persad-Bissessar said the PNM claims they supported legislation requiring a special majority when they were in Opposition but the approach of her People's Partnership administration was different.
"We tried to pass good law which resulted in the then Opposition giving its support," she said.
Asked how the impasse could be resolved, Persad-Bissessar said ahead of the Parliament sitting on January 6, she plans to write to the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider his Government's position.
"I would not want to think the Government would be so reckless, given their insistence on the importance of this legislation," she said.
Asked why the Peoples Partnership Government did not haver the Bill finalized during its term in office, Persad-Bissessar explained: "We started the process by initialling the IGA in June 2014."
But she said her government could not bring legislation to Parliament until the agreement was signed, which took place under the current Government.
"We had a six-month window to bring the bill to Parliament given the proroguing of Parliament in June 2015," she said.
On the last occasion that the FATCA legislation was before Parliament, the Opposition Leader was put out of the Chamber by House Speaker Bridget Annisette-George and members of the Opposition left the sitting in support of their leader. Imbert then wound up the debate and the legislation went to the committee stage.
UNC officials told the T&T Guardian they have been meeting to discuss amendments to the legislation proposed by the Government and will be ready with a position this week.
The business community has been lobbying the Government and Opposition to pass the legislation. There are concerns that if it is not passed by the February deadline T&T's financial sector and even average citizens could be negatively affected.
FATCA, the brainchild of outgoing US President Barack Obama, was introduced to help the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) track down suspected tax cheats with secret money and investments hidden in overseas banks.
Since the law was introduced in 2014, the IRS has confiscated US$10 billion from nearly 100,000 US taxpayers. Thousands of other taxpayers have rushed to file late tax returns or amend filings to avoid falling foul of fines and interest penalties.
However, expats, led by the lobby group Republicans Abroad, claim the law is unfair and breaches the right to privacy given under the US Constitution. The group is optimistic that with a Republican President coming into the White House this month the legislation will be repealed.
Although President-elect Donald Trump has not commented on his position on FATCA, the Republican platform had called for the repeal of the law and for the IRS to levy taxes based on residency. The Republicans say FATCA not only allows unreasonable search and seizures but also threatens the ability of overseas Americans to lead normal lives.