Spread the word
Letter by Ravi Maharaj
“During the last sitting of Parliament, Dr. Roodal Moonilal made mention of the travel restrictions being implemented in the USA by President Donald Trump, and raised concern for the Attorney General, given his dual heritage. While Mr. Al-Rawi’s Saudi Arabian roots do not yet pose any threat of barring him entry into the US however, another treasured son of the soil did, in fact, face the consequences of such restrictions over the weekend, which should have been a wake-up call to us all, but more so the the government.

In usual victim shaming fashion however, our Prime Minister sought to clarify the matter which former national footballer, Mr. Dwight Yorke faced when travelling through a US airport, placing the blame squarely on the Manchester United ambassador, stating that it was his privilege of having and using a UK passport that created the confusion and embarrassment for the sporting legend.

If there were to have been any doubt that Dr. Rowley was clearly annoyed by the entire situation, however, his comment that “If he (Dwight Yorke) was travelling with a TT passport he would have been very aware that we in Trinidad and Tobago require a visa to go to the US“, should dissuade that thought.

Amid all of this, however, is the issue of FATCA, still looming ominously in the region and in particular, our own Parliament. The fact that the matter concerning Mr. Yorke comes on the heels of another revelation that Trinidad and Tobago will now be commissioning a lobbyist, along with other Caribbean leaders, to appeal to the US authorities regarding the implications of FATCA, says a lot regarding the priorities of the PNM administration.

For the past few weeks, and really since the election of Mr. Trump, there has been growing concern among nationals living in the USA, both legally and illegally, regarding their status and continued the occupation of US territory. Yet the extremely brief, and deliberately vague release from the Office of the Prime Minister regarding Dr. Rowley’s recent telephone conversation with Mr. Trump made no mention of discussions regarding any immigration matters.

In fact, and as the statement would have us believe, both leaders spent the majority of their time discussing FATCA, trade and security issues, which I will assume indicates that immigration was never brought up, until such time that either the Prime Minister or President Trump reveals otherwise.

The reason that this is all precursor to the subject of this missive, is due to the contextual nature of the entire matter, both in Trinidad and Tobago and the USA. As has been reported, President Trump would not have been able to repeal the FATCA legislation in the US through the same types of Executive Orders that he has been laboriously issuing since being sworn into office.
As such, if the President, or the Republican caucus, were to implement their campaign promise to reverse this amendment to their Internal Revenue Code, such action would have had to be brought to Congress in a bill such as the infamous H.R. 5935. This bill was introduced by Congressman Mark Meadows in the 114th Congress, which came to an end on January 3rd, 2017. Because of this, H.R. 5935 has now been cleared from the books, as it failed to be debated or voted on prior to the end date of this Congress.

Moreover, I have since spoken with officials from the offices of two of the bill’s co-sponsors, Congressman Jeff Duncan, and recently appointed Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, who have indicated that it is unlikely that any such bill will be re-introduced to the House. Further, is the fact that in speaking to Mr. Mulvaney’s office, it was ascertained that the repeal of the FATCA legislation is not part of his legislative agenda going into the 2018 Budget.

As such, and with the Republican bench now divided on the issue, it is now clear that even if another Bill was tabled to repeal FATCA during the 115th Congress, it would get the majority vote necessary to ascend to the Senate or be enacted into law.

This all being said, it is somewhat evident through my discussions with these US politicians and the statements and actions of our own Prime Minister, that not only is Dr. Rowley aware of these developments, but is also using this knowledge to further his own agenda. It is my belief that not only would this revelation have been made in some grandiose fashion, but his decision to contribute to the hiring of a lobbyist to manipulate the reform of the FATCA legislation in the US would have been hailed as an act of bravery and valiance on his part:

While all of this is taking place, however, not only do our citizens living in the US remain in fear of deportation but are also subjected to having their rights violated if they happen to have kept any of their local bank accounts active. But the really telling part of all of this is that never once did it occur to Dr. Rowley that his position and leverage in the FATCA negotiations could be used to also lobby the US President on the matter of immigration for our citizens.

Because one would think that if our country does currently have the money to be spent on a lobbyist that can help shape US legislation, it may be better spent to ensure the safety and security of our citizens living abroad. Because of the self-serving philosophy of the PNM however, ideas such as that would never enter into their minds.”

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