(Trinidad Express) The United Policyholders Group has been granted leave to apply for judicial review of Government’s decision not to pay them the full sum of money due on their CLICO Executive Flexible Premium Annuities (EFPA).
In the Port of Spain High Court yesterday, Justice Joan Charles said she was satisfied that the group has raised several grounds for judicial review with a reasonable prospect of success.
The policyholders initiated legal action against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago.
It was later agreed that the Attorney General will be substituted as the proposed defendant.
Attorneys acting on behalf of the group contended that there was a guarantee given by the State in 2009 that their money in the Colonial Life Insurance Company Ltd (CLICO) would be safe and, if there was any deficit in the company’s statutory fund that Government would make up the deficit.
Queen’s Counsel Peter Knox submitted that when the new administration took up office in 2010, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran announced a plan to repay policyholders their money without interest over a period of 20 years.
This plan, he said, was inconsistent with the guarantee given by the previous government.
It was argued that where a Government or a public authority wants to change a policy which has created a legitimate expectation of a substantive benefit, which is a protection in public law, it has to adduce evidence to show an overriding public interest.
Knox said a court would then have to determine whether the argument of an overriding public interest is a genuine one or whether the change of policy was so unfair that it amounted to an abuse of public power.
The policyholders also asked the court to grant them an interim order which compels Government to give details of the assets of CLICO which have been sold and how the proceeds of the sales were applied.
They also asked that Government give details of the EFPA policyholders who have been paid in full since January 2009.
Charles, in her 59-page judgement, said the group should be granted disclosure of some of the documents sought and responses to the requests for information.
Appearing with Knox were attorneys Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, Vijaya Maharaj and Nyala Badal while Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet were represented by attorneys Allan Newman QC, Deborah Peake SC, Kelvin Ramkissoon and Kerry-Ann Oliverie.