Dear Valued Members,
COVID-19 is a clear and present danger to our society, with Trinidad and Tobago having recorded over 48,000 positive cases and 1,416 COVID -19 related deaths since 12th March 2020. In addition, during the period April and May 2021, there was a noticeable "spike" in reported "New Positive Cases" for COVID-19. The Board continued working with our courageous frontline persons in management and the staff to ensure that the Credit Union did not incur a single day of closure to date. However, collectively, the Board of Neal & Massy Credit Union (NMCU) are very mindful of the importance of fulfilling our fiduciary duty, and we are obligated to act in the best interest of the members of this organization; among our responsibilities are to:
- Perform an external financial audit of your Credit Union. The Credit Union completed this exercise; and
- Schedule and host an annual general meeting (AGM)
The Board sent the following "Important Notification" to the membership via several communication channels in May 2021 because the organization was not on track to complete both activities listed above within our set timeframes.
The Board's rationale given to the membership in May 2021, for the postponement of the 68th AGM, primarily revolved around the State of Emergency (SOE) that the government declared on 15th May 2021. Furthermore, there was also the potential for COVID-19 infection within the smaller in-person gathering of diverse persons with a virtual (online) format. Please kindly note that the level of vaccinations in the country during April and May 2021 was a meagre supply compared to what is available currently.
On a similar note, some members had asked about hosting an in-person AGM instead of a virtual (online) AGM, but this would have been irresponsible due to the number of reported positive COVID-19 cases and resulting deaths, and that trend has continued. Nevertheless, as a responsible organization, we have a "duty of care" to protect stakeholders and are liable in this regard. However, we must state that the overriding factor deterring the prior hosting of the 68th AGM was and is the government-imposed State of Emergency (SOE) and its restrictions and public health regulations.
Members may have observed and recognized that some Credit Unions have taken "a chance" and held AGMs after the government declared the SOE on 15th May 2021. Still, far more Credit Unions, who like us would generally fulfil their fiduciary responsibility, have not staged their AGM. The Board would like to place on record that soon after the government declared the SOE, the Board sought advice from NMCU legal counsel and our Regulator at the Ministry. As a responsible Board, we sought not to break any regulations to create risk for Board and Committee members, management and staff, and other stakeholders needed onsite to stage our virtual (online) AGM without formal permission from the appropriate authorities, owing to the current SOE restrictions:
- So as not to incur financial and potential penalties, including fines and jail time, which the powers that be can impose if they visit the Credit Union while we host our Saturday AGM; and
- Suffer reputational damage that will negatively affect our brand.
The Credit Union consulted with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Corporate Communications Unit. A legal officer from the TTPS responded in writing and counselled, "Currently, we are guided by the Public Health Regulations and the Emergency Powers (No. 2) Regulations, 2021." Hence, to be in line with the law under the current SOE and Public Health Regulations, the TTPS noted, "we recommend that you liaise with the Minister of Health as he is the authorized person to grant permissions in relation to these guidelines." The legal officer from the TTPS finally directed that "We are duty bound to remind persons that public gatherings of more than five (5) persons are not permitted at this time, pursuant to the aforementioned regulations."
In closing, we have Public Health Regulations and the Emergency Powers (No. 2) Regulations, 2021, in place until the end of November 2021. Yet, we are buoyed by the government's stance as it "opens up" various economic sectors. Still, these are extraordinary times, and the rule of law will guide our Credit Union. Therefore, we will continue to liaise with our Regulator and importantly, we are in the process of obtaining the necessary formal approval from the Minister of Health to stage our 68th AGM in the shortest possible timeframe.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused.