Saturday, June 29, 2013

PM Kamla pledges to had out hundreds of lots to former sugar workers

FILE: Former Caroni workers with PM Kamla and Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath at the time
after government handed out 480 leases to former sugar workers
The Manning PNM administration spent $1.6 billion to prepare agricultural and building lots for former sugar workers but failed to give out any of them to the people who were entitled to receive them under a separation agreement. And they even ignored a court judgment.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar spoke about the matter Friday night when she launched the campaign for the Chaguanas West byelection. 

Speaking in her dual capacity as PM and political leader of the UNC, her government has been distributing lots and pledged that everyone who is entitled to land would get it.

Persad-Bissessar said her predecessor, Patrick Manning, closed the sugar company, Caroni (1975) Limited because of political spite. "He shut down your sugar company and put thousands of people out of work. He destroyed the hopes of an entire community," she said.

"Nearly 10,000 people worked for the company… each of them had children and families to feed. 
Thousands of cane farmers were thrown out of work. All the businesses in the communities around the sugar estates were in a tailspin. 
Most of them had to shut down.

"Mr. Manning boasted that closing down the sugar company was the best decision he ever made...
And he refused to give the people the lands that were rightfully theirs according to an agreement signed with their union. 

"In December 2007, Justice Lennox Deyalsingh gave the government a deadline of June 30, 2008 to hand out to 7,900 former sugar workers their entitlement of two-acre agricultural plots and to ensure that each plot had proper infrastructure, including access, drainage and irrigation facilities.

"The judge said the government’s lack of a sense of urgency in dealing the matter for four years was “tantamount to an abuse of power.” Abuse of power ...that was and remains the trademark of the PNM...

"That abuse of power that the judge talked about continued because you did not matter. Your children did not matter. You lived in the wrong area so you didn’t qualify to get noticed by the PNM."

She also took a swing at the current leader of the PNM, Keith Rowley. "In three years we have seen Dr. Rowley abuse his privilege in Parliament, concocting and fabricating stories to try to overthrow your government, making up lies about our AG, about our government and its officials, holding secret meetings and boasting that he did nothing wrong. Wrong and strong. That is the PNM way."

She told supporters to give the PNM one message. "Tell them you are voting for progress. Tell them you are voting for development.
Tell them you are voting for integrity and honesty. Tell them you are VOTING UNC. Tell them you are voting for a party and a government that is not spiteful." 

She said when her government took office it began dealing with matter of the sugar lands. "Since we came into office your government has given out more than 1,000 leases in Cedar Hill, Reform, Mc Bean, Esmeralda and Picton.
"Within our first two years we put over 15,000 acres of land into productive use for agriculture. We have given out almost seven thousand two-acre plots to former Caroni workers.

"We are working on a shared business model on those thousands of two acre plots that we have given to former workers of Caroni (1975) Limited to maximize yield and benefit to the beneficiaries."

She promised that in the coming weeks the government would hand out hundreds of lots.

"And we expect by the end of this year that 5,800 acres of former sugar land will be in food production as part of the Caroni Green Initiative.
560 acres will have short-term crops for the local market. 

"And we are committed to make sure that everyone who is entitled to the land gets it.
We don’t want to know who holds a party card. We don’t do things that way. That’s the PNM way," Persad-Bissessar said. "We are working for you."

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai