Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Clear air on Caroni lands - Indarsingh

By Yvonne Webb


The All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers Trade Union yesterday issued a call to Government to clear the air on who gave permission to millionaire Pastor Vishnu Lutchmansingh to occupy Caroni (1975) lands, in contravention of a High Court injunction.

At the same time, President General of the Union, Rudy Indarsingh, said Government must publicly declare what is its general plan for the 77,000 acres of Caroni’s land.

At a news conference held at the Union’s Rienzi Complex headquarters, Indarsingh said that since February 17, 2003, ATSGWTU had been granted an interim injunction by the High Court, preventing Caroni from disposing of any assets, except its stock in trade.

“Recent developments seem to indicate that this order, which was handed down by the High Court, has been violated at Chin Chin Junction, Cunupia,” Indarsingh said, adding that Government is bent on giving away Caroni lands to its friends and financiers.

“Because, here it is we have an individual, Pastor Lutchmansingh, who is supposed to be a law-abiding citizen, apparently violating an order of the court and also implicating the Prime Minister as having given him permission to go on the lands of Caroni.”

Indarsingh questioned the role of the Estate Management Business Development Company, created to manage the lands of Caroni, in terms of facilitating the process alluded to by Lutchmansingh.

Lutchmansingh is reported as saying that Prime Minister Patrick Manning gave him permission to occupy the land, which he purchased from businessman Junior Gopaul. Caroni has contested the claim, serving the pastor with a notice to desist from trespassing on its land.

“The union is concerned about what will become of the most valuable asset of Caroni, which is its 77,000 acres of land,” Indarsingh said.

He noted that earlier this year, Caroni had to move in on trespassers in an area near the Learning Resource Centre and reclaim its land.

At present, he said, 11 acres of Caroni lands are being graded at La Fortune, Woodland, in field number BV 50, for the construction of an asphalt mixing facility.

He said this is a total deviation from Government’s thrust, as enunciated by Agriculture Minister John Rahael earlier this year, that the most valuable assets of the company, its prime agriculture land, must be retained for this purpose.