Thursday, December 27, 2007

Garbage grows on Caroni lands


LANDS formerly controlled by Caroni (1975) Limited are now a haven for illegal dumping and unauthorised operations.

Former sugar workers who were awaiting leases for agricultural and housing lands said they were disgusted to see the level of deterioration that had taken place.

Workers said debris was being piled on a roadway to the Brechin Castle sugar factory, off Rivulet Road.

In other instances, there have been reports of bungalows being used to host private functions and lands being shared to private contractors after the closure of Caroni.

Debris was also spotted on lands near Roystonia and at Waterloo Road, Carapichaima, on lands once controlled by the State enterprise.

Sources at Caroni said the former sugar producing entity was no longer responsible for the 75,000 acres of lands which were now under state control.

The source said they had received numerous complaints which had been forwarded to Commissioner of State Lands Stephanie Alexander and the Estate Management Business Development Company headed by Indian national Uthara Rao.

Rudy Indarsingh, head of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers, said he, too, had been bombarded with numerous complaints of dumping and squatting on the abandoned cane lands.

Speaking with the Guardian yesterday, Indarsingh said he wanted answers.

He said the EMBD had awarded millions of dollars in contracts to security firms which had failed to secure and protect the State’s resources.

“The EMBD is taking instructions from the political directorate,” Indarsingh said.

“The millions expended by the EMBD in lucrative security contracts under Rao’s tenure have resulted in nothing.

“The lands are not seems that anyone can walk in and do anything on these lands.

“When Caroni folded in 2003, the small farmers who were then planting on strips of lands were chased by the EMBD security and their crops were destroyed.

“Today if you drive through the roads bordering Caroni lands all you can see is garbage strewn everywhere, nothing productive is taking place.”

Indarsingh said Rao had refused to sit and discuss with the ATSGWTU the land distribution process for the former workers. He said the EMBD was not taking on the High Court ruling of Justice Lennox Deyalsingh who ordered that the land should be first given to the ex-employees.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ramesh: Caroni workers entitled to free land


FORMER Caroni (1975) Ltd workers are entitled to free agricultural and housing land, says Ramesh Maharaj, head of the T&T Civil Rights Association and the MP for Tabaquite.

Maharaj was addressing former sugar workers who attended a special meeting of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union at Rienzi Complex, Couva, yesterday, to discuss the ruling of Justice Lennox Deyalsingh.

The Supreme Court judge ordered the Government to hand over leases to the ex-sugar workers by June 2008.

The Government had earlier announced that the residential land was being sold for $20,000 to $30,000 a lot.

Maharaj said part of the VSEP package, which workers accepted when Caroni folded as a sugar producer in 2003, was the promise of land. He said, however, that nowhere in the agreement was it stated that workers would have to pay for the land.

Maharaj said all workers should be entitled to residential land regardless if they own property or not. He said to deny any former sugar worker that right would be unfair.

Maharaj said if the Government intended to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court, he had plans to put legal and political pressure on them to the point where Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his Cabinet could be jailed for acting in contempt of court.

Maharaj said he intended to approach the Appeal Court and Privy Council to have these matters dealt with within a few months if the Government planned to appeal the judgment.

He said the Government intended to defraud sugar workers by transferring the land assets from Caroni (1975) Ltd to the State.

He said this would have put the union in a position where it could have got anything from Caroni (1975) Ltd if the ATSGWTU had gone to the Industrial Court.

Maharaj said the public statements made by Manning, John Rahael, a former minister of agriculture and Christine Sahadeo, former junior finance minister gave the assurance that Caroni workers would have the first priority to lands.

He said based on these statements, the matter was brought before the courts.

Maharaj said the workers could also legally block any individual or group outside the former sugar workers from grabbing Caroni lands before they get their leases.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sugar union to change name

Monday, December 10 2007

THE All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union (ATSGWTU) has undergone a major transformation over the last four years with the closure of the sugar industry and having lost some 10,000 members.

“Because of a drop in revenue we had to implement a restructuring plan of our own and as a result we are now stabilised and there is now the need to focus on continued growth and development,” stated Rudranath Indarsingh, president. 

At the time, Indarsingh was delivering the Presidential Address at the 70th Annual Conference of Delegates of the Union at Rienzi Complex, Mc Bean, Couva, on Saturday. 

He said, “We must be innovative and understand that this is not for politicians and political parties alone.” 

He felt that as a “union we must never lose focus of the core issues of grievance handling, collective bargaining, new trends in industrial relations, health and safety, national insurance, and HIV/Aids in the workplace.” 

He told the conference that the time was fast approaching for a change of name of the union to the All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union, taking into consideration that there was no sugar industry in the country. 

He was strong in his view that “labour legislation must be placed high on the agenda of this Government and more so to the new Minister of Labour, Small and Micro Enterprise Development, Rennie Dumas.” 

He said that inflation was high in the country and the Government should have it reduced “so that workers do not lose the ability to purchase basic goods and services and that wage increase realised by Trade Unions is not lost.”