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.

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