Monday, September 17, 2012

PRESS CONFERENCE : Monday 17th September, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning

Let me again thank each of you for being here today, and for allowing us to respond to statements made by the Minister of Food Production as reported in the Guardian of the 13th and the Express and Newsday of the 14th September, 2012.

Ladies and Gentlemen the All Trinidad is extremely saddened and it is with a heavy heart that we speak to you today. We cannot believe and is in fact shocked at the response of the Minister, instead of seeking a meeting with the All Trinidad, instead of even picking up the phone and asking “Gentlemen what is the problem, what are the facts”. The minister goes on the defensive and immediately denies that anyone was terminated.

I cannot say whether the Minister has been deliberately misinformed or whether the Minister was inadvertently misinformed, by his advisers and those surrounding him.

I will simply respond as the facts before me indicate.

The Minister stated as reported in the newspapers that no one was terminated or should we say fired. Ladies and Gentlemen I have in my possession 21 letters of termination that was received by these workers dated 28th August, 2012, to take effect on 31ST August, 2012. I am willing to provide these letters to the Minister if he so desires, in order to allow the goodly Minister clarification on this issue.

The Termination letter reads as follows. We refer to your employment with the Company in the Tenancy Regularisation Project and advise that the project will end on August 31st 2012.
Your employment with the Company will therefore be terminated on August 31st 2012.
We take this opportunity to thank you for your dedicated service with the Company and wish you all the best for the future. Signed Deosaran Jagroo (Chief Executive Officer)
The Union will assume at this point that the Minister was not made privy to this letter and as such he should be questioning those around him as to why not.

The Minister indicated in his statement as reported, that the first phase of the Tenancy Regularisation Project has come to an end. Although we are informed that this is not totally true.

It must also be noted that The Tenancy Regularisation Project has three phases; as such the termination letters issued to these workers are misleading and false since it states that the project has come to an end.

The Government needs to tell us whether the first phase is completed with the other phases to be soon implemented, or if the project itself has come to a premature end. If the project is not ended then the Minister must tell us why are these 21 workers who are employed in the first phase not allowed to continue working in the second and third phases?

The Minister also seems to have been also misinformed about the Special Land Delivery Programme of which he makes mention, since this is a separate and distinct project, which these workers simply assisted Caroni in, while substantively employed in the Tenancy Regularisation Project.

It seems as though the Minister is being misinformed by the advice he is receiving, advice which is designed to suppress the truth and so circumvent the relevant issue at hand, which is the brutal and callous retrenchment of these workers by the Government. In addition, the effect that this would have on the 4500 cane farmers of this nation

To date the Minister has not adequately responded regarding the second and third phases of this project.
He has indicated that a cabinet note for funding of the second phase of the project has been submitted for consideration. The Union is extremely concerned about the word consideration, which implies that the necessary funding may not be forthcoming, especially since funds have already been allocated by the European Union.

Several interesting facts must be noted:

On Feburary 9th 2012 the Express Newspaper reported that the European Union had already given to the Government 276.1 million TT Dollars.

It is also interesting to note that Trinidad and Tobago has continued to benefit from the European Union Grant, actually according to our information the Government has already drawn from the EU $247.7 million dollars with $157.23 million still available.

Several questions need to be asked:

Is there a deliberate move to end or frustrate the Tenancy Regularisation Project?
If the project is stopped will this be a breach of duty under the agreement with the EU?
If no time limit is given for implementing the second phase will this also be a breach of duty?
Is there an agenda to remove the Tenancy Regularisation Project from Caroni Limited and place it in the hands of another government agency?
Why were these workers treated with such disdain and contempt by the Government?
Will these workers be employed in the second and third phases of the project if or when implemented?
If it is the Governments intention to move this project to another government agency, will these fired workers be absorbed in the agency under the same terms and conditions they enjoyed before?
Why is the Government intent on pursuing the Special Land Delivery Project using former Caroni Limited lands, while blatantly neglecting and frustrating the cane farmers and Ex-Caroni workers, who should be given first preference?
Has the Government decided to embark on a policy of destroying small farmers in order to acquire their lands for reasons yet to be revealed?
Why is the Government following in the footsteps of the former regime and showing contempt for the Deyalsingh Judgment as per the Order on page 38 of said judgment?

Even before this issue a letter dated 18th July 2012, was sent to the Minister of food Production asking for a meeting to discuss several issues, to date a meeting has not been arranged.
If the Minister is too busy to meet on issues concerning the Ex-Caroni workers, or the retrenched workers or the cane farmers, then he needs to say so.

The All Trinidad Union is again saying to the Government, millions are being spent in all different types of activities, it is time to expeditiously settle all issues concerning the retrenched workers, the Cane farmers and ex-Caroni workers.

Any people no matter how docile or how passive will one day react, perhaps in a way not expected, when they become frustrated enough, when they can’t take it anymore and when they realise that those whom they trusted to seek their interest, are probably playing games of deceit and deception with them.

I said to the Government before and I will say it again, these terminated workers are waiting, the cane farmers are waiting, the ex-Caroni workers are waiting and most of all those who laboured in the plantation fields of this nation are waiting. Those who sacrificed and built and never depended on political patronage and handouts for survival, they too are waiting.

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