Monday, November 11, 2013

MEDIA RELEASE : CARONI GREEN INITIATIVE


The All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union wishes to express its utmost disappointment, apprehension and sadness at the continuous disdain and contempt shown to the Ex-Caroni workers by this Peoples Partnership Government, especially with regard to the Caroni Green Initiative. More so in light of the fact that earlier this year the Government would have requested of the All Trinidad Union a proposal by which Union could assist in expediting the land distribution process for the residential and agricultural plots and also in assisting the Caroni Green project in a manner beneficial to the ex-Caroni worker. Needless to say, the Unions proposal was flatly rejected by Caroni (1975) Ltd and by certain government Ministers, as being too costly, even though the Union was being asked to do the job of several state agencies. In any event the rest is history.
The Union though agreeing that on a theoretical basis, that all things being equal, the Caroni Green Initiative is a good idea, the practical implementation is fraught with difficulties and leaves a lot to be desired, more so, the fact that in its present form it is working to the total detriment of the Ex-Caroni worker. In addition the basic premise, upon which the Green Initiative is based, is filled with deliberate misinformation and blatant untruths as per the Caroni Two Acre plots and the Ex-Caroni Workers position within the Green Initiative.
As such, The All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union is calling upon the Prime Minister to conduct an immediate investigation into the Caroni Green Initiative for the following reasons:
  1. An Investigation to determine whether the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago, by Cabinet Minute No.449 of February 21st, 2013 was deliberately misled by representatives of Caroni (1975) Limited and in so doing caused the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to make decisions and subsequently further decisions, concerning the Caroni Green Initiative, based on false information, designed to work to the detriment of the Ex-Caroni worker.
As stated in said Cabinet Minute:
Cabinet having noted that:
  1. Of the approximately 7,000 2-acre agricultural plots leased to former employees of Caroni (1975) limited (Caroni) (Minute No. 352 of February 12, 2003 refers), to date less than 5% is in active cultivation; ………………….
The Union wishes to indicate in no uncertain terms, that it is a fabrication to allege that 7000 plots were leased to Ex-Caroni workers since to date, only 2003 leases have been given out to the Ex-Caroni Workers for their two acre plots, while there are over 5000 Ex-Caroni workers still waiting over 10 years for their promised leases.
The ex- Caroni workers were given licenses to occupy and cultivate, which meant that the Ex-Caroni Workers were denied security of tenure and perhaps deliberately denied the opportunity to use the land as security for loans to help develop their plots. The Cabinet Note was therefore either deliberately or inadvertently misleading.

It is therefore a gross misrepresentation and a blatant lie for the Representatives of Caroni (1975) limited to indicate to Cabinet that less than 5% of the Ex-Caroni Workers were cultivating their plots when in fact nothing was put in place as per the Deyalsingh Judgment of 2008 for such cultivation to take place.
In fact in most places there is a Lack of road crossings, inadequate water, limited and no access to plots, no irrigation systems, plots existing miles away from where people live, flooding, larceny and ex-Caroni workers hindered by neglect and a lack of support and what may seemingly be a conspiracy by Caroni Ltd and persons in Government to deliberately frustrate them into giving up their lands for a mere pittance.

A Tour of Felicity for example, indicated that in spite of a lack of infrastructural development and an almost total lack of drainage, crossings, ponds, etc, there were many Ex-Caroni workers who faced the difficulties and challenges and though abandoned by Caroni (1975) Ltd and the government, attempted and continues to this day, to work their two acre plots.

It is therefore a deliberate misrepresentation in light of the extenuating circumstances i.e. Lack of leases and infrastructural work, for the Representatives of Caroni (1975) Limited to claim that less than 5% of the Agricultural Plots are being cultivated.
In addition it is very interesting that the Government was willing to facilitate Caroni (1975) Ltd and now a Caroni Green Initiative Company with funds to assist in the development of the plots for contracted private farmers but are unable release funds for the development of the said lands for the Ex-Caroni worker.

NOTE THE FOLLOWING ORDER OF THE DEYALSINGH JUDGMENT 2008
The Order

98) There will therefore, be judgement for the Applicant as follows:
(a) A Declaration that the Respondents have deprived the former sugar workers of Caroni (1975) Ltd. who
Are eligible, of their legitimate expectation to have
Agricultural plots and/or residential lots conveyed to
them by way of lease.

(b) A Mandatory Order that the Respondents, soon or
before 30th June 2008, grant leases to the said
Workers of

(i) 2-acre agricultural plots with all proper
Infrastructure including access, drainage and
Irrigation facilities to each plot.

(ii) 1-lot residential lots with all proper
Infrastructure including access, water and
electricity to each lot.

As it stands Government through its Agencies are in breach of the Deyalsingh Judgment as little or no infrastructural work was done to facilitate the Ex-Caroni Workers having access to, and being able to adequately develop their plots.
In fact:
  • UP TO JULY 31 2012, 887 PERSONS WAS DISLOCATED FROM LANDS THEY WERE ALLOCATED.
  • OUR INFORMATION INDICATES THAT UP TO 2010, 67% OF THE CARONI, WATERLOO, EXCHANGE, EDINBURGH AND FELICITY SECTION HAD INADEQUE DRAINAGE. WE ARE ALSO INFORMED UPTO 2010 THAT 88% OF ALL SECTION FALLING UNDER THE CARONI 2 ARCE PLOTS HAD AN ABSENT OF IRRIGATION
  • WE ARE ALSO INFORMED UPTO 2010, 72% OF THE CENTRAL AND SOUTH SECTIONS OF THE 2 ARCE PLOTS HAD ADVERSE OR BAD SOIL PROPERTIES
  • UP TO 2010 WE ARE AGAIN INFORMED THAT UP TO 94% OF ALL SECTIONS THERE IS A LACK OF PROPER LAND LEVELING AND CLEARING
  • WE ARE INFORMED UPTO 2010, 76% OF NORTH AND CENTRAL SECTIONS HAD LOW NUTRITION ABILITY
  • WE ARE ALSO INFORMED THAT UPTO 2010, 20% OF THE LA GLORIA, CEDAR HILL, PIETTIE MOON AND PICTION SECTIONS HAD OVER 50% TOP SOIL LOSS

It is interesting to note also that like the original plan for Caroni (1975) Ltd this new Company is simply acting as a facilitator acquiring lands from the Ex-Caroni workers and placing said lands in the hands of private farmers with a view to profit maximisation not for the Ex-Caroni worker but for the private farmer and the Company.

ONE MUST AGAIN NOTE THAT SOME OF THE FIGURES ARE AS FOLLOWS;

Caroni (1975) Ltd was offering and we presume that the new company will continue to offer the Ex-Caroni Workers the pathetic and almost laughable sum of about $1800.00 per year for their Two Acre Plot. This amounts to $ 150.00 per month for a two acre plot or simply $75.00 per month for one acre of land. If this was not such a serious situation and a symbol of the terrible treatment meted out to the Ex-Caroni worker by this government, then it would be comical.

The union is asserting that every ex-Caroni worker who forgives the government for failing in its duty in developing these plots for the use of the ex-Caroni worker and voluntary agrees to partake in the Caroni green initiative, once all problems are dealt with, should be paid a rental sum of $14,500.00 per year, for the two acre plots. This would translate to $1200.00 per month for the two acre plot or about $600.00 per month per acre.

Based on the projected profits of the green initiative, this is a highly reasonable figure that will allow the ex-Caroni worker to at least enjoy some margin of income from his two acre plot, since the government itself would have failed to provide the proper medium as per the Deyalsingh for the worker to do so.

In lieu of this rental figure, as the Government would have done with the Two Acre Plots that reverted to the State for the construction of the University in Debe, each worker should be paid $140,000.00 for the Two Acre Plot and let it revert back to the State to use as the State sees fit.

Projected profits per harvest (it must be noted that more than one harvest may take place per year) of the Green Initiative are as follows:

CROP ACREAGE CULTIVATED PROFIT TO FARMER PROFIT TO CGI

BODI
2.50
123,953
63,390


CABBAGE
4.4O
241,147
38,975


CARAILLE
5.80
169,700
101,312


CASSAVA
120.00
1,122,609
95,621


CAULIFLOWER
6.20
116,570
48,806


CELERY
3.00
409,467
170,237


CHIVE
0.75
39,331
20,965


CUCUMBER
2.50
58,443
26,853


HOT PEPPER
5.00
251,172
213,079


HOT PEPPER
9.60
448,534
332,743


HOT PEPPER
6.20
249,711
197,597


LETTUCE
0.50
26,477
6,862


MELONGENE
10.20
309,311
255,807


OCHRO
3.00
79,069
158,756


OCHRO
2.50
63,786
86,284


PATCHOI
0.50
7,330
2,509


PAW PAW
10.00
247,270
134,238


PIMENTO
5.00
223,681
149,984


PLANTAIN
104.00
2,205,422
1,825,152


PUMPKIN
4.00
22,522
8,354


SWEET PEPPER
5.10
391,375
220,007


TOMATO
4.50
317,764
252,586


TOMATO
5.00
342,932
124,460


TOMATO
5.00
342,932
124,460


TOTAL ACRES
325.25
7,467,576
4,534,577



The Union is also very concerned about the willingness of the Government to facilitate Caroni(1975) Limited with 4 million dollars to begin what is private enterprise and profit maximisation project, while monies were not allocated for the development of proper infrastructure for the Ex-Caroni Workers or for the expediting of the leases for the Ex-Caroni Workers.
On this same note the Union is questioning information that it received that Cabinet approved 4 million for this project but the cost so far to for the project has amounted to 11 million dollars and if this is indeed so, Caroni (1975) limited needs to indicate where did the extra 7 million dollars for this private enterprise project come from.
The Union also wishes to express it’s deepest concern over the following issues:
  1. The Government’s intention to shut down Caroni (1975) Ltd, even while there is a High Court Judgment against Caroni (1975) Ltd and a Mandatory Court Order for the Distribution of Residential Lots and Two Acre Plots with proper infrastructural development to the Ex-Caroni workers that has not yet been fulfilled or completed. The Government must ensure that the over 5000 ex-Caroni workers who are still to access the legal right to a two acre plot and residential lot are not adversely affected by this decision. In fact we are calling on the government to desist from this closing Caroni until the provisions of the VESEP package are implemented.
  2. The allegation that after failing miserably to adequately deal with the provisions of the VESEP package in regard to land distribution, that the past CEO of Caroni was about to be dismissed for misconduct and instead was made the CEO of the Caroni Green Initiative Company.
  3. The allegation that the former CEO of Caroni failed to give out leases that were being prepared, deliberately so, in a bid to frustrate and thereby force ex-Caroni workers, to give up their lands to the Caroni Green Initiative
  4. The allegation that ex-Caroni workers were threatened that if they were unable to plant their land within a particular time frame, the state will seize and reclaim the land. Thus forcing them to rent their land to the State through the Caroni Green Initiative
  5. The allegation that the personal assistant to a Minister of government, with a failed or almost non-existent track record in agriculture, acquired 8 acres of Caroni Land through the Caroni Green Initiative.
  6. The Allegation that several contract farmers under the Caroni Green Initiative are also advisors to a particular Government Minister
  7. The allegation that without advertisement or criteria certain individuals have received over one hundred acres of Caroni Lands each, through the Caroni Green Initiative, while already having access to hundreds of acres of Caroni Land.
  8. The allegation that the government through Caroni(1975) ltd and now the new company is funding the Caroni Green as a private enterprise project and paying salaries ranging from $8000- $15000 per month, cost of motor vehicles and other miscellaneous expenses for the Caroni Green.
  9. The allegation that several individuals who are employed by Caroni (1975) Ltd, are being paid to work on a daily basis cultivating for the Caroni Green Initiative
  10. The allegation that the government will be supplying water to the Caroni Green Initiative, basically a private enterprise project for free, while ex-Caroni workers had to wait 18 months for a communal pond and in many cases irrigation as mandated by the Deyalsingh Judgment is almost non-existence for the ex-Caroni worker.
  11. The allegation that the ADB’S $50,000 unsecured loan afforded to small farmers and ex-Caroni workers for the development of their plots have been unceremoniously stopped while big contract farmers under the Caroni Green Initiative will be financed by the ADB.
  12. The allegation that the government is owing one big farmer who is currently occupying about 125 acres of Caroni land, over one million dollars for tractor work done in the Caroni Green Initiative, while the family of this individual has also acquired hugh amounts of Caroni Land through the Caroni Green Initiative.
  13. The allegation that NAMDEVCO has been mandated to purchase all of the produce of the Caroni Green Initiative, and sell this produce beneath the cost price if necessary in order to show the project working, even if this meant underselling and destroying the livelihood of the small farmers.
  14. The allegation that under the Caroni Green Initiative 500,000 pounds of sweet potato was bought from a contract farmer and simply stored at the Piarco Packing House. While several UWI graduates were paid $5000 dollars per month to peel this produce.
  15. The allegation that hundreds of thousands of dollars in chemicals are purchased every month for the Caroni Green Initiative, which was supposed to be organically produced crops.
  16. The question must be answered, how much money has been spent by the State on the Caroni Green Initiative in terms of labour, seedlings, planting material, chemicals, fencing, drainage etc.
  17. We are calling on The Prime Minister to address the fears of the small farmers and ex-Caroni workers who are seeing their livelihood eroded by decisions and policies designed to benefit a select few.
  18. We are calling on the Prime Minister to question her advisors and Ministers as to how could the government develop the lands for the Green Initiative and for private big farming contractors, but cannot develop the lands for the ex-Caroni workers as they were mandated to do by the Court.
  19. We are calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that before Caroni (1975) is closed down, every ex-Caroni worker receives a lease for their agricultural and residential lots.
  20. We are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately put a stop to the Caroni Green Initiative Project until a proper investigation is completed, all allegations of impropriety, nepotism and corruption is checked and the initiative is working to the benefit of the ex-Caroni worker.
We are calling to the Prime Minister to do what is right and just and what is fair, for the ex-Caroni workers. I am appealing to the Government, not to forget those upon whose backs you would have stood on, to be propelled into power. The worst sin is ingratitude and the worst ingratitude is the betrayal of the Ex-Caroni workers, those who would have supported you and fought with you and pounded the streets with you, those who form the backbone of the Government. These are the people who expected you to seek their interest. They are still waiting and begging and pleading to get what is legally due to them.
We are saying to the government do not allow yourself to be accused of reverse discrimination, help these ex-Caroni workers and their families now.

Yours sincerely
Nirvan Maharaj
(Attorney at Law)

President General

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