His statement is as follows:
The Minister of Agriculture’s statement regarding the State’s plan to repossess lands given to ex-Caroni workers is contentious and rooted in disregard for the legally obligatory industrial process that produced the lands an entitlement of the past workers of Caroni (1975) Limited.
These lands rose from a legally binding arrangement registered in the Industrial Court of Trinidad and Tobago as Number 9 of 2003. After negotiation between Caroni (1975) Ltd and the All Trinidad General Workers Union, the majority union represented the workers.
We must recall the then PNM Government of Patrick Manning’s reluctance to award these lands to ex-Caroni workers. They were forced to do so only after the Industrial Court granted an injunction to the Union. The Government would be forced to return to the negotiating table to assess and deliver on the dues to ex-Caroni workers properly.
The Minister is fast, out of place and exhibiting scant regard for the law and the collective bargaining process. One must now question the real motive behind the Minister’s legally and ethically misinformed statement that inferred that the State would seize lands not being farmed by ex-Caroni workers.
Many factors must be considered in terms of agricultural investment. To date, considerable expanses of such lands lack proper road access, electricity, water and drainage.
Besides, the economic burdens on existing and potential farmers and businesspersons alike have increased exponentially since the Minister and his colleagues assumed Government some six years ago.
It is infuriating that the Minister continues to make statements to demonise ex-Caroni (1975) Limited workers. He appears unbothered about the status and ownership of farming lands elsewhere, such as in Wallerfield, Chaguaramas and Carlsen Field.
As a former President General of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union and as a former Minister in the Ministry of Finance, I denounce the Minister’s comments as a legally misinformed attempt to vilify ex-workers of the defunct Caroni (1975) Limited, supposedly in an aim to score political points with the section of the Minister’s base which likes to provoke portions of the population that are assumed as being unsupportive of the Minister’s political party.
This Government continues to make light of the manufacturing climate in this country. They endeavour to rule by Ministerial decree rather than by observing law, order and the domination of the collective bargaining process and the Industrial Court.
What has the Minister released during his tenure to guarantee that lands given to ex-Caroni workers have been equipped with access roads, irrigation ponds, drainage and other infrastructural considerations?
Minister Rambharat has lost woefully to incentivize farming and to develop such lands. He ought to pass to ex-Caroni workers before provoking and denouncing them for his cheap political gains.