Although they had to wait just over ten years to receive their allocations of agricultural and residential plots of land, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has advised former sugar workers to guard against being used on the political platform by persons aligned against Government.
Delivering the feature address at the land distribution ceremony of 441 leases of agricultural and residential plots of lands to former Caroni workers at the Couva/ Point Lisas Chamber Auditorium, Camden Road, Couva yesterday, Persad-Bissessar also observed that as of November 30, approximately 2,041 former workers had received agricultural and residential lands.
An estimated 8,997 former Caroni workers had accepted the enhanced Voluntary Separation of Employment Package (VSEP), following the company’s closure on July 31, 2003.
She noted that not only had the workers lost their jobs and their livelihood, but also lost promised lands legally due to them.
“We need to deliver all 8,000 plus deeds, so far 2,000 plus deeds have been given out and we will continue until every single former worker or if they have passed away, their defendant, their child, will be able to benefit from the piece of land, the promised land that was promised you,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also warned the former sugar workers against persons who would seek to exploit the long delays on the political platform saying, “I urge you to be alert to those who would try to make you into a puppet of political drama, your history has contributed to the country’s development and it is too powerful for anyone to make a mockery of what you had.”
Also addressing the recipients was Land and Marine Resources Minister, Jairam Seemungal, who urged them keep their lands and not sell or abandon the lands.
“Land is the only thing that does not depreciate in value so do not go and give away your land by selling it cheaply or abandon your land and let it be occupied by squatters,” Seemungal said.
He advised those who received agricultural plots of lands to secure the lands saying no one would secure the lands for them.
“Make sure and secure the lands, it is yours and make sure people do not move into it that are not authorised,” he added.
Former Caroni worker, Ramnanan Sylvan, who received a residential lot of land at Picton #2, said he was “very happy” to have finally received the property.
“It is like a dream come true and I feel very happy,” said Sylvan, who had 26 years of service at Caroni’s cane farming department. Sylvan said he intended to construct a house for himself and his family members.
Another former worker, Sooklal Paul, who worked as a labourer at the company for over 13 years, said he had already planed to plant a variety of short crops on his two-acre plot of land.