(Trinidad Express) Over 600 former Caroni (1975) Ltd employees received agricultural leases yesterday.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the terms of a Voluntary Separation of Employment Programme (VSEP) mandated that they got their “just due.”
The workers had been waiting for their leases for over ten years since the closure of Caroni in 2003 by the previous administration.
“These promised plots of land, now returned rightfully into your hands, and when managed and monitored effectively, will contribute to the development of the agricultural sector, reduce our food import bill, and play an important role in the rejuvenation of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy by continuing to contribute to the GDP,” Persad-Bissessar said during the function held at Centre Pointe Mall, Chaguanas.
The leases were distributed to the former workers for 13 areas including Edinburgh, La Fortune, La Gloria, Waterloo and Reform.
“This is the theme of our function here today to distribute 658 agriculture leases to former Caroni (1975) Ltd employees to our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters … Apart from the pension and monetary benefits of the VSEP agreement, the most significant commitment by the State was the infrastructural development and delivery of residential serviced lots and two-acre sized agricultural plots to the former employees of Caroni Ltd … We must remember that the terms of a Voluntary Separation of Employment Programme (VSEP) mandated that you get your just due,” the Prime Minister said.
She denied that the distribution of the leases was part of an election campaign.
“I want to assure you election or no election campaign, this is a promise we made in 2010. It is a promise that government bestowed in our manifesto. It is a promise that is going on an on-going basis. So whether local election is on or not we would have delivered these leases and we will continue so to do. Someone is also saying we doing all of this to get votes but I said, so what is wrong with getting votes? That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re in government … There’s absolutely nothing wrong legally, morally or spiritually with working for people because they voted you to work for them,” she said.
Minister of Food Production Devant Maharaj said that from 2011 to the third quarter of 2013, 1,554 beneficiaries had collected their agricultural leases.
“Furthermore 934 beneficiaries have completed the lease execution process and are currently undergoing the six week registration process. These leases will be distributed soon,” he said.