Trinidad cane farmers win TT$450,000 claim against Govt

Gerald Ramdeen

(Trinidad Guardian) The State has been or­dered to pay more than $450,000 to six sug­ar cane farm­ers, who claimed they were owed mon­ey un­der a com­pen­sa­tion scheme for tran­si­tion­ing out of the in­dus­try.

On Mon­day, three Court of Ap­peal Judges dis­missed the State’s ap­peal, in which it was seek­ing to over­turn the de­ci­sion of three High Court judges to re­ject its at­tempts to seek ex­ten­sions for fil­ing its de­fences in three sep­a­rate law­suits brought by the farm­ers.

The de­ci­sion means that De­wantie and Man­zo­ol Mo­hammed would re­ceive $112,448, while Kaloutie and Mathu­ra Bisses­sar would re­ceive $63,476.04. Si­ta Ma­haraj and Manohar Ram­nar­ine would re­ceive $278,301.41.

The three cou­ples were among 2,323 pri­vate cane farm­ers who were promised $130 mil­lion by the for­mer Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion for their loss­es fol­low­ing the clo­sure of Ca­roni (1975) Lim­it­ed.

Be­fore demit­ting of­fice in Sep­tem­ber 2015, the for­mer gov­ern­ment made $27 mil­lion in ini­tial pay­ments. Af­ter the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) came in­to of­fice, the Gov­ern­ment sought to rene­go­ti­ate the deal and re­duce the re­main­ing pay­ments to $57.9 mil­lion.

The cou­ples re­ject­ed the pro­pos­al and filed law­suits in March, last year.

State at­tor­neys failed to file de­fences to the claims with­in the stip­u­lat­ed time and filed for ex­ten­sions stat­ing that they need­ed time to re­ceive in­struc­tions from sev­er­al min­istries.

The farm­ers’ lawyers Op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tor Ger­ald Ramdeen, Umesh Ma­haraj and Dayadai Har­ri­paul chal­lenged the ap­pli­ca­tions as they claimed that they had no ex­cuse as they had been in dis­cus­sions with the State over the is­sue since 2016.

The ap­pli­ca­tions were even­tu­al­ly re­ject­ed by High Court judges Davin­dra Ram­per­sad, Eleanor Don­ald­son-Hon­ey­well and Ava­son Quin­lan-Williams, paving the way for the cou­ples to ob­tain de­fault judg­ments against the State.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, ear­li­er this week, Ap­pel­late judges Al­lan Men­don­ca, Ju­dith Jones, and Pe­ter Ra­jku­mar ruled that the judges were cor­rect to rule that state at­tor­neys could not jus­ti­fy the ex­ten­sions.

Al­though the three cou­ples suc­ceed­ed in their claim, there are al­so 200 ad­di­tion­al claims from oth­er farm­ers pend­ing in the High Court. Oth­er farm­ers who were af­fect­ed but did not bring law­suits are still able to do so as they are still with­in the four-year statu­to­ry lim­it.

The State was rep­re­sent­ed by Vanes­sa Gopaul and Sa­va­tri Ma­haraj.

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