(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.