Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Questions over Rudy’s role
Ten years after the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd, questions are being raised about the role played by Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh, who was then president of the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers’ Trade Union. Speaking at a political meeting in the former sugar belt in Couva on Monday night, interim deputy leader of the Independent Liberal Party Anna Deonarine asked whether the People’s National Movement (PNM) was the only hand played in the closure of the state company.
Likening the Caroni story to a book, Deonarine said one of the chapters should explore the role of Indarsingh when the closure was initiated and when the Voluntary Separation Employment Packages (VSEP) package was announced. “This chapter details whether, as president of the union representing daily paid workers, these workers who were the most vulnerable in the sugar industry, as president of the union, did Rudy Indarsingh sell out his members?” she asked.
She referred to a protest at Usine Ste Madeleine factory shortly after the closure and claims by former workers that they were betrayed and did not get proper representation because of the disparity in the VSEP packages paid to staff and daily-paid workers. Deonarine said there was nothing voluntary about the VSEP packages, which were forced on them. She said the PNM government backtracked on its offer of residential lots with the packages and instead charged the workers for the lots, for which they are still paying.
She said former workers, many of whom have not had gainful employment since, still ran the risk of the Sugar Welfare taking their homes if they failed to meet their mortgage. She said after that fiasco, Indarsingh should have never been elected to represent the people of Couva. But now that he and the PP were in power, Deonarine said they had done nothing to make the former sugar workers lives any easier.
She added: “If this UNC-led PP cared an ounce for you, their loyal supporters, they could have amended the residential and agricultural leases that you signed, stating you have to build within three years from the date of the lease. “For the majority of you, who have no money, if you do not build you will be in breach of clause three of that lease and they can take back the land. This government could have removed this strict clause.”
She said other clauses could have been amended or removed, such as Clause 14(2) and 9, which state that owners cannot part with land and building for five years without permission, “The same fire they had when they stopped the OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessels), the same fire when they stopped the land taxes introduced by the PNM, they could have aggressively corrected some of the wrongs of your VSEP package. But they chose to follow this PNM policy that has you suffering,” she charged.
She said 75 acres of Caroni lands had been leased to one government-favoured contractor for a measly $150 an acre, yet not a single worker was successful in his or her application for land under the mega-farms and green initiative, which went to outsiders who were also enjoying reduced rates on fertilisers, seedlings, soft loans and sometimes Cepep labour.
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