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Ex Caroni workers’ dream realised
As she delivered long-awaited land leases Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar urged ex-Caroni workers not to allow themselves to be used as political puppets on platforms. Persad-Bissessar gave the advice as she delivered the feature address at the distribution of 441 leases to the former Caroni (1975) Ltd workers at the Couva, Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce Hall, Camden, Couva on Wednesday. She urged the ex-workers not to be part of any “political drama.”
“Your hardships and contribution are too valuable to make a mockery of what you have today,” she said as she congratulated the workers upon their receipt of their leases. She reminded them that the Government stood with them in “your times of suffering from 2003 onwards” and did not use their plight to score political points.
Persad-Bissessar told them when the leases were promised to them as part of the Voluntary Separation of Employment package (VSEP) when Caroni closed in 2003 her government vowed to deliver their lands. “We took up the fight against the former government to fulfill the promise of land to you,” she said. Persad-Bissessar paid tribute to former prime minister Basdeo Panday who, she said, dedicated most of his life to improving the lives of the sugar workers.
Land and Marine Resources Minister Jairam Seemungal, who also delivered remarks at the distribution ceremony, warned ex-Caroni workers against selling their long-awaited residential and agricultural lots. “Do not give away your land,” Seemungal urged yesterday as he distributed 131 residential and 310 agricultural leases to the workers, some of whom wept as they received their documents.
Seemungal, in his address, told the workers that their wait was over and the People’s Partnership fulfilled its promise to distribute the lands. The minister urged them not to sell their land, “Do not give away your land by selling it cheap.” He also advised them to occupy the land immediately and not allow squatters to occupy it. He said the Land Settlement Agency would assist them with construction and they would have access to the two per cent mortgage interest rate proposed by the Prime minister.
“We are not only giving you land, but we are giving you everything to help you develop your lands,” he said. Seemungal assured that by mid-2015 all ex-Caroni workers would receive their leases. He said to date 7,406 leases have been distributed. Ramnanan Sylvan, 58, of Diamond Village, San Fernando, who received a residential lot at Diamond Village, said he was very happy to have his lease in hand. He said he was employed as a clerk for 26 years at Caroni.
Sylvan admitted the wait was long but he said, “Everything takes time. I intend to build my house.” Sooklal Paul, 51, of Reform, Gasparillo, South Trinidad, said he worked 13 and a half years at Caroni and his agricultural lot was “long overdue.” He praised Persad-Bissessar and her government for making his dream as reality.
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