For Sarah Perez, who is the head of her household, it is a constant struggle to keep up with rising food prices.
Perez lives in Chaguanas with her daughter and two grandchildren.
Dhano Sookoo, who served as president of the Agricultural Society of T&T (ASTT) for the last six years has no regrets about her controversial tenure and argues that she left the association in a far better situation than she found it.
“When I joined the society there were 236 members, today the society has over 10,000 members. At an AGM there used to be 25 persons voting by showing their hands, today you have voting by ballot of thousands of people. In the 2013 election I won that election by 1,500 votes. When I joined the society years ago there were years of unanswered audit queries. I then took a personal responsibility to bring everything up-to-date and it was sent to the Auditor General,” she told the media.
The 175th Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held yesterday at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, and an election was held for a new board and president. Up to last night, Nawaz Karim, who is the “partner” of Sookoo’s daughter, was leading with more than 150 votes compared to the other slate which had more than 40 votes. There was a heavy police presence monitoring the voting process.
Sookoo’s tenure as president had been marred by controversy, with the current Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj calling on National Security Minister Gary Griffith to expedite the investigation into alleged financial impropriety against Sookoo. She had responded last year by telling Maharaj to stay of out of the business of the ASTT. At the election Sookoo said she was proud of how the election was carried out this year.
Natasha Hosein, senior legal adviser, Ministry of Food Production who was present at the AGM as an observer, called the process “chaotic.” “I am seeing a lot of discrepancies in the election process. The secretary, who is not a member of the board, has a lot of power to declare it null and void. She is the relevant officer now as the board was dissolved. There are persons in here who are canvassing, taking member’s ballot sheets, ticking off members. The act governing the association is just an old piece of legislation,” she said.
Hosein was critical of the motion passed to have the financial report mailed to members after the AGM and not read out to members during it. “The practice has always been that the financial report be read. The members need to know what the reports are saying in order to determine for them how they would vote. There has been a lot of problems with these elections for the past five or six years,” she said.