Ex-Caroni cane farmer wins $.3m from State

For­mer pri­vate sug­ar cane farm­ers are ap­peal­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley and Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Camille Robin­son-Reg­is to let good sense pre­vail and pay them what they are owed.

The call was made dur­ing a press con­fer­ence in Port-of-Spain on Mon­day af­ter one farmer's suc­cess in the High Court.

For­mer pri­vate cane farmer Dipc­hand Lal re­ceived a cheque for over $300,000, af­ter he chal­lenged the state for his por­tion of mon­ey which they were owed fol­low­ing the clo­sure of Ca­roni 1975 Ltd in 2007.

Lal and over 2,000 for­mer cane farm­ers have chal­lenged Gov­ern­ment over its fail­ure to pay them an out­stand­ing $103 mil­lion, which is the bal­ance from an ini­tial $130 mil­lion which the Eu­ro­pean Union (EU) and the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment had made avail­able to the farm­ers to help them tran­si­tion from the sug­ar in­dus­try.

Lal, 65, re­it­er­at­ed that fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the in­dus­try in 2007 they were of­fered tran­si­tion­al sup­port for their loss of earn­ings for two and a half years.

“We've had a long bat­tle with the gov­ern­ment for out­stand­ing monies that the Eu­ro­pean Union of­fered to take the farm­ers from where they were at that time to where they would like to be in the fu­ture,” he said.

In 2012, the for­mer farm­ers be­gan con­ver­sa­tions with the then Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment through Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who was the min­is­ter of plan­ning. In 2014, the farm­ers ac­cept­ed that $130 mil­lion would be paid to some 3,000 pri­vate farm­ers from the gov­ern­ment in three parts and the first was in­stal­ment paid by the PP.

Lal said the present Gov­ern­ment kept deny­ing there was ever any mon­ey for them to col­lect. How­ev­er, af­ter both his lawyer Ger­ald Ramdeen and Tewarie "ap­plied pres­sure" on their be­half, Gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted there was on­ly $57 mil­lion they could re­ceive.

“We did not ac­cept…our fore­fa­thers and our self, we work and we work and we toil and that mon­ey (the $130 mil­lion) was due to us,” Lal said.

“I would use this op­por­tu­ni­ty to­day to ask the Ho­n­ourable Prime Min­is­ter and Cab­i­net of this coun­try to al­low good sense to pre­vail and pay the farm­ers' mon­ey out­stand­ing to them.”

He added, “I am sad to­day be­cause this cheque that I am get­ting is on be­half of my­self and the rest of farm­ers don't have their cheque and when they get their cheque, then I'd be hap­py.”

Tewarie said Cab­i­net's uni­lat­er­al change of the ne­go­ti­at­ed agree­ment be­tween the then gov­ern­ment and the farm­ers un­der­mined the process of ne­go­ti­at­ed set­tle­ments and con­ti­nu­ity of gov­ern­ment.

He said ru­ined the cred­i­bil­i­ty of gov­ern­ment and would re­sult in few­er in­vest­ments be­ing made in the coun­try due to con­cerns from in­vestors over whether agree­ments with Gov­ern­ment would be ho­n­oured.

Ramdeen said he hopes this win sets a prece­dent for fur­ther pro­ceed­ings of a sim­i­lar na­ture.

“Every mat­ter that has been filed thus far, the Gov­ern­ment has lost,” Ramdeen said.

Reporter: RISHARD KHAN

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