Central farmer wants information on allocation of state lands

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

– File photo

A former Caroni (1975) Ltd employee and head of the Central Farmers’ Association wants information from the Ministry of Agriculture on the alleged allocation of land to employees of the Land Management Division.

Attorney Richard Jaggasar made the request on June 13 by on behalf of Dhanraj Balkaran.

Jaggasar said his client viewed a report in April by investigative journalist Mark Bassant on the alleged award of state lands to employees of the division.

He said his client was “deeply disturbed” to learn of the allocation of lands to the staff of the division, especially when former Caroni (1975) Ltd employees “have been systematically denied the lands rightfully promised to them under the Voluntary Separation Employee Programme for nearly two decades.

“The clandestine allocation of these lands not only undermines the rights of former Caroni workers but also raises serious questions about transparency and fairness in the distribution of state resources.”

Jaggasar questioned whether the division’s staff had been earmarking land for themselves when making official site visits in the past.

Jaggasar suggested that the policy affected citizens who have been awaiting allocations for some time.

“As the president of the Central Farmers’ Association, my client is aware of several ongoing litigation actions where the visit report has been used in court to suggest the former Caroni workers ought not to receive any title documents for the lands.”

Jaggasar said the justification given for the allocation was acceptable and appeared to be a clear abuse of authority.

“While Caroni (1975) Ltd’s former employees continue to face hardships, including the lack of proper residential and agricultural plots, it is shocking to discover that the LMD staff, some allegedly squatting, are being prioritised.

“This preferential treatment, facilitated through an internal application process and preferential terms, is a blatant disregard for the rightful claims of those who have been waiting for years.”

Jaggasar called for an immediate stop to the allocation and an immediate investigation.

“It is imperative that the lands be distributed fairly, starting with fulfilling the longstanding promises made to the former Caroni workers who have endured undue hardship and neglect.”

In his request for information for his client, Jaggasar asked for copies of letters sent to the ministry on land distribution for LMD staff; copies of documents asking for state lands to be given to the division’s staff; copies of any documents to any agency for approvals; the names and rank of those LMD employees who received state lands between January 2023 and May 2024; the criteria used to recommend LMD employees for state lands; and title documents, among others.