Ex-Petrotrin workers get 180 lots of land

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Housing Minister Camille Robinson Regis, in red, congratulates Kurt Lalchan and other recipients who were successful in the Land Settlement Agency’s draw for the distribution of residential Lots for former Petrotrin workers at the Government Plaza, Auditorium, Richmond Street, Port of Spain on Tuesday. Photo by Anisto Alves

BY way of a random draw, some 180 ex-workers at the former Petrotrin were awarded plots of land, in a function at the Government Campus Plaza Auditorium in Port of Spain on Tuesday.

Land Settlement Agency (LSA) chairman Wayne Innis said this was the third draw for land distribution to former Petrotrin workers, and was done in line with a commitment made by the Prime Minister.

Innis said recipients would be able to access the Government’s self-help housing development programme via the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

Energy Minister Stuart Young revisited the reasons for the closure of the Petrotrin refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre. He said for the refinery to have operated required a certain throughout volume of oil, but TT’s crude oil production had fallen. As a result the refinery had to import oil to refine, at a hefty cumulative cost.

He said when the refinery closed, the Government had given workers $2.7 billion in cash payments, with individuals getting compensation over and above the amounts the Government was legally obligated to provide. Young said applicants had the opportunity to receive either a residential lot of 5,000 square feet or an agricultural lot of two acres.

Also present were Agriculture Minister Kazim Hosein and Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce.

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis said, “We are going to deliver 180 fully developed residential lots to you, the former employees of the now-restructured Petrotrin.”

She said when the Government decided to stop refining oil and to restructure Petrotrin, it was not unmindful of the dislocation likely to result.

“Therefore we were equally committed to ensuring that the employees be provided with as soft a landing as possible.”

One feature of this “soft landing” was providing residential or agricultural lots to Petrotrin ex-workers. The Government felt the award of land was important to show gratitude for workers’ contribution to Petrotrin, she related.

To encapsulate the emotions of the moment, the minister cited TT-born Nobel Prize-winning author VS Naipaul’s novel A House for Mr Biswas, whose main character eventually got a home of his own, “on his own portion of this earth.”

She said the character had previously never truly felt at home in any places controlled by others, as she linked this idea to the historical struggle against colonial control under TT’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams.

Robinson-Regis said, “Under the PNM Government we have a philosophy that land is not for a few, but it must be for all.”

She said the Government’s track record spoke for itself, as it had moved zealously over the past three years to deliver on these promises, as all ministers were proud to be part of the Keith Rowley-led administration.

“I am confident that the land being allocated will make an enormous difference not just in your lives but in the lives of your children and generations to come.”

Robinson-Regis recalled that just as former sugar workers were rightfully benefiting from lands from the former Caroni (1975) Ltd, so too were former Petrotrin workers getting lots out of the lands held by Petrotrin.

“Two major industries of this country that had to be restructured due to changing economic circumstances, to the benefit of the country, but not without a benefit to these deserving individuals.”

She said the LSA had said that lots were now at varying stages of development in areas known as La Romaine, La Romaine No 2, Felicity No 2, Chaguanas, La Philippine No2, Gran Couva, Ponderosa, Golconda and Glenroy No2.

“As these lots become available, these will be distributed,” Robinson-Regis said. “At this time, lots are available at Petit Morne in Ste Madeleine, Harmony Hall in Gasparillo, Springle Street in Point Fortin (and) Wellington Road in Debe.

She thanked the staff of the LSA, Ministry of Energy, and Ministry of Agriculture for their efforts in this initiative.

“For those of you who will embark on the construction of their new houses, let the homes stand as a reminder of the investment the Government has made in you and your families for generations to come, a significant addition to your objective of building an inter-generational wealth.

“We do this random draw of lots with – as our Honourable Prime Minister says as he quotes our anthem – boundless faith in our destiny.”