Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Agri official takes plight to Senate Devant denying Parliament-approved $$


“election breaches”: Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj speaks during the Senate sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront, Port of Spain, on Tuesday. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

Vice-President of the Agricultural Society (ASTT) Mohammed Alim came to the Senate on Tuesday to speak with Independent, Opposition and Government senators, “hoping to catch a sympathetic ear” to their plight.

The society is at odds with Agriculture Minister Devant Maharaj, who has refused to recognise persons who were elec­ted at the last election, held in January.

Maharaj, on Tuesday, said the Ministry of Food Production has had serious concerns about financial transactions of the ASTT.

“And for a number of months, because of what we see as breaches in the ASTT, we have held back on the subvention being given out (to it). As of now, the ministry has not recognised the elections that took place because of the irregulari-

­ties that were reported, both by the nominee of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) that conducted the election on behalf of the ASTT, and the senior legal adviser of the Ministry of Food Production,” he said.

Alim, who insisted all members were duly elec­ted, told the Express the society decided on this course of action—coming to Parliament to speak with MPs—because it had been writing Maharaj, requesting a meeting with him, with no success.

“Today (Tuesday), we went to the ministry

ho­ping to have a meeting with the permanent secretary and they (ministry) have refused because they say we are an illegal body,” he said.

Alim said all Maharaj’s concerns were “unfounded”, and his prob-

­lem with the society was that his (Maharaj) slate lost the elections.

He said the Minister of Agriculture “has gone against Parliament approval of our funds. Parliament gave approval for us to have a certain amount of funds to run the society and the minister has, on his own, has stopped providing us with funds since September last year”.

He said the ministry has not paid the rent for the past six months for the building the society is occupying.

“The landlord has now locked down the buil­ding with all our papers and files and money inside the building,” he said.

He said Maharaj’s con­tention is the 1906 law governing the society states the building must be located in Port of Spain and the current building is not.

But he said that nine years ago, the Ministry of Agri­culture agreed to allow the society to locate itself in Chaguanas.