Don’t be puppets of political drama

By Carolyn Kissoon

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday cautioned former Caroni (1975) Ltd workers to beware of persons who use them as puppets in a political drama.
Persad-Bissessar said the former workers’ history and contributions to the country were too valuable for anyone to make a mockery of them.
She was speaking at the Land Distribution ceremony for former Caroni (1975) Ltd workers in Couva yesterday.
“I urge you to be alert to those who wish to try to make you their puppet of political drama. Your history of contributing to our country’s advancement is too valuable for anyone to attempt to make a mockery of what you have had to endure. Your families that you raised, your achieving sons and daughters of today are too much of a shining example of determination and progress to be belittled by being made into the personal fight of anyone person,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also paid tribute to former prime minister Basdeo Panday for his dedication to improving the lives of the former Caroni (1975) Ltd workers.
And she sympathised with the former workers, who have waited for more than a decade to receive the lands which were promised to them.
The agricultural and residential plots of land were included in a Voluntary Separation of Employment Plan (VSEP) package offered to 8,997 workers when the sugar manufacturing company was closed in 2003.
Persad-Bissessar said the People’s Partnership Government had already delivered 2,041 deeds of lease. She said 441 deeds of lease were distributed yesterday.
“The process continues of clearing legal and administrative requirements to free lands and I have mandated Minister of Land and Marine Resources, Jairam Seemungal, that all unnecessary delays must be tackled aggressively,” she said.
Seemungal also had some advice for the former Caroni (1975) Limited workers.
He pleaded with the recipients to develop the land and refrain from selling it at a low price.
“Do not go and give away the land by abandoning the land and allowing squatters to take possession of it. The land is yours and it is yours for farming or construction of a residential dwelling,” he said.
Seemungal said Government was also providing incentives for the construction of homes, through a two per cent loan from the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage and Finance Company (TTMF).
“The piece of land that you have inherited is for your use and it is because you have served for so long in Caroni. Many of you would have toiled the grounds, making Trinidad and Tobago the prosperous place that it is now. The State has recognised that and in recognising that giving you land. Please do not give it away,” he said.
Seemungal said officers at Caroni (1975) Ltd, Land Settlement Agency and Commissioner of State Lands were willing to assist with locating the plots of land.
And those in need of assistance to construct a home, Seemungal said, programmes were being developed. The Land Settlement Agency was registering contractors and small businessmen, including masons, plumbers and builders, to assist the new landowners.
“We will have qualified engineers to help you along the construction phase. It is up to you to choose them. The service will be available to help you construct your home,” he said.
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