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Need for a rational land use policy
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

THE EDITOR: Like cockroach scrambling for cover when light switch on, our self-proclaimed servants of the people frantically tried, under the glare of the camera lights, to distance themselves from the Easter Monday destruction of farmers' crops.

After all the PP manifesto states: "Food security is a prerequisite to people-centred development. Agriculture with the right policy framework, a targeted focus on identified challenges and encouragement to farmers can make a huge contribution to economic growth...Increased food production and food security will decrease our food import bill and lower the price of food, while at the same time increasing prosperity for our farmers and providing sustainable livelihoods for more workers."

The manifesto goes on to trumpet a: "National Land Use Policy that specifies and protects land to be used exclusively for agriculture." It talks about respect for farmers and regularisation of tenure and all the nice things that they lifted from the programme of the National FoodCrop Farmers' Association.

But in this brave new world respect is demonstrated through bulldozers and machine guns and food security comes not through the nurturing and protection of local farmers and food production but by hugging up PriceSmart which uses up our foreign exchange and stuffs us full of useless and even harmful food products. It is ironic that the two areas that were bulldozed sat in the shadows of PriceSmart's walls.

These same servants of the people promised to put workers at the centre. After almost one year not a step forward has been made in relieving the labour movement of the burden of repressive, anti-worker legislation.

The COP condemns the action of a government, which is being temporarily led by its political leader, as a continuation of PNM policies (Did somebody say exchange?). Senator Abdulah breathes brimstone and fire while wearing his trade union hat. We remember him saying 5% is not enough and 5% it was. Nobody takes him seriously anymore anyway.

Comrade McLeod, dipping into his bag of clichés-for-all-occasions described the action as "painful" and apologises for it. Vasant Bharath claims to be "disturbed" over the action and put on his I am sympathetic to my brothers in gardening but I shoulda be finance minister face.

The prime minster, who left for Brasil on the very day that the crops were being bulldozed, orders a halt to the bulldozing from the land of Pele, this after the court had already done so at D'Abadie through injunction. The bulldozing continued at Chaguanas. She orders Bharath and Housing Minister, heir-apparent Roodal Moonilal to arrive at a solution. Bharath assures the country that he is ready to do so, but alas Moonilal is out of the country...and the beat goes on.

Jearlean John better brakes, because she ent no servant of the people. She is just a technocrat who can be sacrificed on the scapegoat altar in the twinkling of an eye. After all is said and done while a computer may have an undelete button, there is no un-bulldoze button. The matter is going to be diverted to one of compensation and they will all lay low until the storm blows over...if we allow it to.

Every crisis is pregnant with opportunity: the farming community must seize the time while the nation's attention is focused on this felonious assault and put maximum pressure on the government to:

Adopt a rational land use policy where soils categorised as being suitable for agriculture be reserved for just such a purpose. The best soil for agriculture has already been alienated into residential, commercial and infrastructural use. Only 24.5% of the most fertile land in the country is still under agricultural production.

Distribute lands in such a way as to ensure security of tenure for farmers.

Provide the infrastructural and particularly irrigation amenities, support and incentives to the farmers to ensure a high standard of production.

Gerry Kangalee
La Romaine

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