Government must stand firm

Newsday Editorial
May 2 2011 –

The MarketIt is to be sincerely hoped that the Government will stand firm in the decision to put an end to the illegal occupation of State lands for whatever purpose.

This newspaper’s lead story yesterday gave another side, indeed food for thought, of the now highly publicised bulldozing of acres under food production in D’Abadie and other places which so incensed the public.

The head of the Housing Development Corporation Jearlean John and the Minister of Housing Roodal Moonilal have been at the receiving end of highly charged emotionalism that last week painted the picture of poor unfortunate farmers whose crops were so wickedly destroyed by the Government. Now we learn that far from being poor, a small group of four farmers have been virtually living off the fat of the land, using lands they did not own but which they farmed and made money — a lot of money as has been reported.

According to our report yesterday four farmers had control of over 70 acres of land in one instance. These are not poor small farmers, if we are to judge by the expensive tractors and other equipment paraded through the streets of Port-of-Spain on Friday.

Notices served on these farmers to quit were ignored and despite the notices, they continued to plant crop after crop. According to our report, the minute they received a quit notice they would ask for time to reap the crops in the ground. Such time would be granted. But immediately the crop was reaped new crops were planted, and so it has gone on for years.

When the crops were finally bulldozed last Monday, the first response of the farmers was to threaten the public with increased food prices. We would be forgiven for questioning their so called commitment to feed the nation. There is something else. The farmers knew about the planned bulldozing for days before it happened so the question must be asked. Why did the farmers not reap their crops? Why did they wait three or more days? Why was the time spent mobilising protest action and notifying the media well in advance so that they got the maximum publicity? Where was their priority?

We would have thought that farmers would have mobilised to save their food crops for which they are now demanding compensation. To pretend that the bulldozers came like thieves in the night is to be disingenuous and to stretch public sympathy.

These farmers have been squatting on large chunks of State lands and making lots of money. They have now gained widespread sympathy from a public which understandably was outraged at the destruction of food. The time has come to pull down the veil and see the whole picture.

The Government must stand firm against widespread squatting on hundreds of acres in this country. The lawlessness must stop and proper planning of land use must be instituted. The Prime Minister who returned from Brazil yesterday must stand firm and not be taken in by the well orchestrated behaviour of a few men and women who clearly planned to play on her well known sympathy for the underdog. For once let us not be afraid to do the right thing.,139877.html

8 thoughts on “Government must stand firm”

  1. Grab for land
    With change in Govt, people illegally occupy State property
    “We are facing serious challenges throughout Trinidad on State land, where, with the change of Government, many persons have gone onto State lands which were earmarked either for agriculture or housing and have been illegally in occupation and that has happened in another area such as in Fairfield Village, Broomage, Princes Town, where we have another 455 acres that have been selected for housing.

    Moonilal scoffs at vote padding claims
    Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has denied allegations by Sheep and Goat Farmers Association president Shiraz Khan that the Government is seeking to voter pad by putting houses on agricultural land.

    Sorry for what?
    HOUSING and Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said he was not going to apologise for his Ministry’s bulldozing for one only apologises for breaking the law.

    No apology from Roodal: I did nothing wrong

    Bharath: Jearlean’s statements ‘unfortunate’
    Bharath said talks will be held today with farmers and compensation will be high on the agenda. Bharath added he will be meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the issue.

    Vasant bats for farmers
    MINISTER of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs Vasant Bharath yesterday refuted as “erroneous” reports which stated that farmers at Pineapple Smith lands, D’Abadie and Egypt Trace, Chaguanas, who had their crops bulldozed last week, are claiming inflated compensation.

    PNM wine in Partnership bottles

    Agriculture Minister tells farmers already on State property:
    THE Government has given the green light for farmers to squat on State lands. However, they must plant the land if they intend to occupy it, Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath said yesterday.

  2. Did not KAmla and Co. pronounce some idiocy about “Squatters being regularized?”. I have always been amused at the government’s tolerance of nonsense by the Agriculture Community. Now why has no one attempted to plant vegetables on the grounds of Government House? We know better, but we allow squatters to rush ahead and plant on state lands, and then talk about destroying food crops. Next thing you know, someone would complain because the state destroyed the illegal marijuana farms in the Tunapuna Hills, the Moruga Forest an the Ecclesville Forest.

    Indisciplined, rubbishy nonsense!

  3. Farmers give up land claims
    TWO of the four large-scale farmers who have been farming on 73 acres of State lands at Pineapple Smith lands in D’Abadie have abandoned their claims to title of those lands. The farmers’ decision to relinquish their claims is contained in court documents which were provided to Newsday yesterday.

    Meeting to discuss farmers’ compensation
    EGYPT Trace, Chaguanas farmers are expected to meet with officials of the Ministry of Food Production to discuss compensation packages for farmers whose crops were bulldozed by the Housing Development Corporation last week.

    PM mum on farmers’ issue
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on the farmers/HDC controversy before being briefed by her ministers.

    Hinds: He must resign
    Vasant at odds with Govt over farming land issue

    Moonilal on Bharath: We are still friends
    Housing and the Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal says he and Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath are still friends despite the unresolved farmers/housing impasse.

    Give out 9,000 houses PNM left

  4. Come on Newsday a few days ago you had an editorial castigating the government for bulldozing the farmers crops now you are castigating the farmers for squatting on state lands. Have you changed your mind or are you inciting??

  5. The government have to develop a land policy. That policy must allow for Agriculture, Housing, Industrial development and Hospitals etc. To do that it will take at least 5 years because the environment must be taken into consideration.

    Many of the NHA houses were built on poor quality soil that was not suited for houses. As a result many house owners are discovering cracks and other kinds of defects.

    Some of the land should be sold in plots immediately for those who need a house within the next six months. They must agree to build on that land after purchase. In other words they cannot purchase and keep, they must purchase and build.

    Also the government should consider building high rise apartments as was done in Sando East some 40 years ago. The same can be done today.This is an easy way of easing the housing problem sooner rather than later.

    Putting up housing all over the place will mean a choice between agriculture and housing and that choice should not have to be made….if some common sense and wisdom is applied.

  6. Farmers Mob Kamla
    A SECURITY nightmare yesterday threatened to engulf Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s official guard when an unruly mob of protesters, including some aligned to farmers groups and other parties, blocked traffic and encircled the offices of the Housing Ministry at the climax of a day of protest activity.

    Farmers converge on PM’s car, boo Moonilal during protest outside HDC
    Farmers, irate over the bulldozed farmlands and crops, as well as the “arrogance” of Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, created a mob scene outside the Port of Spain offices of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) yesterday, calling on the Prime Minister to intervene in their situation.

    PM: I won’t be distracted from serving entire nation
    While Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar says nothing will distract her from seeking to serve the entire nation and not sectoral interest, Housing Minister Dr Moonilal said yesterday’s protest by farmers outside the HDC was “a gross disrespect to the Prime Minister.”

    PM: Building houses to bring 30,000 jobs

    PM praises Jearlean’s work ethic
    JEARLEAN JOHN, the managing director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), was yesterday praised by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar for her work ethic.

    Kamla pledges fairness, justice for all

    ‘Build homes, create jobs’
    30,000 unemployed in construction sector

    Vasant: We need to settle down
    Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath has expressed hope that the impasse between farmers and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) would be settled after today’s meeting with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal.

    My resignation is PM’s call says Bharath
    Minister of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs Vasant Bharath has said his resignation over the farmers’ dispute is the Prime Minister’s call. Bharath said he had not been, nor did he expect to be reprimanded for the position he took to support aggrieved farmers.

    Farmers tell Elias: Mind your business
    Contractor Emile Elias, PNM leader Keith Rowley, PNM Senator Fitzgerald Hinds and PP Minister Roodal Moonilal came in for stiff verbal blows from farmers and union leaders during yesterday’s farmers’ demonstration.

    Bharath: No rift with Moonilal
    FOOD Production Minister Vasant Bharath says his support for protesting farmers has not created any rift between himself and Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal.

    Farmers: Sandy must probe Moonilal
    Another chapter in the stand-off between farmers and Housing Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal unfolded yesterday, when farmers claimed they had proof that the bulldozing of crops on lands in Egypt Trace, Chaguanas by the Housing and Development Company (HDC) was illegal, and called for an investigation by Minister of National Security John Sandy.

    Document surfaces
    A document signed by a representative of the Commissioner of State Lands, now in the hands of protesting farmers, could give them rights over 153 acres of State lands in Egypt Trace, Enterprise, Chaguanas.

    Kamla: National land plan is in the works
    PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said beyond the current clash over land for farmer versus housing, there has been a need for a national land use policy.

    ‘Ex-sugar workers should join struggle’
    The All Trinidad General Workers’ Trade Union is calling on the 10,000-plus ex-Caroni workers to join the farmers in their struggle.

    Arnold Piggott: The agriculture debate

    John Spence: Policy for land use

    Kisses for Kamla, houses for 50
    FARMERS may have shown animosity outside of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) yesterday, but inside the building Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was swamped with kisses as she handed over keys for about 50 housing units to victims of fires as well as to other HDC beneficiaries.

    NOT BACKING down on its stance over the use of lands for housing, the Government yesterday offered protesting farmers leases to 120 acres of lands located in Orange Grove, Tacarigua and at central Trinidad as well as compensation at market price for unharvested crops bulldozed on Easter Sunday.

    Cabinet decides: AG to bring policy for all housing lands to fall under Corporation
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has been mandated by Cabinet to develop a policy to ensure that all lands earmarked for housing are vested in the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). These lands include Pineapple Smith Lands at D’Abadie and Egypt Trace, Chaguanas, which farmers have been fighting for over the past two weeks.

    Farmers to look at new sites tomorrow

    Kamla denies snubbing farmers
    “They did not speak so what should I do? I went into the car and then came out and went across to them but they didn’t speak. They just continued shouting at which point it appeared to me that a conversation could not take place.

    Disrespecting the PM
    All decent persons and organisations should condemn the behaviour of the farmers and their supporters towards the Prime Minister last Wednesday. Readers will recall that the Prime Minister was handing out keys to the recipients of new homes at the HDC office on George Street, Port-of-Spain. As she sought to leave the premises, a large crowd of protesting farmers and others began to boo and to call for the removal of Minister Roodal Moonilal and indeed to virtually prevent her from leaving the building.

    Jack calls on farmers: Apologise to PM, stop the thuggery

    Kamla scolds Bharath in Cabinet
    Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is reported to have scolded Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath in Cabinet yesterday for his public stand with farmers

    Farmers in agreement to discuss other sites
    Farmers have agreed to discuss the offers of alternative sites to grow food.

    Thieves ‘raiding’ crops left behind

    Land use policy urgently in need

  8. Four farmers offered 120 acres for compensation
    Approximately 120 acres of land in Piarco has been offered to four D’Abadie farmers, whose crops were bulldozed last month by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

    Khan: We will take time with decision

    Bharath: Govt, farmers agree in principle
    Minister of Food Production Vasant Bharath said yesterday Government and the farmers had arrived at an agreement in principle following the public fall-out from the Easter Monday bulldozing of lands and destruction of crops in D’Abadie and Chaguanas.

    Pineapple Smith Lands farmer: We’re not squatters

    Roodal: No worries for portfolio ‘reshuffle’
    Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal is not worried about the realignment of portfolios as announced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Friday

    Squatters demand $3m for two houses
    Three million dollars. That is the hefty price tag two land-grabbing farmers are demanding for mansions they illegally constructed on 148 acres of State-owned lands at Pineapple Smith Lands in D’Abadie.

    The larger picture
    Two crucial actions on Thursday, one by the Cabinet to lease 120 acres of land to farmers, the other by the Prime Minister herself, who reportedly chided Food Production Minister, Vasant Bharath, for publicly siding with the farmers in the face of a Cabinet decision, are instructive.

    Agricultural Society boss faces mutiny over actions at HDC
    Sixteen executive members of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (ASTT) have come out publicly against their president, Dhano Sookoo, even as farmers across the country have united against the bulldozing of farm land by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) on Easter Monday.

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