April 4, 2017: Seven hundred and eight (708) former Caroni VSEP workers received their leases (agricultural and residential) leases on Tuesday 4th April, 2017 at a Lease Distribution Ceremony hosted at the Couva Chamber of Commerce Office. ‘In the last eighteen months, we have finally gotten serious about distributing these leases; and it is very disheartening to know that some of you have waited fourteen years for these leases’ were the opening words of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat to the eight hundred persons in attendance at the Ceremony.
He reminded the audience of his earlier commitment that ‘by December 31st 2016 all leases would have been handed out for the 2-acre parcels’ and admitted that despite the best attempts, there were some issuesdue to the inability to locate and/or solicit the response of close to 1,800 beneficiaries, in spite of repeated efforts to contact these individuals, even through national newspaper advertisements. He noted that the remaining residential leases for distribution are at different stages of development, under the purview of the Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited (EMBD), and will be available for distribution by the end of 2017. Words that proceeded his statement that ‘there is no question about this Government’s commitment to complete this VSEP exercise. The Government, and I personally, stand committed to seeing this to the end’.
‘What have been the effects of these delays?’ the Minister asked. Some beneficiaries have died and their families have to manage the difficulties associated with the administration of estate, with 460 persons thus being affected. ‘We need to move faster’ he said, and called on the Executives of Caroni Limited and the Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited to set up a system or mechanism to have‘all the questions being asked’ by the beneficiaries and their families. He also called on all public officials to ‘do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’. Further, he noted that ‘in order to transform agriculture in this country, we cannot do things the way we have always done. We need to have fundamental change’.
Caroni Limited’s Chairman, Mr. Jerry Hospedales in his Opening Address shared that under the guidance of Senator Rambharat as Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries over three thousand leases have been distributed.
Among the distinguished guests at the Ceremony were Senator Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries; Mr. Ronnie Mohammed, Chairman, Estate Management Business Development Company Limited and Caribbean Airlines Limited; Mr. Wayne Inniss, Deputy Chairman, National Agricultural Marketing and Development Company Limited; Mr. Shievan Ramnath, Chief Executive Officer, Agricultural Development Bank Limited; Mr. Kevin Singh, Chief Executive Officer (Ag.), Caroni Limited; Mrs. Wendy Samsoondar-Beharry, Corporate Business Development Manager, Agricultural Development Bank Limited; among others.