Give ex-Caroni workers thier leases by June
The four-year delay is tantamount to an abuse of power
High Court judge Lennox Deyalsingh has ordered the Government to
grant leases to ex-Caroni (1975) Ltd workers for Caroni lands which
were promised to them more than four years ago.
The judge set a deadline of June 30, 2008, for the two-acre agricultural
plots to be leased to 7,900 displaced workers and ordered that proper
infrastructure, including access, drainage and irrigation facilities
be attached to each plot.
lack of the sense of urgency with this matter is, in my view, tantamount
to an abuse of power, he said.
The ruling was made in favour of the Civil Rights Association which
brought the judicial review application against Prime Minister Patrick
And Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, who argued for the sugar workers,
said, afterwards, the ruling was a testament of judicial review
and the rule of law.
law of judicial review is demonstrated by this judgment to be a
powerful machinery for the supreme courts to prevent abuse of prime
ministerial power and to deliver justice to the oppressed,
he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Deyalsingh further ordered that residential plots with all the proper
infrastructureincluding access, water and electricitybe
given to the workers.
The lawsuit challenged the delay by the Government to grant the
leases to the workersas part of the VSEP packageafter
the sugar producing state-owned enterprise was shut down.
Cabinet decided to grant the leases and later promised to do so
in a public statement by the Prime Minister at a post-Cabinet press
conference on November 20, 2003.
back the dates
Deyalsingh, in his judgment, said the Government kept pushing
back the dates for the handing over of the leases.
is now four years from the promise and not one lease has been granted
to one former sugar worker, he said.
He said there was no credible date when the leases would be granted,
and instead only a repetition of all the things that have
to be done.
public authority which makes a promise and thereby creates a legitimate
expectation must uphold its promise and do what is necessary to
ensure that its promise is kept...and further, must do it expeditiously,
the judge said.
The former workers, in their lawsuit, claimed they accepted the
VSEP package on the basis that they would receive the lands as promised
by the Government.
They contended that the distribution had not started since the closure
of Caroni in 2003.
Lawyers for the Prime Minister had argued that it was not a legitimate
expectation and even if it was, they were taking steps to give the
leases to the workers.
T&T Civil Rights Association filed the judicial review application
on the workers behalf in December 2003, after they claimed
the Government had intentions of reneging on its promise to former
Maharaj, head of the Civil Rights Association, led Rikki Harnanan,
Darrell Allahar and Vijaya Maharaj for the Association.
Reginald Armour, SC, Vanessa Gopaul and Rehanna Hosein appeared
for the Prime Minister, who was named as the sole respondent in
The Prime Minister is expected to appeal the decision.
minister responds to ruling
of Finance Karen Nunes-Tesheira yesterday said that she had not
yet seen the judgement and it would therefore be premature of her
to comment further.
In any event, Nunez-Tesheira reiterated the Governments commitment
to distribute the lands.
Government and we at ministry (of Finance) are committed to distributing
Caroni land and granting leases to the farmers, she said.
is one of the priority matters I am focusing on. (UTR)