Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall on Tuesday met with farmers whose lands were taken away by former Region Five Regional Executive Officer (REO), Mr. Ovid Morrison in 2016.
The farmers were given the green light to return to their lands following court proceedings.
President Dr Irfaan Ali had given Minister Dharamlall a directive to engage the farmers. During Tuesday’s engagement, the Minister said the Administration is willing to work with the farmers during this phase.
“I am here today on behalf of the government to ensure that the injustice that was done against you that we made good on the decision of the court. You are aware that a few years ago the last Government took possession of about 50 acres of land right in this area and repossessed without any due regard to your livelihood. We are very happy that the court ruled in your favour.”
The Minister recommended that the farmers form a group, which he said would allow them to put together ideas and plans to improve production, which can significantly contribute to the Government’s food security agenda.
He also advised that they work closely with the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) for a smooth process back into production, noting that priority must be given to persons who occupied plots before the court proceedings.
“The Regional Democratic Council will provide total access to you but just make sure that whatever you are doing, you do it within the law and the crops that you plant must be legal crops and that is what we would like to see moving forward,” the Minister said.
Back in 2016, Mr. Morrison had forced the farmers off the lands at Bath, Naarstigheid and Fort Wellington, where they cultivated crops.
It was Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, who while in opposition, filed legal proceedings on behalf of the farmers against the former REO. The judgement was later awarded in favour of the farmers by Justice Simone Ramlall.
Regional Chairman, Mr. Vickchand Ramphal had described the action as wasteful spending, explaining that Mr. Morrison injected some $600 million to offset a model farm project, which did not benefit the region.
One of the farmers, Mr. Karamchandra Basdeo said “I am very happy and thankful for the President and our Minister and everyone who helped. We thank you all so much for helping us to start back life over at the age of 74.”
Another farmer, Mr. Wilfred Arthur explained that the money made from selling his produce sustained his family. “I’m grateful that I get back the piece of land that I can restart the small farm that helped back up me and my family.”