President of the Felicity Foodcrop Farmers Association, Debideen Manick

Farmers occupying state land in Felicity, Chaguanas, are demanding compensation after a state agency cut down their crops.

Felicity Foodcrop Farmers Association president Debideen Manick yesterday said clearing began on hundreds of acres of State land on Monday and continued into yesterday.

“We understand that the LSA (Land Settlement Agency) has started brush cutting the lands of the farmers who have been occupying this thing for the last 10-15 years,” Manick said.

He said the action was done without any consultation.

“They are seeking compensation from the ministry. They want answers.”

Manick said he was uncertain if the farmers had written permission from the Commissioner of State Lands to occupy the acreage or had previously applied for permission. However, he claimed the state moved without warning and the farmers had little time to get their hands on their documents or harvest crops.

He said many were in possession of farmers’ badges issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. He said badges may be issued to farmers practising for more than five years on occupied lands.

Manick said an official from the Ministry of Agriculture advised the farmers to “go through the process to get redress.”

Chaguanas Mayor Faaiq Mohammed yesterday said he plans to write the relevant authorities on the matter.

“This is a heartless act that was done without any consultation. What is the rush?” Mohammed said.

He noted that the lands were under the holding of the EMBD to be distributed to former Caroni (1975) Limited workers as two-acre agriculture plots. Mohammed said he was also unaware of any plans by the state for any projects in that area.

One of the farmers, Inshan Salim, claimed he has heard that the lands will be given to ex-workers of Petrotrin.

When contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said he was not aware that the area was being cleared, nor was he aware that the land would be distributed to ex-Petrotrin workers.

“Anyone legitimately holding State land can visit the State Land office in Chase Village,” Rambharat said.