President of the Felicity Food Crop Farmers Association, Debideen Manick. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)
SHASTRI BOODAN

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

Debideen Manick, president of the Felicity Foodcrop Farmers Association, said clearing began on hundreds of acres of State lands on Monday and continued into Tuesday.

“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 told Guardian Media the action by the state was done without any consultation and affected farmers “are seeking compensation from the Ministry, and want answers.” 

Farmer Reon Quamina shows the broken irrigation hose left behind after the land was cleared. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

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.  He said the state pounced without warning and the farmers had little time to get their hands on their documents and harvest crops.

However, he noted many were in possession of Farmers Badges issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.  He said badges may be issued to farmers practicing for more than five years on occupied lands.

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

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

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

Farmer Inshan Salim said water lines were destroyed. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

The Chaguanas Mayor told Guardian Media the lands are under the holding of the EMBD to be distributed to former Caroni (1975) Limited workers as two-acre agriculture plots. However, nothing was done. Mayor Mohammed said he is unaware of any plans by the state for any projects in that area. 

Inshan Salim, one of the farmers who spoke with Guardian Media, said he had heard the lands would be given to ex-workers of Petrotrin.

“We not taking that,” Salim asserted.

When contacted, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat told Guardian Media he was not aware that the area was being cleared, nor was he aware the lands would be distributed to ex-Petrotrin workers.

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