|Former cane farmers protest |
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Saturday, January 4 2014
DECLARING that they have waited too long for monies owed to them due to the closure of the sugar industry, members of the Former Cane Farmers’ Association took to the streets yesterday in a placard march for the third consecutive day.
General Secretary of the association, Thomas Sotillio, speaking to Newsday while walking along the Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay in the vicinity of the Health Centre, said the group intends to march to the capital city to highlight their plight.
He explained that on Wednesday (New year’s Day) he and other members of the association, began the march from Factory Road, Ste Madeleine. and ended in Cocoyea Village, San Fernando. The following day the march continued and ended in St Margaret’s Village, Claxton Bay.
Sotillio charged that in 2010 the UNC political party promised within three months after being elected into office, former cane workers would have been compensated.
“We are calling for cash compensation for economic losses due to the closure of the sugar industry. I cannot give the exact figure now, but we are seeking more than $1.5 billion. This is not just about the money,” Sotillio explained.
He added several letters had been sent to the office of the Prime Minister, as well as to other ministers, but members are yet to receive their monies.
Sotillio opted not to say where in Port-of-Spain the march would end, and estimated the journey could take about two weeks since the average age of the members are 75 years-old.
“We hoping to remind the country that it lost an agricultural industry, and that successful political administrations have failed to even come close to implementing a sustainable replacement, and to propose strategies for creating a robust food industry in TT,” he said.
One of the marchers Kitson Ragoonanan, 72, of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, said it was unfair for him to have to engage in a march to get compensation.
“All my life, I have been a cane farmer. It is very bad that we have to do this to get our monies. I have 13 grandchildren, and I worked very hard,” Ragoonanan said.
Another man Raj Ramkissoon, 74, also of St Mary’s Village, said he, too, worked as a cane farmer, and that was the trade he was great at. With the closure of the sugar industry, he noted life for him and his family had changed.
“The initial monies they gave out was just pittance.
“They gave monies to about 3,000 farmers, and back then there were about 6,000 farmers and many had already died,” Ramkissoon said.