PM: Land leases nothing to do with elections
By SASHA HARRINANAN Monday, October 14 2013
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FOR YOU: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, centre, hands over a land lease to Marloo Mohammed during a land distribution ceremony yesterday at Ce...
PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar says yesterday’s distribution of 729 agricultural leases and 42 residential leases to 771 former Caroni (1975) Limited employees has nothing to do with next Monday’s Local Government elections.
“Just last week one of the political parties opposed to us said, ‘they’re coming to distribute leases as part of an election campaign.’ But I want to assure you, election or no election campaign, this is a promise we made in 2010. It’s a promise that is part of our manifesto, it’s a promise that we are fulfilling on an on-going basis,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Addressing dozens of lease recipients at Centre Pointe Mall, Chaguanas yesterday, the PM declared, “whether a Local Government election was on or not, we were going to deliver these leases.”
Repeating what she had said on the campaign trail in Debe last Friday, Persad-Bissessar yesterday asked: “What is wrong with getting votes? That’s why we’re here! That’s why we’re in Government. That’s why we’re delivering leases, roads, bridges and drains. Delivery everywhere. There’s absolutely nothing wrong, legally, morally or spiritually, with working for people because they voted you to work for them. Let them talk and we will continue to deliver.”
Yesterday’s function started an hour late, as the PM attended an earlier meeting with the Congress of the People’s (COP) Local Government elections candidates at UNC headquarters, Rienzi Complex in Couva. Asked about that meeting, Persad-Bissessar said, “I attended to wish them good luck.”
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj and Land and Marine Resources Minister Jairam Seemungal, also addressed lease recipients at yesterday’s function.
Like the PM, Maharaj rejected claims that the PP had chosen “election time” to give out 771 deeds of lease. “From 2011 to the end of this year, this administration will have delivered a grand total of 3,146 agriculture leases. There was no election in 2011. There was no election earlier this year before the Chaguanas West bye-election. Yet we delivered leases on those occasions, so why should we stop now?” Maharaj asked.
He also denied claims made by another political party that persons would not be able to occupy their lands until after the General Election in 2015. “There is nothing here that prevents you from going on your land tomorrow, once you sign this lease. Let no one fool you and tell you that you will not be able to occupy these lands that you are getting here today. Others talk, we deliver, and you can read it here in black and white,” Maharaj said.
For his part, Seemungal steered clear of politics. He noted that “the agricultural leases distributed today are for two-acre plots in 13 areas: Cedar Hill, Edinburgh, Exchange I and II, Felicity I and II, Jerningham Junction, La Fortune, La Gloria, Montserrat II, Petit Morne, Reform and Waterloo.”