THE EDITOR: Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley acted irresponsibly when he accused the former government of Trinidad and Tobago of giving away hundreds of acres of lands to its friends. A close examination of the records show that no such thing happened and that the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration has conducted all its affairs with respect to land leases with transparency, following all the accepted practices.
Dr. Rowley made his slanderous statement at a PNM public meeting in Diego Martin on Sunday which repeated IDENTICAL statements in St Augustine on July 23 2014 where he accused the then government of giving away 100 acres of prime land in Tucker Valley without approval of Cabinet. He called it THEN a “grand theft of the nation’s patrimony”. That then as now is blatant lie.
I wish to make it clear that the Prime Minister selectively misrepresented his facts and got it wrong and in the process of maligning the previous government and a respectable businessman who feared victimization by the PNM have given up 40 acres. The political incompetence of the Rowley Administration cannot be hidden by rehashing old news.
Dr Rowley should be the last one to criticize the previous government on its agriculture policy. He was a member of the PNM cabinet that brought in Cubans in 2009 to set up a mega farm in the same Tucker Valley that yielded nothing; all it did was send $20 million of taxpayers dollars down the drain.
The facts about the lands at Tucker Valley are very different from the malicious story that Dr Rowley wants the public to believe. We did not give away anything; and we did everything with transparency, following all proper procedures.
The Kamla Persad-Bissessar Administration appointed a non-political six-member team of agro-business and corporate leaders to evaluate the Large Land Delivery Programme project and make recommedations about who would get access to the lands. Members of that team came from the public agricultural sector and private enterprise and the selection process was both transparent and documented in the Request For Proposal published in all of the daily newspapers.
This project started in October 2011 with the intention of putting into productive use over 4,000 acres of agricultural lands in Trinidad for Commercial Food Production. We identified eight farm sites comprising a total of 1,473 acres (596 ha).
I wish to state that the Evaluation Committee’s report to the Permanent Secretary was based on careful evaluation and was transparent.
This is what the committee stated in its report: “It was the general consensus that Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Limited should be awarded the 100 acres at Tucker Valley. It was agreed by the committee that Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Limited were the most experienced of the two proposers interviewed. In addition, the committee agreed that Caribbean Chemicals also demonstrated sound technical capacity, possess as an excellent financial proposal and have very good management team”.
I wish to also make it clear that the Tucker Valley Farm Site falls under the jurisdiction of the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) and not the Commissioner of State Lands and as such Caribbean Chemicals was required to enter into a lease arrangement with the CDA.
Although the tender for the Tucker Valley site was awarded to Caribbean Chemicals, the company elected to execute the agricultural lease project through Chaguaramas Farms Ltd. The Deed of Lease dated March 13, 2014, the Chaguaramas Development Authority granted a lease to Chaguaramas Farms Ltd for the use of One hundred (100) acres in Tucker Valley for agricultural purposes.
Dr. Rowley’s statement about “giving away” lands is false and malicious. The facts are clear and I call on Dr. Rowley to cease and desist from spreading his destructive propaganda in an attempt to confuse the electorate.
Ironically it was the same Caribbean Chemicals who received 100 acres under the PNM Administration in 2008 in Couva. So while Dr.
Rowley was in Cabinet he had no objection to Caribbean Chemicals ~ “a unc activist~ receiving lands under the PNM but he objects when it was under the Peoples Partnership government.