Rowley’s anti-Caroni Moves

Rowley’s anti-Caroni Moves

Photo : Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley expressed bewilderment and shock that Caroni Green Ltd had an annual expenditure of $6m TT and a revenue generation of only $700,000 TT. This was interpreted as a drain on the state coffers leaving his government with no other choice but to shut down the company and send its 77 workers home.

Caroni Green Ltd was established in 2013 by the People’s Partnership Government and had two farms at Couva and Cunupia. Its major operations were producing peppers and manufacturing pepper sauce for export to foreign markets in the UK, US and Canada. This export drive of Caroni Green was overlooked by Rowley who charged that the company was competing with private producers. I truly wish that the same logic can be used to protect our dairy farmers who have to compete with imports of milk that is heavily subsidised by foreign governments. But instead of taking bold steps to develop local agricultural brands and encourage export, this PNM government’s priority is to protect food importers at the expense of destroying the livelihood of citizens engaged in agriculture.

Sharma Lalla, CEO of Caroni Green, was at pains pointing out that the company was only three years old and that in 2016 it realised a profit. Can our Prime Minister tell us how many of our State enterprises are making a profit? More so can he tell the nation which state enterprise has made a profit within three years of operation?

But that is the nature of the entity called the PNM. It is alright for other State enterprises to owe the government $44 billion but Caroni Green Ltd had to be shut down because of an annual expenditure of a mere $6m. Several companies are losing money but Dr Keith Rowley could only ‘rationalise’ the closure of Caroni Green Ltd. Such is the malice and ethnic bias of the PNM!

The PNM government has a history of discrimination against Caroni and its ex-workers. In 2003 Manning-led administration went speedily ahead to shut down Caroni (1975) Ltd. The option of diversification was never considered.  There was no consultation with the sugar workers union and other stakeholders.

Today, 14 years after the closure of Caronu, many  workers have not received their severance packages. Hundreds have died without receiving their lands and leases. Despite this there is little urgency by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries to have the leases processed.  Clarence Rambharat, then Corporate Secretary of Caroni 1975 Ltd, worked aggressively to implement Caroni’s closure.  Now that Rambharat is Minister of Agriculture with Caroni 1975 Ltd under his portfolio he is slow to redress his misdeeds.

One of the major beneficiaries of lands from Caroni Ltd was John Rahael, the then Minister of Agriculture that implemented the closure of the sugar industry. The PNM presided over the destruction of the livelihood of 9,000 thousands workers and their families and many communities in central and south Trinidad.

The malice and prejudice of the PNM against former Caroni workers was underlined when the government breached a court order handed down by Deyalsingh Judgement of 2007 and a Consent Order of the Industrial Court of 2003. Such uncaring attitude toward workers remains unprecedented in the history of industrial relations in Trinidad and Tobago. It was a great gesture by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s Government to withdraw from the appeal court the rulings of Justice Deyalsingh in 2010 when it came to power. Had the PP not been elected to office the PNM government might have fought the Deyalsingh’s ruling all the way to the Privy Council.

The tears that flowed from the eyes of young mothers dismissed by Rowley would not go in vain. His uncaring action would definitely come back to haunt him. Patrick Manning was not spared for his callous ways toward the former Caroni workers. Soon Rowley would have to experience the wrath of nature for his dismissal of young mothers who have to put food on the table for their children.

It is said that the hands the rocks the cradle rules the world. Mothers have always inspired their sons and daughters to fight injustice. Mahatma Gandhi was influenced greatly by his mother’s piety, prayer and fast. His many days of fast and prayer were integrated into his political struggle to end British rule in India.

Our mothers and sisters must take a page from the mother of Mahatma Gandhi. They must dedicate their energies and resources to destroy the rakshas that are threatening our families. We must never rest until this wicked and racist PNM government is destroyed. It is the most potent threat to our existence. We have a sacred and moral duty to fight and destroy this evil entity called the PNM.