Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 16th 2016 Contents Agri minister
RADHICA DE SILVA
Determined to stop unscrupulous contrac-
tors from benefitting from suspicious
land transactions, Agriculture Minister
Clarence Rambharat says he is forward-
ing evidence to Attorney General Faris
Speaking at a land-distribution cere-
mony in Couva yesterday for former Caroni
workers, Rambharat said an ongoing land audit
of all State lands, including those owned by
Caroni, has yielded evidence of suspicious trans-
actions undertaken between 2010 and 2015.
Saying the cost of developing a lot of land
jumped from $151,000 in 2010 to $1.2 million
by 2015, Rambharat said a review showed many
contractors who developed Caroni lands for the
Estate Management Business Development
Company Limited (EMBD) failed to honour
"The EMBD initiated earlier this year an audit
of a particular set of transactions of $400 million
spent to build ten roads and out of these ten
roads none were completed according to spec-
ifications," Rambharat revealed.
He said some roads were a few kilometres
short, the thickness of the asphalt was not
according to specifications and the quality of
the roads sub-base was poor.
"The advice we got is that the EMBD should
move to recover a significant amount of money
long before the contracts were completed.
"In relation to development of lands in 2010,
the average cost of completion of a lot of land
was $151,000. It varied from site to site but by
2015, the average cost was way in excess
of $750,000. In some cases the lots
were $1.2 million," Rambharat said.
He noted that once evidence was
sent to the AG, recommendations
would be made to recover the sums
or to take steps to prosecute the
In order not to delay the distribution
of residential lots to former Caroni
workers, Rambharat said he had asked
the recipients to take advantage of
offers on areas which were already
While the EMBD, headed by chair-
man Ronnie Mohammed had to deal
with a $2 billion debt to contractors, he
said $5 billion more was needed to com-
plete the residential distribution to 8,858
Rambharat said he planned to begin distrib-
uting non-Caroni leases by April 2017, adding
about 3,000 leases have already been distributed
by the Government for this year.
"As fast as we encounter problems like the
illegal sale of State lands or corruption relating
to certain files, they are referred to the Attorney
General," Rambharat added.
He also denied Government planned to take
away Caroni lands from the former workers.
"In this country, farmers have used the cry
of access roads as an excuse for not putting the
lands for productive use but even though Gov-
ernment is putting the necessary infrastructure,
do not expect highways or electricity poles and
cable to be coming to the lands as if it is an
HDC site," Rambharat added.
He noted that the office of the Commissioner
of State Lands was being given the resources
and staffing to ensure that those who got leases
put the lands to productive use.
Move to restore
Grande post office
In an attempt to preserve the nation s history
and ensure future generations can appreciate the
legacy left by their ancestors, local conservation-
ists have teamed up with the corporate sector to
embark on a series of projects which will result
in the restoration of several historical buildings
around the country.
Joining hands with the Trinidad and Tobago
Postal Corporation (TTPost), the National
Trust, along with the non-governmental organ-
isation, Concerned Citizens of Sangre Grande,
have begun the process by turning their atten-
tion to the old post office building in the
heart of Sangre Grande.
Interim chairman of the group, Ava de Freitas-
Ramnath, said they were forced to take action as
they sought to avoid a repeat of the situation that
had resulted prior to the demolition last year of
the historical Greyfriars Church of Scotland, Port-
Speaking during a handing-over ceremony at
which copies of the building s structural report
was presented to TTPost yesterday, De Freitas-
Ramnath spoke to the rich and diverse memories
the building once represented.
Likening it to this era s invention of FaceBook,
FaceTime and What s App, she said in the olden
days the building acted as the communal gathering
place for all to share news, catch up with each
other and exchange village gossip as they went
about their daily business.
Galvanised into action to save the 118-year-old
two-storey wooden structure, Concerned Citizens
of Sangre Grande spent ten hours on March 13 to
clean the premises and remove 15 truckloads of
garbage and debris that had accumulated at the
site throughout the years.
Praising the community and business people as
well as the regional corporation for their time and
efforts, De Freitas-Ramnath challenged the National
Trust and TTPost to come up with a plan
to restore the building to its former glory.
Revealing that most of the properties
that had previously belonged to the general
post office had recently been transferred
to TTPost, managing director Reynold
Baldesosingh said it was now up to
"TTPost to come up with a plan on how
we are going to use some of these build-
ings, restore some and prepare some for
Pointing to buildings in Curepe, Sangre
Grande, San Juan, Palo Seco, Cara-
pichaima, he added:
"Our plan is to use these buildings to
continue to expand and improve on the
service levels we offer to the national public.
We are looking to restore these with a facade
to represent the era from which they came
and to use them to re-establish the value to
the community these buildings would have once
Agreeing with the suggestions proffered by the
chairman of the National Trust, Margaret Mc
Dowall, for it to feature a museum showcasing
artifacts indigenous to the community along with
a coffee shop/internet cafe, Baldeosingh did not
rule out the possibility that it could be of financial
benefit through rental and use for events and special
He said TTPost had identified 33 buildings among
its property portfolio that could be of historical,
cultural and architectural interest.
Excited about the project, Mc Dowall explained:
where the community has come out and really
insisted their heritage be preserved."
Pressed to say how many buildings were listed
to be preserved as a heritage/historical site, she
said that number stood at 13, with another 14 in
varying stages of being listed.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, November 16, 2016
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