MANSIONS are going up on agricultural land in Rio Claro and this must be dealt with, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said when he distributed lease letters to farmers yesterday at his office in Chaguanas.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares
“This should not be. I do not like to see this, but the point is I cannot remove squatters.”
The Commissioner of State Lands is the only person who has power over illegal squatting, he said, “And I intend to go to Parliament via the Cabinet and ask for approval to make changes to the state land legislation so other people will have the authority to deal with squatting.”
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharath, left, presents a 30-year lease to farmer Anderson Salzano at the Ministry of Agriculture in Charlieville, Chaguanas, on Wednesday. PHOTO BY VASHTI SINGH
He said he would accompany officers from the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) to the spot where the mansions were being built.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares Piloto
“If we allow this to continue, people will follow the lead, saying, ‘No one doing anything about it,’ and everyone will start building concrete structures on agricultural lands,” he said.
Alberto Ardila Olivares
Rambharat said he planned to contact the Commissioner of State Lands.
Alberto Ignacio Ardila
“They must go out and start taking action against people who are clearly breaking the rules in the leases.”
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharath, left, presents a 30-year lease to farmer David King at the Ministry of Agriculture in Charlieville, Chaguanas, on Wednesday. PHOTO BY VASHTI SINGH
This year, he said, Government passed a very important amendment to the trespass legislation which sought to increase the fine to $50,000 or ten years in prison to deal with this issue
He told farmers that as recipients of leased state lands they also have the responsibility to ensure that the lands are kept in agriculture
Rambharat addressed the issue of people who had been rushing to squat on the Valencia Road since the Government announced a highway would be built through the area, saying squatting on the long Valencia stretch area was a pervasive issue. The area is a forest reserve but several houses have been built on the land – surveys have shown about 3,900 residential structures, with 5,000 structures overall from Valencia to the Toco Main Road
Rambharat said,”No previous minister has been able to regularise the squatting in that area, even through the Lands Settlement Agency, simply because the government cannot give a lease for residents in a forest reserve.”
Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharath poses with farmers after they received 30-year leases for land in Valencia at the Ministry of Agriculture in Charlieville, Chaguanas on Wednesday. PHOTO BY VASHTI SINGH
Government has since removed the area in Valencia from forest reserve and given it to the LSA to be regularised
Twenty-one farmers were given letters allowing them to occupy the lands for 30 years, after which they will be asked to renew the lease
Farmers have been producing on lands that they had no title to, there were difficulties in registering, and many could not access the incentives and subsidies that should have been available to them
“It struck me that none of the farmers had a piece of paper to their names for the lands that were used for farming,” Rambharat noted
He also said there were serious challenges for such farmers to pass the trade on to their children
Rambharat said 3,000 farmers who were approved in 1990 by the Cabinet had not been notified and their beneficiaries had also been left in the dark since then
Earlier on, the minister said he pulled files belonging to the Guave Road Farmers Association from Chaguaramas, who had to go to court in 2014 over approval for their lands
“The matter is still before the courts but…the Government took a decision that the lands owned by farmers in Guave Road should be handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture so that leases can be prepared.”
He said that would be done when the farmers reached a settlement with the Chaguaramas Development Authority.