Aranguez farmers plead not guilty to illegally siphoning water

Four Aranguez farmers pleaded not guilty to illegally siphoning water to their farms before a Port of Spain Magistrate this morning.

Ishwar Singh, Ted Rampersad, Teemal Ramesh, and Ramnath Moonilal appeared before Magistrate Magistrate Sanara Toon-McQuilkin in the Third court this morning to answer the charge of abstracting water from a watercourse without a license to water plants.

The matter was adjourned to June 3r after the prosecution said they had incomplete evidence summaries to present to the court this morning.

Magistrate Toon-McQuilkine said while she understood the complainants were WASA estate constables and may not be totally familiar with court procedure, they ought to have been organized enough to present partial summaries concerning the case today. This resulted in one-page summaries being presented to the court.

A group of Aranguez farmers who were at the court to support their colleagues expressed the anger over the approach of WASA estate police officers and questioned the legality of their action. 

The charges were laid after videos were posted on social media which seemed to depict farmers siphoning drain water to irrigate their crops.

President of the Aranguez Farmers Association Pundit Satyanand Maharaj said while the case is ongoing his group has brokered a deal in the best interest of the farmers.

"We have come to an agreement where farmers pumps were returned yesterday evening, including the farmers in Bon Air, and of course we have been given the assurance . . . in fact 99 per cent of our farmers have applied for abstraction permits in keeping with best practice," said Pundit Maharaj in an interview outside the court.

Dhano Sookoo, president of Agricultural Society, was critical of the treatment of the farmers.

"This issue this morning is not about four or six farmers whose water pumps were picked up by the WASA police who have no legal authority to do so. This is a national issue, this is affecting our food production sector, our food security and it is time the government of the day understand that they need to stop prostituting the farmers of this country," she said.

Pundit Maharaj said the Aranguez farmers will continue to deliver quality products in spite of the incident.

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