Former private sugar cane farmers are appealing to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis to let good sense prevail and pay them what they are owed.
The call was made during a press conference in Port-of-Spain on Monday after one farmer's success in the High Court.
Former private cane farmer Dipchand Lal received a cheque for over $300,000, after he challenged the state for his portion of money which they were owed following the closure of Caroni 1975 Ltd in 2007.
Lal and over 2,000 former cane farmers have challenged Government over its failure to pay them an outstanding $103 million, which is the balance from an initial $130 million which the European Union (EU) and the previous government had made available to the farmers to help them transition from the sugar industry.
Lal, 65, reiterated that following the closure of the industry in 2007 they were offered transitional support for their loss of earnings for two and a half years.
“We've had a long battle with the government for outstanding monies that the European Union offered to take the farmers from where they were at that time to where they would like to be in the future,” he said.
In 2012, the former farmers began conversations with the then People’s Partnership government through Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who was the minister of planning. In 2014, the farmers accepted that $130 million would be paid to some 3,000 private farmers from the government in three parts and the first was instalment paid by the PP.
Lal said the present Government kept denying there was ever any money for them to collect. However, after both his lawyer Gerald Ramdeen and Tewarie "applied pressure" on their behalf, Government admitted there was only $57 million they could receive.
“We did not accept…our forefathers and our self, we work and we work and we toil and that money (the $130 million) was due to us,” Lal said.
“I would use this opportunity today to ask the Honourable Prime Minister and Cabinet of this country to allow good sense to prevail and pay the farmers' money outstanding to them.”
He added, “I am sad today because this cheque that I am getting is on behalf of myself and the rest of farmers don't have their cheque and when they get their cheque, then I'd be happy.”
Tewarie said Cabinet's unilateral change of the negotiated agreement between the then government and the farmers undermined the process of negotiated settlements and continuity of government.
He said ruined the credibility of government and would result in fewer investments being made in the country due to concerns from investors over whether agreements with Government would be honoured.
Ramdeen said he hopes this win sets a precedent for further proceedings of a similar nature.
“Every matter that has been filed thus far, the Government has lost,” Ramdeen said.
Reporter: RISHARD KHAN