President General of the All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWTU) Nirvan Maharaj has taken issue with a new housing initiative launched by the Housing Ministry last week.
Government’s Aided Self-Help Housing Programme is intended to facilitate the construction of houses within a two year period at a subsidised cost to low and middle income families.
The new programme is meant to reduce the demand for public housing through the Housing Development Corporation, reduce Government’s expenditure in the housing sector and stimulate economic activity in the construction industry.
Some 1000 fully developed housing lots will be available for the first cycle of the programme in Trinidad.
Maharaj is questioning how it is possible for the Housing Minister to give out these plots of land to new applicants, while more than 4000 ex-Caroni workers are still awaiting to get their lands fourteen years after the VESEP package of 2003.
The union leader noted that the lands are a legal entitlement as a result of the Industrial Court Consent Order of 2003 and the Deyalsingh Judgment of 2007.
He is now calling on the Minister, and by extension the Government, to cease and desist from actions that are seemingly blatant, callous, heartless and open discrimination against the ex-Caroni workers.
Maharaj said the Minister must say whether the lands prepared for the ex-Caroni workers and are now being stolen and given away to other persons who are not VESEP recipients.
“The Minister and by extension the Peoples National Movement must say if these 1000 plots are being sourced from sites developed for ex-Caroni workers and which were taken away and given to land for the landless programme and not yet returned.
The Minister and by extension the People’s National Movement must answer if these 1000 plots are being sourced from ex-Caroni workers sites such as, Hermitage, Mc Bean, Picton, Beaucal, Factory Road and Orangefield. Sites originally developed for VESEP Residential lots allocated to ex-Caroni workers.”
He added that if the plots do not fall within the sites developed for ex-Caroni workers, then the Minister and Government must explain how HDC units, Land for the Landless, Squatter regularisation, the Aided Self-Help Housing Programme can all be developed expeditiously and in a short space of time, but ex-Caroni workers are still waiting to get their lands 14 years after the VESEP was granted.
Describing the move as “discrimination against a select group of people unparalleled in this Nation’s history”, Maharaj called on the Government to stop the injustice against the ex-Caroni workers and demanded that the lands stolen from them are returned.