Distribution of Caroni land almost complete | Local company

ALMOST 20 years after Caroni’s closure (1975), the leases to former Caroni workers, who were part of their Voluntary Separation Package (VSEP), have still not been completed.

However, the Estate Management Business Development Company (EMBD), a special purpose public entity that has been devolved to Caroni Lands, said it was 95% complete with 130 more to go.

In a statement on the matter to the Express Business, the EMBD noted that under the Caroni VSEP, each former Caroni worker was to be granted an agricultural sub-lease from the government through the Commissioner of State Lands. (COSL) for a two-acre parcel. of land for a 30 year lease.

He said that in 2008 “all of these agricultural subleases were prepared by the Chief State Attorney on behalf of COSL. But in 2010, EMBD was invested with the main leases for seven agricultural estates, namely: Caroni, Jerningham Junction, Felicity 1, Felicity 2, La Gloria, Edinburgh and La Fortune/Picton.

“Therefore, from 2010 to the present, EMBD is responsible for the preparation, execution and registration of agricultural sub-leases to former Caroni workers for the seven agricultural estates as well as the rectification and/or modification of sub-leases prepared by COSL before 2010. All other agricultural matters are done directly by COSL,” he explained.

EMBD provided the following data:

Of the seven agricultural estates leased to EMBD, there are 3,134 plots distributed as follows:

• Total number of plots allocated to VSEP by Caroni—2,940

• Total number of plots transferred to state projects—56

• Total number of parcels with registered sublets: 2,754 (95% completed to date)

• Total number of parcels where sublets are in progress—130

The company noted that from a reconciliation exercise in November 2019 with Caroni (1975) Limited, “it identified 292 outstanding sublets, but this was reduced to 130 outstanding sublets at the end April 2022”.

He indicated that the 130 current leases are classified as follows:

• Number of deceased VSEP Caroni workers—45

• Number awaiting relocation due to lack of access or congestion of the current plot: 33

• Number of EMBDs awaiting documents from VSEP Caroni workers—45

• Current sublease number (ready for signature and registration): 7

He noted that the finalization of the sublease agreements for the 45 deceased VSEP Caroni workers depends on when the beneficiaries of the former deceased Caroni workers complete the process of: probate if there is a will, letters of administration if the person died without a will or letters of bonus not if the person’s heirs also died without having carried out the transfer of succession.

“These subleases are contingent upon the completion of these processes. EMBD queries on the status of these cases reveal that many of these cases are being delayed due to lack of funds, family disputes, lawyer delays and a slowdown in court proceedings due to of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the EMBD said.

The EMBD said the Commissioner of State Lands is leading a relocation project for people whose plots are affected by oil and gas operations/do not have access to their plots or similar issues.

“Once the Commissioner of State Lands identifies alternative plots and former Caroni VSEP workers are reassigned plots, the process of these subleases will be complete.

“For the rest (45 people to send the requested documents and seven sublets in progress), on average (including Covid-19 impacts), EMBD estimates that once the documents are received and in order, the preparation, the execution and registration of the subleases must be completed within three months,” the state agency said.

“Based on the figures provided, there are people who have requested to be relocated from EMBD estates to state land, and people for whom there is no contact or whose contact details are not up to date. In March 2022, the EMBD sent letters by registered mail to the last known address (if any) of these no contact persons and contacted various organizations for assistance. This exercise has reduced the number on the no-contact list to twenty-three (23) former Caroni VSEP workers,” he said.

“EMBD plans to publish soon on its website, www.embdtt.org, the list of former Caroni VSEP workers who cannot be contacted so that they or their beneficiaries can enter EMBD to provide updated information in order to complete the sublet exercise. EMBD continues to urge all former Caroni workers, especially those who have not received a sublet in any of the above seven agricultural areas, to contact EMBD so records can be updated (including providing rent receipts and deeds where sublets have been assigned to others by way of sale),” he added.

In February, former workers staged a protest outside the Brechin Castle estate in Couva to voice their dissatisfaction with the situation.

The former workers said they had been left behind for years with no sign that they would ever be able to take possession of the residential and agricultural land promised when they left the company.

In 2019, Caroni (1975) chairman Jerry Hospedales revealed that since the state-owned company closed in 2003, the government had spent $10 billion to “wind it down”.

Hospedales had said much of that money was spent on pensions, training courses, monetary benefits, and residential and agricultural land for former employees.