The Land Settlement Agency (LSA) has denied claims by an opposition MP that he engaged in the deliberate destruction of a farmer’s crops at a squatter site in Vega de Oropouche.
In a statement, LSA chief executive Hazar Hosein dismissed claims by Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram that the LSA destroyed chili and other short crops planted by Mark Williams.
According to Hosein, the agency enabled the farmer to harvest market-ready produce. Additionally, Hosein said LSA has allowed other products at different growth stages to remain intact.
Williams engaged in mixed farming on land in Sahodeen Trace, Vega de Oropouche, but he did not possess the required approvals to carry out these activities.
The squatter site is one of several sites designated by the government for regularization under the State Land Regularization Act 25 of 1998.
Hosein said site visits in late March and early April confirmed that Williams did not have a comfort certificate or proof of an agricultural lease application with the Commissioner of State Lands.
The farmer’s activities began on Lot 75, but expanded into the proposed LAA road allowance and encompassed portions of unallocated and unoccupied lots from Lot 75 to Lot 79.
As to the MP’s claim about lack of consultation, the LSA CEO said the agency had met with several farmers in the area. He added that these consultations included representatives from the Ministry of Local Government, including the then local government adviser who has since been elevated to the chairmanship of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation.
Hosein called Ratiram’s assertion mischievous, as he said these consultations had been going on since October 2019 and there had been no protests from those who attended.
The LSA CEO said discussions between agency representatives and Williams and his wife had been fruitful.
Hosein reaffirmed the government’s position that it was neither legal for people to occupy state land without the necessary approvals, nor government policy to compensate for long-term crops grown on state land. ‘state without authorization.
The LSA CEO, however, said the agency would allow owners of short-term crops illegally grown on state land; a reasonable period of time to harvest their products before starting development work.