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ANGRY FARMERS SWEEP THROUGH CITY

posted 29 Apr 2011, 20:24 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Apr 2011, 20:58 ]

ANGRY FARMERS SWEEP THROUGH CITY

On April 29th 2011 Port of Spain resounded with shouts of “Moonilal must go” “Who feeds the nation” and other such slogans as angry farmers and their supporters, accompanied by tractors, swept through the capital city from Woodford Square to the Prime Minister’s Office in St. Clair in a demonstration of resistance to the brutal Easter Monday destruction of bearing farmlands in the D’Abadie and Chaguanas areas.
They came from all over the North and Central this mass of incensed humanity, young and old, male and female, Indian and African and in-between: from Maloney, Lopinot, Egypt, Dass Trace, Orange Grove, D’Abadie. They were outraged, mad no ass and they wanted the nation to know it.

Their representatives had held discussions with Housing Minister Moonilal and Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath the previous day and their sense of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the meeting was tangible.

Moonilal, they said, seemed proud of the action taken by the HDC. While the authorities agreed to move the security from the sites and to compensate for the crop losses (to be negotiated on Monday 2nd May), they insisted that the farmers accept relocation to St. Helena. This, of course, was emphatically rejected by the farmers who insisted that they stay put.

The farmers agreed to be part of a council to look at the question of land use along with reps from the government, but they were turned off by Moonilal’s refusal to apologise for the brutal act. Farmers see this as disrespect for themselves and their vocation and it re-inforced their belief that Moonilal cared nothing for the policy of food security and was dancing to the tune of the food importers and foreign food retailers who dominate the access to and distribution of food in the country. Farmers agreed to stay off the land for one week and if the matter wasn’t settled to their satisfaction they stated that they were going to resume normal service.

There was a palpable sense of betrayal surrounding the whole affair. After all, the farming community was a basic component of the PP constituency. Wasn’t it? They were all well aware of the promises made in the PP manifesto about respect for farmers and regularisation of tenure and the establishment of a land use policy and food security.

They understood what the manifesto said and they believed that the manifesto commitments would be carried out. No wonder they were angry. No wonder they shouted about economic and social injustice and equity and fair play and about foreigners getting land while locals get bulldoze and land tenure and security for farmers and....you get the point.

This struggle is surely shaking up the complacency of the PP government. Cracks are beginning to appear. Rats are wondering whether the ship is sinking; consciences are starting to bother some; others are standing firm, salivating at the prospect of new contracts for house building; others are flying all over the place living Patrick Manning’s dream. The initiative is with the farmers. They must ensure that their representatives do not surrender to the blandishments of the state. What is certain is that whatever the outcome, class alignments and political relationships have shifted fundamentally.

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