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Monday 15 July 2019
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2,324 former private canefarmers sue State for $103 million

OVER 2,000 former private sugarcane farmers have filed individual legal claims against the State for money they say are owed to them as transitional payments from the closure of Caroni (1975) Limited.

In all 2,324 claims are to be filed and they will all be heard by Justice James Aboud.

Some of the over 2,000 of those have already been filed and came up for hearing before Aboud in the Port of Spain High Court, earlier on Monday.

One of the cases was selected as a test case since the issues they have raised are similar, except for the quantum each of the farmers say they are owed.

At a status-hearing, Aboud remarked that the cases were the largest number filed in TT.

Yesterday’s hearing was to work out how the cases will progress.

The former cane farmers are represented by attorney Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul.

The Attorney General, who is represented by a team of attorneys which includes Neil Byam, Corinne Findlay, Nisa Simmons, and Brent James, told the judge there were three separate, but related cases, that were also filed by not yet docketed to a judge.

It is expected those cases will also find their way to Aboud’s list.

In selecting the test case, Aboud ordered the parties to file additional submissions and replies on an application by the State to have the 2,324 claims struck out on the basis that they contain no cause of action.

In their lawsuits, the 2,324 private cane farmers claim were promised payment of $130 million by the former People’s Partnership administration in three tranches which were to be the last transitional payments to them from the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd.

The farmers, in 2015, received a first payment of $27 million.

The farmers claimed when the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration entered office, they were offered only $57.9 million as full and final settlement instead of the $103 million they said was owed to them in two tranches.

They rejected the Government’s offer and instead sued the State for the entire sum they said was owed to them.

Aboud was also told of three similar cases which found its way to the appellate court – having been appealed by the State – in which the court ordered that three couples receive in excess of $.4 million in payments.

In those matters, the appellate court judges held that the State had not satisfied the requirements to justify the grant of an extension of time for the filing of a defence. They upheld the decisions and orders of the three high court judges, dismissing the appeals.

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