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Friday 13 December 2019
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ASTT head confirms daughter is director

Devica Ria Sookoo, director of ASTT -
Devica Ria Sookoo, director of ASTT -

ACTION against the Agricultural Society of TT (ASTT) will be taken soon, Newsday has been informed, on a Cabinet directive after a damning audit report.

ASTT president Dhanoo Sookoo has called a meeting in Sangre Grande today, but several directors are up in arms because Sookoo called the meeting at her home on the Eastern Main Road, Sangre Chiquito.

Since the audit, which questioned unaccounted spending and alleged that ASTT’s members had illegally occupied five acres of state land, the society appears to be heading for a split in its management committee.

Newsday spoke to Sookoo yesterday about another concern being raised, that of her daughter, Devica Ria Sookoo, 26, being a director of the ASTT.

Sookoo responded: “My daughter was duly elected by free and fair elections.

“I’m not denying that. I am saying that Devica Sookoo is my daughter and she brought her people and vote herself in on the board.”

Dhano Sookoo receives a monthly stipend of $8,000 plus a $1,000 travel allowance. Her daughter, like other directors, is paid $4,000 plus a $500 travel allowance.

ASTT secretary and government appointee on the board Omar Mohammed, director/legal adviser Richard Jaggasar and Amit Ramnanan (director), told Newsday they had not been invited to the meeting.

Director Evans Ramkhelawan t old Newsday, “I’m not going to a meeting of the society being held at someone’s house to discuss an audit report of such grave importance.”

Asked if she had called the meeting at her home, Sookoo replied, “Every single person have been invited via Whatsapp.

“The meeting is being held at the Agricultural Society sub-office. It is (number given) Sangre Chiquito, Eastern Main Road, Sangre Grande – a place where the Parliament drops off my mails; a place where the ministry addresses me as the president and a place where I receive all my mails, including from the president of the republic of TT.”

Asked if it was, therefore, not her home address, Sookoo reiterated, “As I said, it is where I receive my mails and is where every director have sat here in meetings.”

Sookoo denied that she walked out of a meeting called last Tuesday to discuss the audit report.

It was called pursuant to a directive of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries.

She said, “No one provided me with such document. When I asked for the report, (name called) refused to hand it to me.”

Commenting on the report, Sookoo said, “We cannot be accused of misappropriating funds which we never received.

“If we are being accused of occupying lands illegally, all I can say is that we have thousands of farmers and we have written numerous letters to the Commissioner of State Lands on the matter.”

A government source told Newsday yesterday the deadline for the ASTT to respond to the report will be extended, “but government has been contemplating action.”

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