FARMERS and fishermen are at the mercy of the criminal elements and Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram is calling on Government to pay serious attention to the protection of the people in these sectors.
In the last week, two fishermen from Carli Bay, Navindra Garib and Parasram Boodoo, were attacked and killed while fishing in the Gulf of Paria.
This came two years after seven fishermen from the area were also kidnapped and killed, and several incidents of piracy and theft of vessels and engines since.
Aranguez celery farmers Ramoutar Jaikaran and his wife were also attacked, shot and beaten by bandits who stole the produce from which they earn their livelihood.
On a United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report platform on Monday night, Ratiram called on Government to say what it was doing about praedial larceny.
“Absolutely nothing. They have failed to provide the resources to outfit the praedial larceny squad to ensure even a bare minimum of operations in the four divisions,” he charged.
In the absence of funding from the Ministry of Agriculture, under which this division falls, Ratiram said stakeholders have to pool resources to ensure the operation of the squad.
He gave examples of people and organisations in the Cumuto/Barrackpore area having to buy tyres for the division’s vehicle and a battery for a vehicle acquired under the PP administration, in the Central Division.
He said all this is happening in a financial year when the ministry was given a $1.2 billion budget – $700 million for recurring and additional projects, plus a $500 million stimulus package.
“Yet operational issues like battery and tyres cannot be addressed. This is the level of mismanagement, incompetence and negligence from the Rowley PNM administration. Instead of putting systems in place and assist farmers Clarence (Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat) is more concerned about taking away lands from farmers.
“He has refused to put the necessary resources into agriculture so farmers can go about producing and planting without any of their lives being put at risk,” Ratiram said.
He said access roads to farm lands are also in terrible disrepair and dismissed the boast by Finance Minister Colm Imbert of agriculture being placed at the fore of the diversification of the economy. He said this is just a mamaguy.
Rambharat said he is concerned about praedial larceny but that is the domain of the police. He said money is being pumped into agriculture.
On the attacks on fisherfolks, Ratiram charged that owing to disrespect, disregard and altogether abandonment by Government, fishermen, like farmers remain at the mercy of criminals.
“There seems to be no protection of our fishermen.”
He recalled the many overtures by the fishing association to get various ministers of National Security to set up a Coast Guard base at Carli Bay, in addition to increased patrols in the waters where they fish.
When the two fishermen went missing on July 19, he said, it was left to the men’s families, the associations and others to buy fuel for a search.
“This story did not have a happy ending as we hoped and prayed, when the bodies of the two fishermen were found.
“No one was there to witness what transpired. What we do know is that, together with the fishing association, we have been begging and pleading with one Minister of National Security after another for the establishment of a Coast Guard base at Carli Bay.”
He recalled at a recent meeting with current National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, after another attack, this recommendation was at the top of the list.
Instead of acceding to their request, he said the Rowley administration has bought two boats which will be unable to patrol areas in the Gulf of Paria where most fishing takes place.