Addressing a rally of the United National Congress (UNC) on Saturday night that brought out Bollywood singer Kumas Sanu, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that her government would provide TT$50 million to former Caroni sugar workers, who were “cheated” by the previous administration when they invested more than TT$400 million in a “sweetener” loan.
“Your government has already approved the management fee payment of six million to offset all fees and return this money to the workers who paid for such services.
“I will now commit our government to paying TT$50 million to the former Caroni workers who invested on the promise of the PNM (Peoples National Movement) and were duped into putting their money in that plan. This TT$50 million will be paid as partial payment to offset any payments that would have been due to the Caroni workers by way of interest received,” she said.
Opinion polls published Sunday and last week showed Warner as a comfortable winner in the seat that is considered the heartland of the UNC and one of its safest seats.
The ANSA McAL poll showed Warner enjoying a 48 to 22 percent lead over the UNC’s candidate Khadijah Ameen, while the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (Nacta) has him leading 41 to 36 percent.
The by-election was occasion after Warner resigned the Chaguanas West seat in April following the release of a report by the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) that had been critical of his leadership of the group.
Warner also submitted his resignation as a government minister and as the UNC chairman but was bypassed by the party, who selected Ameen.
Persad Bissessar told supporters that her administration plans to return a significant portion of the 500 acres of prime agricultural land which was taken away by the PNM government in 2006 for the development of a military base.
She said Cabinet approved TT$48 million to finish developing a residential site where the government expected to have over 700 lots for distribution later this year.
“This will benefit many of the former Caroni workers in Felicity and the surrounding areas. We will also seek funding for the completion of the residential site nearby on the Caroni Savannah Road,” she said, adding there were also plans to construct a health centre in the area.
“So you the people of Pierre Road, Felicity, and surrounding areas will get your long-awaited health facilities. We have identified a parcel of land on the Caroni Connector Road for this purpose. This is the long-term development which my government is known for.”
In her address, Prime Minister Persad Bissessar dismissed any notion that Warner, who has since formed the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), would be allowed back into the coalition partnership government.
“Maybe I was too forgiving before. Maybe I was too understanding when the accusations and charges of alleged misdeeds were swirling incessantly.
“When the Opposition and other civil society groups, all with abundant self interests, but now ominously silent, were calling repeatedly and vociferously for his head, I stood with him. We all stood with him. I chose not to respond to the persistent allegations and innuendoes,” she said, denying claims by Warner that she is controlled by a “cabal” within the government.
“There is no doubt he helped rejuvenate our party at a critical juncture and played a central role in our march to government. But those of us who actually lived the history know he was but one of many who stood up valiantly for our party.”
She said his resignation as UNC chairman was “a pure unadulterated act of vanity. It was a total unilateral decision,” adding that Warner slapped his constituents in their faces because he did not consult with them.