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State to reclaim Dulalchan’s land

Published: 
Friday, March 16, 2018
Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat Photo by:COURTESY OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said he has instructed that the land which was “granted” to acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Deodat Dulalchan by letter in Felicity “be terminated.”

Three people have been suspended pending an investigation by the Public Service Commission into the issue of the land— Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Angela Siew, Commissioner of State Lands Paula Drakes and the Deputy Commissioner of State Lands Bhanmatie Seecharan.

Rambharat told the T&T Guardian yesterday that he has been informed that an investigator had been appointed to probe the matter but he had personally not been contacted on the investigation.

Asked what would happen with the parcel of land which Dulalchan had been granted in Chatoorie Street, Felicity, the Minister said: “He was given a letter and in that case, he has been out in the public. I read what he has been saying. But I have also given instructions that whatever was granted to him that it be terminated.”

Dulalchan was selected by the Police Service Commission as the top nominee for the post of Police Commissioner. A parliamentary Special Select Committee is examining the process used by the PSC in coming to that decision.

Whether the land will be returned to the Felicity four farmers who had been occupying the parcel of land previously, he said: “is a decision for Cabinet to make as part of it is dealing with a large block of land in that area.”

There was, he said, a second matter involving residential land. He said “it has to do with a residential parcel of land in Arouca. It does not involve Dulalchan. This involves a residential parcel and similarly permission to occupy being given by letter.” He had also directed that that be terminated.

Asked if this was normal, he said,“absolutely not.”

He said for what had happened in both cases “there must be serious breaches of procedure and practice for that to happen. That is unprecedented action in my experience.”

Both matters brought to his attention “raised red flags for me. Both matters were shocking to me and caused me to conduct an investigation and it was on the basis of those investigations, I submitted the report to the Prime Minister.” In that report, dated February 1, Rambharat told the PM he had “lost trust,” in the senior officials.

The investigation was prompted by a letter which Rambharat got from farmer Selvin Mahabir who indicated that he had occupied the land in Felicity for close to 14 years which had been given to Dulalchan and felt he had a right to the continued occupation. Investigators from the Ministry were assigned to probe the matter.

Dulalchan registered as a farmer with Agriculture Ministry’s County Caroni Extension on October 2, 2017. This was days after he obtained approval to occupy the State Land.

Farmers Satesh Maraj, Bhola Ramdass, Dindi Tarbanie and Mahabir were said to be displaced as a result of Dulalchan being granted the State Land at the Bernard Road Food Project.

The three senior officers were subsequently suspended. He said it appeared that the approval of the land to Dulalchan “had been fast-tracked and that proper procedures were not adhered to.”

Rambharat admitted he was “shocked because it is quite a process especially when you consider the backlog that we have and the way in which things take a long time.”

He said he himself had been complaining about the bureaucracy, “things take so long to happen and then I see things happen very quickly and it is not something that brings me satisfaction.” He said: “I feel if things could be expedited and it could be done quickly it should be done for everybody.”

It was on that basis, he said, that he launched the investigation.

Asked how the issues relating to land had been affected by the suspensions, he said, the Deputy PS Farook Hosein has been acting as Permanent Secretary and senior public officers at the land management division had been handling matters in the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands.

Pending the outcome of the investigation into the trio’s suspension, he said, “the Public Service Commission is looking at making recommendations for appointment to get somebody to act,” he had been following up regularly to ensure that the situation is addressed.

Rambharat said he had been working to “make sure that what we have in place was very clear,” to ensure that proper procedures were followed.”

He said he has a meeting every Thursday after Cabinet that involves the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, PS, Deputy PS and from time to time other ministers are invited, people from the EMA, maybe the Regional Corporation and Town and Country, depending on what we dealing with.”

Matters relating to land, he said, “require a collaborative approach, by collaborating we ensure that we follow a particular process and procedure. All these matters have to go to Cabinet. That is the oversight that is involved, given what happened.”

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