PM Harris: SWRF has brought amends to injustice perceived by former sugar workers

Basseterre, St. Kitts (November 5, 2015) — Prime Minister the Hon Dr Timothy Harris, while addressing a major manifesto commitment of the Team Unity Administration of the EC$16 million to the former sugar workers, has said that the programme has brought amends to the injustice perceived by the former sugar workers.

“The past is the predecessor’s curse, only the future we can consecrate,” said the Prime Minister on Tuesday November 3 at his monthly press conference as he gave an update on the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund programme. “This programme was intended to consecrate, to bring amends to the injustice perceived by the former sugar workers.

“This fund, we know, was intended to provide EC$16 million to former sugar workers aggrieved with the pay-out of 2005/06.”

Prime Minister Harris noted that while the pay-out after the closure of the industry in 2005/06 had only 968 beneficiaries, the present programme has so far paid out a total of EC$9.3 million to 1,560 beneficiaries in the short time it has been operational.

“I want to point out that even the shut-ins have been assisted, and $703,971 was paid out to 43 shut-ins,” pointed out Prime Minister Harris who was instrumental in the sourcing of the EC$16 million that was provided as a grant by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. “Thank God they are still alive to receive some element of moral and economic justice.”

The Sugar Workers Restoration Fund, whose committee chairman Mr Osbert DeSuza was present at the press conference held at the government headquarters, had processed 46 third party claims by overseas residents who were paid a of total $297,007. The Prime Minister noted that people living abroad who applied to satisfy the criteria are the ones that were paid.

“And with respect to those who are deceased the statistics reveal that claims on their behalf, their children, their cousins (have been received),” stated the Prime Minister. “And for the record I made no claim on behalf of no deceased member of my family, father, mother, sister, brother… none for the record, so I shall receive no benefit in that regard, never mind the mischief that has been propagated.”

He advised that claims on behalf of deceased persons that qualified were put into two categories. There were 35 small estate claims for amounts $5,000 and under, which saw a pay-out of $98,484. For large estate claims over $5,000 there were 55 claims that had already been processed and the total was $774,013.

Prime Minister Harris informed that the processing of claims on behalf of deceased persons was a significant movement, and noted that early in its presentation the government had set the category of the deceased as a special category because when someone dies there are issues of estate.

He explained that a little more care and attention had to be paid to ensure that the government did not become liable for misappropriation of the dues to any particular estate.

“We are working through these methodically – we are working through this in a systematic way,” said the Prime Minister. “We recognise that there was a potential for legal burden in recruiting lawyers.

“What did we do? We got a group of lawyers from outside the office the Hon Attorney General and from private practise to come to the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund office to provide free service in getting the legal documentation together.

“So those who have not yet been sorted out, of course you are free to go to private lawyers and deal with this particular matter. If you do not want to go through that expense, we will do the facilitation. So bear with us we are working out in a way that does not create liability.”

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