Basseterre, St. Kitts (November 3, 2015) — She is not sure whether her husband, a former sugar worker, was paid after the sugar industry closed. She is however crystal clear that she was paid nothing even though she worked in the industry in many roles including that of a ‘water girl’.
It is a fresh start. Mrs Emily Matthew has, in this 2015 year of our Lord, received a gratuity payment for the years she worked in the sugar industry. Her husband who passed on in 2010 had his files re-opened and she is due to claim on his behalf, while the government has ensured that the process of claiming for her deceased husband will not cost her a single cent.
Mrs Matthew lives in Harries Village. She was born in 1949 and is not able to remember from the top of her head when she started working in the sugar industry, nor even when she stopped working. But she remembers that when sugar workers were paid from the provident fund, she received $800, and adds, “So that is to show you I worked in the industry.”
“I used to work with the gangs, sometimes they cut the cane, sometimes they do soda, and I used to carry water for the cutters,” recalls Mrs Matthew. “I was working at Lynches and also Lavington as a water girl (I carry water), and I cut sugar cane, and I do fertiliser spreading it to the cane, and I also weed.”
She had retired some years before the industry officially closed, and on being asked if she was paid anything when it was closed in 2005, she said: “No, I never get anything. I never showed up for nothing for I was not working at that time. I thought they had said you have to end the sugar – who work down to the end, those are the people supposed to get. So I never showed up.
“This time around they are paying all who worked in the industry. I am very happy about it and I glad because of that, I came and I get something. To the Prime Minister, I say thank you. Me glad, I glad and many others as well.”
As it concerned her late husband Mr Stanley Matthew, he too worked in Lynches and Lavington where he was the head cane cutter and leader of their gang.
“He worked a good time, but I cannot count the years,” said Mrs Matthew. “When the industry closed he was not working, he was a pensioner I do not know if he got anything, or maybe he got something. He died in 2010.”
When she visited the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund (SWRF) office in South Independence Square to make a claim on behalf of her deceased husband, she was referred to attorney-at-law Ms Deniece Alleyne who was to help her go through the legal process to make her a representative for her husband’s estate. The government is meeting the legal cost.
“Thank you too,” said Mrs Matthew when informed that she did not have to pay the lawyer’s fees. “The government is doing a good job, I appreciate of that. They bring a lawyer here and I do not need to incur any money, I thank the Prime Minister.”
On being asked how she got to know that there was going to be a payment for former sugar workers, she replied: “Well, it (information) was all over! Reggie come round and different other ways I got to know, people telling each other, but we have some people still never turn up, maybe they never believed. Those who did not apply for their deceased relatives, it is their fault.”
Ms Deniece Alleyne, an attorney-at-law, explained that she had been engaged by the government to assist claimants who are claiming on behalf of deceased persons from the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund. Three lawyers are involved in the process, the others being Mrs Agatha James-Andres, and Mr MacClure Taylor who is also a member of the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund Committee.
“The Fund is trying to limit the cost, because some of the estates are small and so in order to ensure that too much of it is not lost to the legal process of claiming, the Government engaged three attorneys to assist,” explained Ms Alleyne. “We are here at various times and we are seeing people. It is quite busy; I understand that there are several hundred claims for deceased persons.”
She noted that when someone dies, all the property they owned at the time of the death becomes their estate. The law prescribes who may deal with the estate, and that person has to be a personal representative. There are two ways in which one could become a personal representative.
When a person who died had left a will which is called testate, an executor or executors are named and it is they who are entitled to apply to the court to get a grant of probate of the will and they are the personal representatives. The persons appointed do not necessarily have to be family members. If the person died without a will (intestate), there is a piece of legislation, the Intestate Estates Act that prescribes who may apply to the court for a grant of what is called letters of administration.
“It is a process which requires a lawyer and the lawyer has to draft documents that have to go through the Inland Revenue,” said Ms Alleyne. “Although we do not have death duties, we still need a certificate of exemption from stamp duty, so it goes to Inland Revenue. You get your certificate of exemption, then it goes to the court and then it goes through the process and the Registrar of the High Court or the Judge signs off on your grant.
“When that process is completed, then you are the designated person that the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund (SWRF) can release the property of the deceased to.”