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Agri Society seeks injunction over office relocation

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Agriculture Society of T&T is seeking an injunction barring its line ministry from evicting it from its current office in St Clair.

When the case came up for hearing before Justice Frank Seepersad in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday morning, attorneys for the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries submitted that the building at Serpentine Road, St Clair was condemned due to safety concerns.

State attorney Josephina Baptiste-Mohammed said that cracks were noticed on the building and the ministry was awaiting a structural engineering report on the issue.

The society’s attorney Larry Lalla complained over the reason as he pointed out that yesterday was the first time his client had learned about the safety issue.

Seepersad advised the ministry to hold off on the relocation of the society until the report is available next week.

The report will be considered by Seepersad when he hears submissions on the injunction from attorneys for both parties, next Tuesday.

“We are dealing with the lives and security of persons who occupy the building. The information (report) has to be so significant that they are not prepared for anyone to occupy the building,” Seepersad noted as he pointed out that several other Government buildings had been deemed structurally unsafe in the past but are continued to be used.

Seepersad also advised the parties to hold discussions to determine if the dispute can be settled without the need for a trial.

In the lawsuit, the society is claiming that the ministry failed to consult with it when it made its decision in January and barred staff from entering the building, which it occupied between 2014 and last year.

The society first moved to the building after it could not afford to pay its rent for its former office in Chaguanas due to late payments of Government subvention.

It is claiming that the new location proposed by the ministry, a building at Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain, is unsuitable due to a insufficient parking and limited space for staff.

The building, formerly housed the Livestock and Livestock Farming Board, a State agency which has not been appointed by Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat since he assumed office in 2015.

It is claiming that the move would affect its ability to fulfill its mandate of advocating for farmers.


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