The scrap metal ban also impacts Caricom

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Scrap Iron Dealers Association President Allan Ferguson, left to right, SYM Political Leader David Abdulah and OWTU Director of Education and Research Ozzi Warwick at the meeting public of the association in the parking lot of the Seafoods supermarket, in Claxton Bay, on Friday. -LINCOLN SUPPORT

SCRAP Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson has claimed the six-month shutdown of the scrap metal industry could negatively impact trade in Caricom.

Ferguson made the statement at a public meeting held by the association in Claxton Bay on Friday evening.

“We will write a letter to Caricom on Monday.”

He said people from other Caricom countries come to TT to sell scrap metal to earn income to take home.

Ferguson reiterated the association’s statements condemning the closure of the scrap metal industry, its negative impact on the poor, and calling for its immediate reopening.

“Something big is coming. We have to get organized.”

He also reiterated the failures of the PNM and its predecessor, the UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition, to regulate the scrap metal industry. The PP shut down the industry between 2012 and 2013.

Social Justice Movement (SJM) leader David Abdulah said the meeting was the first in a long series to be held across TT by the association and other groups.

“The government doesn’t care.”

Abdulah reiterated the claims of the labor movement regarding the government’s plans to lay off workers in different state enterprises.

Carli Bay Fishermen’s Association President Imtiaz Khan agreed with Abdulah on the need for TT groups to come together to address common issues.

At a post-Cabinet press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s on July 7, Dr Keith Rowley said: “For reasons of national security, I have asked the Attorney General if we should prevent, for a time limited, the marketing of scrap metal in Trinidad and Tobago… Manhole covers, they’re selling that. They’re cutting the cable. Now they’re cutting the water pipes.

Rowley said the purpose of the measure would be to deny the inducement to sell because the materials stolen for sale are imported. He said that without a resale market, copper theft could be thwarted.

A Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Energy Minister Stuart Young then met with the association and other stakeholders to consider issues related to the scrap metal theft. The other members were Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

At a press conference at his ministry’s office in Abercromby Street, Port of Spain on August 15, Hinds announced that the government would impose a six-month ban on the export of scrap metal.

Under the Customs Act, the ban on all exports of scrap metal came into force on August 12, after the Cabinet met on August 11 and agreed to accept the recommendation of an order to ban taken by Armour.

Once Cabinet is satisfied and convinced by its proposals, the ban will be lifted.

Otherwise, the restrictions will remain in place for the next three months to give the government more time to draft practical legislation.

Hinds said: “It is a very reluctant decision that Cabinet has come to. We have tried to keep it within the proportion, i.e. six months, until February 23, and to provide an even shorter period of three months if the AG is able to convince the Cabinet.”

There have been sporadic protests in different parts of Trinidad by scrap metal workers since the industry shut down last month.

When workers blocked the northbound and southbound lanes of the Solomon Hochoy Freeway on August 29 with debris, Rowley condemned the action in a Facebook post the same day.

“So they made their way. Dump trucks of sand and debris on both sides of the highway and block traffic!

“What a wonderful leadership idea from Roget and his supporters, including UNC!

“Marauding gangs of metal thieves have threatened to shut down the country, but haven’t finished their job, so leaders are helping them get there.”

Ferguson and Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Chairman Ancel Roget publicly distanced themselves and their association from the Aug. 29 protest. They also said they did not tolerate any illegal protest action.

On Friday, Ferguson reiterated that any action taken by the association in its effort to reopen the industry will be within the law.

Roget has since taken legal action against Rowley over what he described as defamatory statements made by Rowley.

Andrew B. Reiter