Claxton Bay residents protest scrap-iron export ban

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

These men protest the ban on scrap iron exports at Southern Main Road, Claxton Bay on Tuesday. – Marvin Hamilton

Scores of Claxton Bay residents blocked roads with burning debris on Tuesday to show their displeasure over the Government’s decision to impose a six-month ban on exporting old and scrap iron.

The residents criticised the “unfair” and “hasty” decision, saying it is a case of “Peter paying for Paul.”

A protester who identified himself only as David said, “I am sorry we did not protest before the ban, but we are protesting now.

“A lot of people are affected, even those who are not involved in the industry. Some people take out mortgages. Some bought new vehicles. Now, with the ban, they would not be able to pay for anything.”

He estimated that about 15 per cent of the community depends on income from the scrap-iron industry.

He spoke to Newsday at Claxton Bay Junction on Tuesday afternoon. The protest led to traffic congestion on the Southern Main Road, and police and fire officers were on the scene.

On Monday afternoon, at a joint news conference, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and Attorney General Reginald Armour announced the ban owing to rampant theft and vandalism of state and private assets nationwide.

On Thursday, Cabinet met and agreed to accept the recommendation of a prohibition order brought by the Attorney General. Under the Customs Act, the ban became effective the next day (August 12).

Perpetrators are liable to a $15,000 fine under the 1904 Metal and Marine Stores Act or a $1,000 fine and/or imprisonment of 12 months under the Trade Ordinance.

Fire officers douse the burning debris strewn across the Southern Main Road in Claxton Bay by people protesting the government’s six-month ban on the export of scrap-iron. – Marvin Hamilton

David, who works in a scrapyard, condemned the cable thefts, adding that the thieves are not members of the TT Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association.

Asked about his take on Government’s reason for the ban, he responded: “The pilferage is not coming from the iron men. They are not members of the association. We are doing this every day for a living.

“So why would we want to put a wedge in something we use every day? It makes no sense.”

Another protester said similar protests were taking place simultaneously in other parts of the area.

He said if the Government had imposed the ban at the end of the year, people might not be as angry as they are now.

“Our proposal as iron men is to let it run until the end of the year, then they can try something other.

“Too much is at stake right now. School is reopening in the next few weeks. People have to pay for things,” the protester said. “When the authorities stop everything, people would lose everything they have. The ban would only make things worse for people.”