Ferguson: Scrap iron dealers can’t allow industry to close down

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson. – File photo

THE TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) is preparing its fight back Government’s plan to implement a temporary ban the export of copper and metals in an attempt to clamp down on vandalism targeting state enterprises – namely WASA and TSTT.

TTSIDA president Alan Ferguson said on Saturday if Cabinet approves the proposal enunciated by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds last Friday, their industry would go out of business.

“We are making every effort to try and allow this not to happen.

“We don’t want our industry to close down.”

He said the association was reviewing the statements made by Hinds, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales and acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob to make a case against what is now being proposed.

Ferguson said he would have much more to say on the issue at a news conference scheduled for Monday to respond to the proposed six months ban on the export of old and scrap iron, including copper.

Hinds said Government had to take decisive action to counter the exorbitant cost to repair damage and replace stolen items, and inconvenience to consumers with vandals targeting state assets, which even includes covers on drains and manholes, barriers along the highways which have been installed to prevent vehicles from crossing the median in the event of an accident.

Hind saw the attacks as a “larger plot” which may need the Anti-Terrorism Act to prosecute and alluded to “political purposes” at play.

In disagreement with the proposal, Ferguson pointed out that for many months his association has been calling and continues to call on people to desist from stealing copper wires, manhole covers and other metals.

As copper theft became more evident, Ferguson proposed to Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon to consider a three-month ban on copper export and put mechanisms in place to catch the culprits in the interim.

He said the proposed total ban would destroy the industry which provide employment for over 20,000 people from the lower end of the economic ladder.

Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon – File photo

Gopee-Scoon on Saturday said she could not comment on the matter which is being considered by the Finance and General Purposes Sub-committee of Cabinet.

“The matter is before the Cabinet and therefore, it is receiving all considerations. Therefore, it is not something I would want to speak about because it is being discussed and I don’t want to interfere with the process.”

The police has offered a reward of $100,000 for anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of persons responsible for acts of vandalism, including the recent attack on the WASA California Booster Station.

The facility was disabled after thieves and vandals struck, stealing electrical cables. Damage is estimated at $400,000, and a three- to four-week time frame for repairs has been set.

Jacob said these incidents went “beyond acts of theft” and should be viewed as “acts of malicious damage” since they have crippled service for days, or weeks in some instances.

In addition to the reward being offered, Jacob said it has set up team to investigate the several reports of vandalism, while committing to safeguarding public utilities installation and protection of the country’s national infrastructure.