Scrap-iron dealers appeal to PM against six-month ban on industry

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

President of the TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) Allan Ferguson. File photo/Ayanna Kinsale

SCRAP Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson appealed on Monday to the Prime Minister not to implement a six-month closure of the industry because of the large-scale theft of metal.

He also called on Dr Rowley to meet with the association to find ways to save and regularise the industry.

Should the latter not take place before Saturday, Ferguson advised his association’s members to be ready to stage a rally on the Brian Lara Promenade in Port of Spain on that day to oppose any closure.

Addressing a news conference at Jenny’s on the Boulevard Restaurant in Port of Spain, Ferguson said, “I am asking the Prime Minister to rethink his position and meet with us and let us work out this, please.”

He said he had received calls from people who want to respond to the proposed ban in a certain way.

“No, I will not take part in that.”

But he said, “If I don’t have control over this organisation. I can’t promise nobody nothing.”

Referring to recent protests in different parts of the country over different issues, Ferguson said he does not encourage association members to get involved in protests.

“They listen to me because I am in charge and I am a leader.”

But he warned, “I can’t guarantee anybody that what’s taking place. What’s going on now with all those protests, I can’t promise them (anything) when I don’t have control.”

Ferguson said he respected Rowley and the Government.

“I want to work with you all to make sure this industry stays strong.”

He repeated the association’s concern that criminal elements could be infiltrating the industry.

“They are coming into the organisation because it isn’t regularised.”

He said if the industry were regularised, “All the problems that are taking place will go away.”

While opposed to the proposed six-month ban, Ferguson said the association would agree to a two-three month ban on the export of copper as a means of curbing the theft of scrap iron.

He reiterated his concern that a ban on the industry would affect people from communities like Beetham and Guanapo who make an honest living by selling scrap metal from landfills close to them. He was concerned that this could lead to an increase in crime.

He recalled that the industry was closed from 2011-2012 under the UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government.

But when it was reopened in 2013, Ferguson lamented, no one in the PP made any serious effort to work with the association to regularise the industry.

On the tentative rally on Saturday in Port of Spain, Ferguson also invited trade unions and other concerned citizens to participate.

He also said the association will establish a hotline to allow members of the public to report scrap-metal theft, and this information would be given to the police.

At a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s on July 7, Rowley said he would seek advice from Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, about banning the marketing of used metals.

On July 20, the association met with a Cabinet sub-committee to examine issues related to the theft of scrap iron. Energy Minister Stuart Young chaired that committee. The other members were Armour, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

Young said the sub-committee has written to other stakeholders and asked them to submit recommendations on how to deal with the theft of scrap iron by July 27.

“Thereafter, we will consider the various matters and make our recommendations to the Cabinet via the National Security Council (NSC).”

Both are chaired by Rowley.

At a news conference at his ministry on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain, on August 5, Hinds announced that Government was considering the six-month ban.

Senior government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday, said the matter is before Cabinet.