Scrap Iron Dealers president: Give me export licence or face court

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson (centre) speaks at a press conference at Signature Hall, Montrose, on Monday morning. – Narissa Fraser

PRESIDENT of the Scrap Iron Dealers Association Allan Ferguson says he will take legal action if he does not receive an export licence soon.

He has accused the government of victimisation.

He was speaking at a press conference at Signature Hall, Montrose, on Monday morning.

In August 2022, Attorney General Reginald Armour banned all operations in the scrap-metal industry owing to increased criminal activity.

The ban was lifted on December 31, with all operations except the trade of copper being allowed.

An act of Parliament on the scrap-metal trade was passed in the House and in the Senate, but is still waiting to be fully proclaimed by the President. For now, only some sections have been proclaimed.

To resume exports, dealers must obtain a licence.

“They’re tearing me right down,” Ferguson said emotionally.

He said he tried his best to help poor people in TT but that it seemed he was being punished for doing the right thing.

“Thousands of poor people come to my yard to help feed their families…Because of this, I am not able to even buy material from them because of what taking place with me.”

But he said regardless of what is done to tear him down, he will continue to find a way to help poor people.

He said up to two weeks ago, officials tried to tell him there was still information missing from his application.

Clause seven of the act says a licence may be denied to applicants who: submit applications with false or misleading information; are under 18; bankrupt (undischarged); have been convicted during five years immediately preceding the application of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty; or have failed to satisfy prescribed conditions; as well as applicants whose receipt of a licence would be “contrary to the public interest.”

Referring to this, Ferguson said the government is trying to tear him down so badly so it can then say he is bankrupt and not give him a licence. He said he is certain his application is “plenty better” than others’.

“I follow all the rules and you all want to punish me.”

He said he has been getting regular calls asking when he is going to resume work, but cannot say.

“My yard full of scrap!” he said.

He called on the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss the state of the industry, adding that he “does not want to lose respect for him.”

He said the industry is “not good” right now and that most of its members are afraid to speak up in case they too are denied export licences.

“Let’s see what can be done to pull back the industry,” he urged.

He then said while he is not making a threat, he is “giving the government some days” to organise his export licence. If not, he said, he will take the matter to the High Court and the Privy Council.

“If I don’t win here, I know I go win up the road…I cannot take it no more with you victimising me.”

But speaking to Newsday on Monday afternoon, Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon said she was shocked by the accusations, and the ministry has been in constant communication with Ferguson and had done so up to last week.

“He is not being victimised, and there is absolutely no discrimination against Mr Ferguson or any scrap-metal dealer, for that matter.

“This is a matter of stocks of scrap metal accumulated over a long period of time,” she explained.

She said there have been some requirements for the licence that some applicants have not complied with.

“We have been working with those particular dealers and reviewing documentation to find a solution.”

On Ferguson’s possibly pursuing legal action, she said she would not comment, and reiterated that his claims are untrue.