Branding highway protesters as “a marauding gang of metal thieves,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday slammed trade unionist Ancel Roget and the UNC for supporting scrap iron workers in a plot to shut down the country.
For four hours yesterday, citizens were held hostage in a gridlock which spanned from Claxton Bay to Debe, after scrap iron workers blocked both northbound lanes of the Solomon Hochoy Highway.
The highway protest was reportedly planned since last week and sources told Guardian Media the protesters hid in the bushes under the cover of darkness to commit the act.
Just around 4.25 am, two dump trucks arrived and offloaded two mounds of dirt in the carriageway, blocking off access and transforming the highway into a single lane.
Police patrolled up and down the highway afterwards and kept watch over the surreptitious protesters, who gathered on the Claxton Bay Flyover to watch the action. Motorists were livid.
“This is absolute nonsense. We are on our way to work and it’s hours we sitting here and we cannot move,” one irate driver exclaimed.
Vivian Ford and nine members of his family were trying to get to the Piarco International Airport for an 8 am flight to Baltimore.
“This is an unnecessary expense. That is what it will be because it’s nine people,” Ford added.
But when interviewed by Guardian Media, the protesters were unapologetic. Defending the protest, spokesman Jamal Bruce said the authorities had not given them a fair hearing.
“Yes, people are inconvenienced but we are inconvenienced too. What about we? Anybody studying we?” he asked.
Bruce said the entire community of Claxton Bay was suffering.
“The roti shop, the small shop owner, all of them depending on us for a dollar. But the Government shut down the industry with no regard for us,” Bruce explained.
He reiterated that scrap iron workers could not buy books, uniforms and food for their families.
Told about the grants which the Minister of Social Development Donna Cox had offered to scrap iron workers, Bruce contended: “We don’t know how to go about getting grants. This grant is just another way for bobol, not to help us.”
Another iron worker, Ryadell De Four, said: “This is highly unfair and we are feeling the brunt. This could never be right.”
Saying the highway blockade was a “minor inconvenience,” De Four called on the Government to meet with them and provide a positive response.
“We want you to feel our pain and understand how we feel,” he added.
Some of the Claxton Bay scrap iron workers told Guardian Media they are not aligned with Ferguson’s group and were dissatisfied with the politicians from both sides of the fence.
Last evening, UNC’s deputy leader Dr Roodal Moonilal also chastised the Prime Minister at the party’s Monday Night Forum.
“Rowley, a one-hit wonder, reverted to his well-worn lyrics of blaming the political Opposition instead of dealing with critical and urgent national issues. He descended even further, by branding citizens as “thieves” even though they are not in a court of law,” Moonilal said.
Moonilal said the UNC has repeatedly advised against a ban on the exportation of scrap iron saying it is “a heavy-handed and unreasonable response to a matter that should be dealt with by the Police Service and law enforcement.”
Meanwhile, protesters said more “heat” will come in the upcoming days.
The exportation of scrap metal was banned on August 12 and announced on August 15. It will continue until February next year.