Over a dozen scrap iron workers staged a fiery protest in Claxton Bay yesterday in response to the Government’s six-month ban on scrap iron exports.
The protests started around 3 pm and caused a heavy traffic pileup along the Southern Main Road.
The police moved swiftly to clear the burning barricades but by the time the backhoe cleared the road, more protest fires cropped up along Cedar Hill Road.
The protesters, who live in depressed areas such as Diamond, Solidad Road, Hilltop Avenue and Cedar Hill, and depend on the scrap iron industry for an income, vowed to fight the Government until the ban was lifted.
The protesters declined interviews with Guardian Media but one protester shouted: “We not taking this. It now start. We go bun down Trinidad.”
Another one said: “We not taking that.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, who is on the Cabinet sub-committee overseeing a legislative framework for the scrap iron industry, reiterated yesterday that there was a need for improved legislation to regulate the scrap iron industry.
“Clearly, the situation was out of hand with the looming, worsening levels of criminal activity and therefore it has to be kept in check,” Gopee-Scoon said.
Meanwhile, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said in a statement that the Government’s arbitrary shutdown of the scrap iron sector was senseless and unacceptable and would only lead to an increase in unemployment and possibly a hike in the crime rate.
“I forcefully condemn this action by the Government as an MP in whose constituency several legitimate scrap iron dealers operate their trade,” Moonilal said.
He added: “These businesses employ hundreds of hard-working, low-skill workers and contract with very strategic micro-enterprises.”
Moonilal said instead of banning exports by the entire sector, the Government should have strengthened law enforcement measures and strengthened its resolve to stamp out illegal operations.
“The Rowley Government has now become the first administration in the world to close down an industry because of thefts pertaining to the trade.
In doing so, the Government has thrown thousands of lawful operators on the breadline, which would lead to further hardship and suffering in a country of high unemployment and poverty,” he added.
Moonilal added: “Criminal operators would simply move onto other fields of operations and possibly other public properties, or cars, groceries.”
Scrap iron dealers, he said, have always supported legislative changes and the introduction of regulations, and had submitted a package of recommendations.
“The comprehensive operational plan included the setting up of a special itemised metals category and other measures that would have effectively dealt with vandalism,” he said.
Meanwhile, Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah believes the Government acted too late to ban the export of copper.
At a recent press conference, Abdulah said it’s been more than two months since the T&T Scrap Iron Dealers’ Association has been calling for a ban on copper exports, yet the Government ignored the call.
“We have been engaged in dialogue with them for more than a year. TTSIDA made a call more than two months ago for the Government to ban the export of copper.
“Had the Government acted at that time, it could have well have put a break on the stealing of copper—whether at the installation at WASA, T&TEC, TSTT lines or Digicel lines,” Abdulah said.
He added that the six-month ban on scrap iron, including copper will put a strain on many families.