Return to anarchy; Thieves strike as Gov’t reopens scrap metal trade
Minister optimistic despite shaky restart to scrap metal trade
BY KARYL WALKER AND KIMMO MATTHEWS
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
HOURS before the Government officially reopened the controversial scrap metal trade, thieves struck at the Red Hills, St Andrew home of parliamentarian Pearnel Charles.
Vandals removed several metal tables and chairs from a verandah at the MP’s home, raising doubts about new measures put in place to prevent the anarchy that forced a shutdown of the trade under the previous Jamaica Labour Party Government.
“They came in and cleaned off every one. Maybe I am being targeted because they know I am defiantly opposed to the scrap metal trade. As far as I am concerned we don’t have a scrap metal trade, what we have is metal being scrapped,” Charles told the Jamaica Observer last night.
The country, he said, stands more to lose than any financial gain from the trade. “When you put a cost to security as a result of these metal scrapping terrorists you will see that it is zero for the country. We are losing man hours, industries have shut down. When you consider the amount of people who lose work, we are losing millions; 10 times what we are saving,” he said.
Charles said it was the second time in two years that he and his family had suffered at the hands of scrap metal thieves.
“Two years ago, they came with a truck and cut up my wife’s metal water tank and took it away. We are under pressure. We brought three dogs on board and they killed one and stole the other two. They chopped off the head of a Doberman,” a despondent sounding Charles said.
He was adamant that the resumption of the trade would bring a rise in criminality as there was nothing to discourage stealing. “The country will be better off without it, but we are good at politicising the poverty in Jamaica for political support,” he said.
Yesterday, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) lashed out against the resumption of the trade, saying in a release that the Government was incapable of regulating it.
“We are not convinced that the Government has the enforcement capability to regulate the trade. We are also concerned about the Riverton site, and had written to Minister Anthony Hylton, the minister of industry, investment and commerce, on December 20, 2012, expressing our scepticism that the Riverton site was able to accommodate increased traffic, and referring to all the many unsolved public health, environmental and security problems at Riverton,” the release stated.
JET said, too, that new scrap metal sites were an environmental hazard and in breach of environmental laws.
“Under the Natural Resources (Prescribed Areas) (Prohibition of Categories of Enterprises, Construction and Development) (Amendment) Order 2003 enterprises involved in the storage of scrap metal, including derelict vehicles, require an environmental permit,” said JET. It added that following an Access to Information Act inquiry to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), it was advised that NEPA had not received applications for the required permits.
Opposition Spokesperson for Industry, Commerce and Energy, Mr. Gregory Mair said that Industry Minister Anthony Hylton by reopening the scrap metal trade has put the interest of his constituents, where many of the dealers in this industry reside, above the interest of Jamaica on a whole.
Mr. Mair asked that the Minister advise the nation on:
(1) the cost to taxpayers for the monitoring of the trade as against the projected income into the government’s coffers;
(2) what guarantee there is that the foreign exchange earned will return to Jamaica , and also;
(3) whether any broad feasibility study of the trade was done by the government to support its policy actions.
Mr. Mair pointed out that the Minister’s actions will very likely amount to the institutionalization of the theft of property across the island including manhole covers, railings on roadways and bridges, water pumps, gates, cables, utility company equipment, traffic signs, roofs and so on as the supply cannot meet the demand for non-industrial scrap metal on a sustainable basis.
Mr. Mair maintained that while there may be benefits to reopening the trade, it must be done with sensible and pragmatic policies guided by a feasibility study.
At the very least Mr. Mair noted, the best way forward for the industry, is to have legal owners of NON-INDUSTRIAL scrap metal periodically negotiate in the marketplace DIRECTLY with legitimate dealers.