The Government has moved decisively to ban the exportation of scrap iron for six months as it cracks down on the illegal harvesting of metals from public and private properties.
Attorney General Reginald Armour said yesterday the decision was taken by Cabinet last Thursday and based on a Cabinet sub-committee recommendation.
The ban took effect last Friday and while the announcement was only made yesterday by the AG, it is clear the scrap iron dealers association was informed before, since hours ahead the AG's announcement, the association was promising the Government will have a legal battle on its hands.
The ban will run until February 2023 but AG Armour will return to Cabinet in three months with a review of legislation to see if it can be ended then, since the ban also affects several legitimate exporters.
During the period of the ban, the Ministry of Trade and Industry will review export application licenses in collaboration with the cabinet sub-committee.
The Cabinet sub-committee, appointed in July and comprising AG Armour, Minister of Energy Stuart Young, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, met with industry stakeholders before reporting to Cabinet.
In recent months, the country has suffered millions of dollars of damage to state infrastructure as thieves went on a rampage, impacting TSTT, WASA and even the Ministry of Works and Transport.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gave the first hint in July that the Government had had enough and would no longer tolerate the criminal behaviour.
On July 6, Dr Rowley told a news conference: “There are persons in the society who are now taking the position that they do not care who they harm, but they make a living by destroying our infrastructure to market the material from which the infrastructure is made.”
This newspaper hopes that whatever laws are implemented, the AG ensures the industry is properly regulated and the miscreants within its ranks are weeded out and brought to justice in the public interest. To do otherwise would be to fail citizens.
While we fully understand that the industry provides employment to thousands, it cannot be some will be allowed to continue to operate illegally at the expense of other citizens.
However, the authorities would do well to widen the net to not just catch the small fish but the real kingpins facilitating the unscrupulous acts within the industry. Just like the national crime situation, it is time the authorities go after the scrap iron business owners who hire others to harvest the material, even if illegally so.
For too long, the focus has been on the bottom end of the chain and not the top. It is time the paradigm shifts and those who are the real culprits be brought to justice.
There is too much wrong in this country.
To really crush the criminality, the state must train its guns where it really matters. Yes, capture those involved in the small acts, but use them to get information to go after the real culprits — those who are ultimately facilitating the crime that is destroying state infrastructure for selfish gain which is inconveniencing thousands of citizens.