Prime Minister slaps ban on scrap iron trade

– state and private property, even tombs vandalised

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds has once again put the screws on the sale of scrap iron following numerous complaints of vandalism which has plunged to new depths as not even the dead are spared since their tombs are invaded and the metal removed by thieves.

Samuel Hinds

A release from the Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) last evening said that the Prime Minister has issued a statement suspending the sale of scrap iron and as such the practice is now illegal.

Persons have been complaining about the illegal activity taking place in Le Repentir Cemetery and in some cases reports have indicated that even the tombs are not spared as they have also been broken and the metal bars used to hold up the concrete removed. Funeral goers reported seeing several damaged tombs and said they were later told by officials in the cemetery that scrap metal thieves were doing the damage.

The GINA release last evening said Prime Minister Hinds was forced to take this approach “to curb a problem that continues unabated” with the upsurge in vandalism of “various articles, private and state properly and commercial and building sites, containing metal.”

According to the release breaches of security have been found at locations across the coastland, including the removal of installations from the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) sites and the Lama Conservancy, the pumping facilities of the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the rails around graves in church yards and accessible burial grounds.

“Therefore, as a result of the disregard shown by scrap metal dealers towards previous requests made by the Prime Minister and other relevant authorities and as a precautionary measure in the best interest of the country, all licensing and dealings in scrap metal of all sorts, ferrous and non-ferrous, are suspended until further notice,” the GINA release said.

This is not the first time the Prime Minister has been forced to take such a step.

In the past, the utility companies, particularly the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) and Guyana Power and Light (GPL), had complained bitterly about vandalism at the hands of scrap metal thieves.

It was way back in 2006 that consultations were had with the dealers in an effort to have them understand the implications of the trade and what it was costing the utilities which ended with a sound warning by the Prime Minister that if they did not put themselves in order and observe the rules, he would take the necessary steps to ban the trade.

After a man was electrocuted in Linden and it was found that the earth wire for his house’s electricity supply had been vandalized, the Prime Minister publicly stated that the trade would be banned as of January 1, 2007.

Following that statement the dealers formed an association–which has had its own difficulties since–and had urged the government to give them a chance to police themselves; they had vowed to help curb vandalism.

It was after the prime minister’s statement that the Old Metal Dealers’ Act was amended to grant government the power to halt the trade in scrap metal.

The amendment empowers the Office of the Prime Minister to respond to transgressions by shutting down the export trade for up to a year. The legislation also imposes fines ranging between $20,000 and $1 million and jail terms of up to one year for dealers caught breaching the rules.

Late in 2007, some 54 containers of scrap metal were stuck on the wharves following a ban which was later lifted allowing the containers to be exported.

During 2007, GT&T had bemoaned what it said was millions of dollars in losses resulting from the vandalizing of its insulated copper cables; a commodity which dealers had said was in particularly high demand among exporters. However, it was later revealed that much of the stolen cable and other metals acquired from utility companies were not supplied by vandals but through organised rackets involving employees of the utility companies.

Scrap metal dealers claim that the industry provides a livelihood for more than 30,000 Guyanese.

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