Senator: Scrap-metal measures too harsh

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

UNC deputy political leader Jearlean John. File/photo by Sureash Cholai

OPPOSITION Senator Jearlean John questioned whether measures being proposed in the Scrap Metal Bill 2022 will do more harm than good. John asked this question when she contributed to debate on the bill in the Senate on Friday.

While the UNC supports efforts to properly regulate the domestic scrap metal industry, John wondered why Government closed it down, just to deal with the actions of a few alleged miscreants operating in it.

Referring to information provided by the police, John said in 2020, there were 58 reports of scrap metal theft and 30 arrests.

“In 2021, there were 83 reports and 52 arrests.”

John said between January and August, there were 162 reports of scrap metal theft and 136 arrests.

She believed this was the reason that Government decided in August to close the industry for six months.

John did not understand the reason for closing down an approximately $260 million industry “as a remedy for what they described as the actions of a few criminal elements.”

She said the closure of the industry caused significant unemployment within it.

John estimated there could be at least 250, 000 people operating in the industry.

She asked how many of these people are properly licensed.

John questioned a provision in the bill which only permitted people 18 years and older to be eligible to obtain licences as scrap metal collectors or dealers.

“What makes 18 years so magical?”

She claimed that people under the age of 16 years could be scrap metal dealers or collectors under the existing Old Metal and Marine Stores Act, which will be repealed when the Scrap Metal Bill 2022 becomes law.

John said many people do not know that scrap metal is a family business, which sees young people under 18 years becoming involved in the trade of scrap metal.

She added that many of these people build their homes on the same property which their scrapyard occupies

“The majority of the people are very poor people who are just getting by.”

Recalling her childhood in Charlotteville, Tobago, John said she could identify with this ,as her grandfather was a farmer and fisherman.

“My grandfather used to go in the bush in the morning and then go in the sea in the evening.”

She disagreed with a part of the bill which authorises the police to use force if necessary to search a scrapyard, if they suspect some type of illegal activity is taking place.

John believed most people involved in the industry were law abiding citizens and respect the police.

“Once I see the police, I stop (what I am doing).”

She added the industry has a lot of people who are “poor, black and maybe brown.”

John believed that many of the sections in the bill were too punitive against people who were barely managing to survive.

“This is really not understanding the business of the scrap metal industry.”

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