HUNTERS have been blocked from hunting in fields belonging to Heritage Petroleum, formerly Petrotrin property. Police have been called to escort out those who dare to carry on this 40-year-old tradition.
Members of the St Patrick Hunting Association, who hunt for sport, say they have been accosted by armed security guards hired to protect Heritage assets. They have also been escorted out of the area by police.
Heritage is one of three subsidiary companies under Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd.
Through the TT Assembly of Hunting Associations, with which nine associations are affiliated, the hunters wrote to Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambarath on October 15 to seek his intervention and clarity on the issue.
Copies of the letter were sent to the head game warden and the Conservator of Forests. The hunters are yet to receive a response.
One of the hunters affected by the decision is Mc Donald Mahase, who has been hunting for 40-50 years in Santa Flora and Grand Ravine, from where he is now banned.
Mahase said as a result, since the hunting season opened in October, he has lost three very expensive hounds.
He said, “We have a legal and binding document, which is a hunting permit, purchased from the government, giving us access to hunt from the month of October to February on any state land in any part of TT.
"We are accustomed to hunting in these areas for 40-50 years. But now Heritage is claiming all lands from Guyaguyare to Cedros belong to them and we are not allowed to hunt on their land. They have their security, Amalgamated Security, running everybody out of the fields, blocking barriers if you going to hunt, and getting the police to escort you out of the area.
“This was supposed to be dealt with by the ministry before the season opened and before selling permits to us.”
He said hunters are conscientious people and have been very careful not to fire their guns near installations or wells. He said, in the past, Petrotrin would have held talks with hunters, pointing them to areas where shooting was allowed.
“Since I was small, we never had a problem with hunting – but on two occasions since last month, I have encountered the guards, who have brought police to escort me out.
“They are also escorting you out from the main road from Santa Flora to Point Fortin, which is the government road.
"Apart from that they have set up barriers in areas, even where people are living on their private property, preventing these residents from coming out at nights.”
Mahase, president of the St Patrick Association, said un-precepted guards are asking to see hunters' firearm users' licencse (FUL) and the serial numbers on their guns.
“The guards and some police officers are unaware that only a precepted officer above the rank of corporal can ask you to see your FUL or serial number. When the hunters respond to these requests, it could be interpreted as confrontational or antagonistic.
“As hunters, we really don’t want any confrontation with anybody. We just want to go out and hunt for the few months we are allowed, and when the season is over, hang up our gears and wait for the next season to open.”
Rambharat did not respond to a text message sent to him.