MEMBERS of the St Patrick Hunting Association are preparing to take Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd to court for access to hunt on state lands.
McDonald Mahase, one of the hunters who was banned from hunting for sport in Santa Flora and Grand Ravine – his hobby for over 40 years – is leading the legal challenge.
Hunters have not been able to hunt since the season started. Mahase said they have been blocked from entering the fields belonging to Heritage and have been accosted by estate constables and escorted out by police from the Santa Flora station.
The hunters have government permits, which give them access to any state land in any part of TT between October and February.
The association wrote to Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambarath on October 15 to seek his intervention and clarity on the issue. They are yet to receive a response. Calls and text messages sent to the minister’s phone by the Newsday also went unanswered.
In a statement, Heritage said it is very mindful of the laws and traditions related to hunting, and the company is committed to the safety of its employees and those who work within and traverse its fields and properties.
As a result, it said, "the company has been engaged in talks with the authorities, as well as hunters, with a view to promoting safety and security during the hunting season, in areas where it is permitted.”
But Mahase said, “That is a lie, There has been no communication with hunters. Even if they wanted to have a conversation, that should have been done before October, when we bought out permits.”
Mahase also described as an untruth the company’s statement that hunting was never allowed in the Forest Reserve and Grand Ravine areas.
“Grand Ravine and environs are prime hunting ground and have been for years. That can be confirmed with the Forestry Division. The division will confirm areas you can hunt and where you can’t.
“Inside Forest Reserve is also a hunting ground. The only place you cannot hunt is in the game sanctuary, which is a breeding ground for animals.
"These people at Heritage don’t know what is a game sanctuary and what is a forest reserve.”
Heritage also said hunters had been seen close to its tank farms and mobile patrols had asked them to stop hunting there.
“This was necessary to protect our employees, as well as the hunters, as they were adjacent to large hydrocarbon storage areas.”
Mahase said, “I don’t know anything about that, because hunters do not hunt near tanks and pumps. If there is a large hydrocarbon storage area, you think the dogs going to smell that?
“Dotishness. They (Heritage) are looking for an excuse, because Heritage is a state-owned company, and we are going to take them to court. That is what they are worried about. "
He said he was stopped on "the government main road going to Point Fortin and escorted to Santa Flora while I was looking for my dogs. Nobody was stopped near any tank farms."