REFERENCING numerous instances of copper theft and vandalism against major companies and state agencies which have left consumers without water, electricity, telephone and internet connection, the Trinidad and Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) says criminals will become more emboldened once this crime remains unchecked.
“When they thief out all of the copper from WASA and T&TEC and TSTT, they coming to your homes,” association president Allan Ferguson said during a news conference on Monday.
He spoke about a recent statement from the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) that copper lines from air-condition units in buildings in Port of Spain were being stolen.
“I know these people (copper bandits). I know how they think. I grew up with some of them, but I chose the good path. They are not afraid to dead. They are not afraid of anything and, trust me, the longer you take to stop the theft and crime from taking place, the stronger you will make the criminals.”
Ferguson reiterated his association’s appeal for a temporary halt of copper export. He said this call, issued almost one month ago, has met with silence from Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon and, since then, the situation has worsened considerably.
He referred to last week’s vandalism of a WASA booster station in Fyzabad and the destruction of a T&TEC pole connected to the station, which left some 40,000 consumers without water.
That act was condemned by Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe who called on Government to do more to stem the emerging tide of criminal destruction of public property, while adding his voice to the association’s call to temporarily suspend the export of copper.
Ferguson noted that only a few companies in TT export copper, and once that market is stunted then the opportunity for theft of this nature would be curtailed.
“There is a lot of copper in warehouses in this country,” he said, choosing not to identify any of those companies.
He said scrap iron dealers are not the main culprits, but pointed out he would be a liar if he said some people in the industry were not involved.
“Like when a killing take place, everybody knows who doing it but nothing is being done.”
Similarly, in the scrap iron industry, he said the people who are purchasing the stolen items and exporting are also well known.
He expressed suspicion that a case is being made out against scrap iron dealers as the perpetrators, to justify the handing over of the industry to a foreign conglomerate.
“Go and ask InvestTT who are the people coming to invest in scrap,” he challenged the media. “That would be the end of us if we don’t stand up for our rights,” he said pointing to the number of poor people who are able to put food on their tables because of the industry.
Calls to Gopee-Scoon were not answered.
“Anything poor people have, they (wealthy) take it.”
To support his claim, he referred to the conversion of the illegal gambling game of “whe whe” which has now been transformed into legal Play Whe.
“Tanties and grannies and old people long ago used to make toolum, sugar cake and plum, all that has been taken away from us and put into factories now.”