Scrap metal dealers accuse Govt of ignoring their plight
…say previous Govt treated them with respect
By Jarryl Bryan
At Tuesday’s official launch of the Guyana Metal Dealers and General Exporters Association (GMD&GEA), a new association formed to advocate for operatives in the scrap metal trade and for other exporters, executives took the Government to task for the continued ban on scrap metal and its turning a deaf ear to the plight of prospective traders.
This association is making it clear that the status quo of ‘Peter pay for all’ cannot continue.
Dozens of former traders were present at the Regency Suites hotel for the launch of this association, but conspicuously absent were any senior Government functionaries, despite the association reportedly inviting Government to the launch.
President of the GMDGEA, Malek Cave, was heavily critical of the lack of interest paid by the Government to the plight of members of this association. Cave readily admitted to having voted for the coalition, but he noted that the former administration was more willing than this current dispensation to work with traders.
“When (they) don’t show respect for the ordinary citizen, it shows volumes. It suggests to people like me that we have no value in this society. Not a single senior functionary from the Government (is present), despite the fact that they were notified. Don’t send low level officers alone, come out of your offices,” he challenged.
“We castigated the last Government, but I know (that), in many instances, we knocked on ministers’ doors and they opened them, without notice. And it wasn’t because of curry-favouring, it’s not because I’m a PPP supporter, because I am not a PPP supporter, I have never voted in my life for the PPP. But respect was given to me. And respect, when it is given, must be recognised,” an emphatic Cave stressed.
According to Cave, since the ruling administration was elected to office, he has been trying to gain an audience with ministers of the Government, but in vain. The Government’s attitude, he made clear, speaks volumes.
Cave made it clear that during the PPP administration, he was able to sit with former President Bharrat Jagdeo and have dialogue in order to move the trade forward. He is now pointing to the difficulty in accessing ministers, much less the President.
“For those in authority to simply ignore us or any gathering that wants to formalise itself and engage in discussions with the authorities is disrespectful, and smacks of their unconcern for the poor, destitute, hungry, and the very small working people in the private sector,” he adumbrated.
Cave made a number of recommendations regarding how the scrap metal trade could be safely opened, including annual licensing with a register of dealers. He also urged that policing of the sector be strengthened, and penalties for infractions toughened. Cave stressed that the association would not give up its advocacy and its drive to bring the authorities to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, Bishop Edghill, who appeared on behalf of Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, declared the PPP’s support for a regularised industry, and revealed his party’s willingness to either bring a motion to the National Assembly, or pose questions to the relevant ministers, regarding their trade.
The workers themselves also pleaded for consideration to be given to their trade. Randy Shepherd, an employee of Den’s Trading, spoke of the hardships he is facing with the scrap metal industry not being operational.
“Since the closure of this trade, it’s been real damaging financially. I have a family, I have bills to pay, I have a son to take care of; it’s really a strain on my pockets. You’re not getting work to do; nobody is telling you anything about it. And it’s not only me, there’s the person that picks up the scrap at the dumpsite. They’re feeling the squeeze too,” he explained.
“So I’m appealing to the President, who I think is family-oriented. I am pleading with you, as a young Guyanese with a family, with bills to pay, please look into this,” he said.
Maurice Primo is a former scrap metal trader who had spent 10 years in the industry. He says his livelihood and earning abilities are now at a standstill at a time when he has a large family of children and grandchildren.
“It’s not easy, because you have bills to pay, you owe the bank. If they give us such a long period of time, they should assist us and hear our cries,” he declared.
The ban on the scrap metal trade came about following persistent complaints about vandalism. There were also issues regarding the management of the trade.