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…association says no licences issued, new requirements difficult to achieve
By Lisa Hamilton
Though the Government has approved the reopening of the scrap metal trade under certain conditions some dealers in Guyana have not been able to receive licenses to operate. Some are also concerned about certain expectations such as the installation of 24-hour CCTV surveillance cameras at their operation location for observation by authorities, an act they believe could infringe on their privacy.
In an interview with the newspaper, General Secretary of the Guyana Metal Recyclers Association (GMRA), Stephen Bourne detailed the concerns and the level at which scrap metal dealers have been coping since the Government tightened recommendations and regulations for the trade. A ban on the scrap metal trade was initially implemented in September 2020. That same year, when Belgian police seized large tons of cocaine from Guyana found in a container of scrap metal, the ban continued. From then to now the Government and law enforcement have increased their scrutiny of scrap metal dealers. Members of the GMRA subsequently pleaded for the reopening of the trade and, months later, the Government granted the same on April 8, 2021, under certain conditions.
CHALLENGES TO SURVEILLANCE
One of the new recommendations is that scrap metal dealers place surveillance cameras at their operation location and that footage is kept for up to 90 days. The scrap metal dealers are expected to purchase these cameras with their own finances and the number of cameras they would need differs on how big their operation is. The cameras are meant to ensure that the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce’s Scrap Metal Unit (SMU) can monitor operations in collaboration with the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and others authorised. “Some members feel as though this is an infringement on their privacy,” Bourne said. “They’re not pleased with it, they’re trying to ask the Unit to reconsider some of the requirements and just look at the cameras only when the containers are being loaded. To have the feed available continually, persons are concerned as to who might be looking at the camera at any time when they’re doing financial transactions and all the activities of the premises will be available to persons known or unknown.”
Added to this, Bourne explained that the operations of some scrap metal dealers are located far away from their home and in remote locations such as the Soesdyke-Linden Highway. This immediately poses a problem as it relates to internet connection needed for live-streamed footage. Storage is also expensive and required in terabytes whether in physical storage or online. Concerns in this regard have been lodged with the Scrap Metal Unit which Bourne said is dealing with each dealer on a case-by-case basis. To have the surveillance cameras set up is one of the initial expectations being put forward to scrap metal dealers. Bourne said that with none of them being able to achieve this as yet, operating licenses have not been issued.
“No one has been granted license as yet — this is license for the yard and license to export scrap metal. Of course, this is negatively affecting everyone because persons were hoping to get their business on the road. Up to this point, I think it’s about 44 days or so since the Minister would have announced the reopening and no one was able to do anything as yet,” Bourne said.
IT’S A NECESSITY
Village Voice News also contacted the head of the SMU, Randolph Gajraj. He explained that the Unit deals with the registration of scrap metal dealers which is a necessity for dealers before they can receive their license to export. He explained: “The license is different from registration. We at the Unit here, we register them, they’re authorised to do this kind of business. They can be a registered exporter or registered collector and then their premises can become registered.” When applications are then made for the licenses to the Ministry, the SMU further assists with the process.
There were about 21 scrap metal dealers that were registered in 2020 and the Unit is giving this batch first preference to re-apply for registration — a process that is still ongoing. “They give the information on the form, we do an inspection after that and once they meet the requirements they’re approved for registration and we give them that notification. It’s ongoing. We have people there who have already been registered as dealers and their yards are being [inspected] it’s just now to get them their certificates. When they get that, then they apply for their license,” Gajraj said.
Regarding the CCTV cameras, Gajraj does not believe that the acquisition of these cameras should be difficult for scrap metal dealers. He also underscored that those who do not acquire the cameras will not be registered. “Some of them are glad, some of them already have CCTV cameras. It depends on who you talk to,” he said. “[Without it] you can’t get registration. The law is that you must be registered and if this is one of the conditions for registration you have to comply with it.”
MORE MATTERS TO IRON OUT
Apart from the matter of surveillance cameras, the GMRA General Secretary said that there are other foreseeable challenges based on the list of requirements. One of these, he said, is the expectation that scrap metal dealers sign a contract that makes them responsible for the scrap metal even after they would have delivered the same to the wharf. Bourne said: “There is the requirement of some contract to be signed by CANU saying that scrap metal dealers would be responsible for their cargo when it’s at the wharf which scrap metal dealers totally disagree with because you cannot sign that you’re responsible for the cargo when you’ve given the cargo to them, it’s theirs, it’s no longer in our care.” He said that, moving forward, there is the hope that scrap metal dealers will not have to sign such an agreement and, if so, the dealers are prepared to stand collectively against such.
Meanwhile. until the aforementioned matters are finalized, scrap metal dealers have had to let go of workers and cut their losses.
Bourne underscored: “Ninety-nine percent of the dealers would have had to shut their business down temporarily which means that they’re letting all workers go. With no license they aren’t able to train, they aren’t able to earn, aren’t able to provide for the families. And, scrap metal dealers’ position is that they’re asking the Government in the future to not let the activity of any single individual affect the entire trade.”
However, Gajraj said that the recently restarted scrap metal trade was done on the basis that the dealers would adhere to the new requirements set up. He said that the SMU shares the intention of scrap metal dealers for them to be able to carry out in their trade but an important aspect is for this to be done through safe and legal means.