Monday, January 22, 2018

FFOS pleads for PM intervention

SEVERAL MATTERS OF CONCERN: Gary Aboud, seated at right, secretary of FFOS, addresses the media during yesterday's press conference at Woodford Square, Port of Spain. At left is FFOS president Terrence Beddoe and flanking them are other members of the organisation. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is calling for the intervention of the Prime Minister in several areas of concern it has with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and its line Minister (of the Environment and Water Resources) Ganga Singh.

During a press briefing yesterday at Woodford Square, Port of Spain, corporate secretary for FFOS, Gary Aboud, said the group was concerned that illegal trawling along the North Coast was continuing, despite regulations which prohibit it; that there is dredging of an area in Sea Lots which they claimed was “highly polluted”; and they also accused the EMA of “illegally withholding certain files” from the public domain.

FFOS is therefore pleading for Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's intervention so that an amicable solution could be reached.

“Take, for instance, the Government and the EMA have approved the dredging of the Sea Lots area but that dredging is being done in an area which is heavily polluted by hydrocarbon spillage. Now further to that, what we are saying is certain EMA files are being illegally withheld from public viewing. By this we mean, there is an approval they have granted, but the approval is not in the file (at the national register) and the conditions of the approval are not in the file which is supposed to be for the public. And the same file shows that there was no toxicology test done on the soil. And we are saying that soil is highly carcinogenic.

“Now when we raise these issues with the Minister (Singh), the Minister did not answer our question on where is the toxicology test. Which EMA officer approved it? Can we see the name of this officer? Or is it just the Minister intervened and approved it illegally? Because if he did then we are calling on the Prime Minister to remove this Minister from his office for improper conduct in the line of duty,” Aboud said.

The corporate secretary also claimed that the EMA was not maintaining the national register as certain files could not be found.

“The register is the file of the EMA that shows each application in its entirety and what the EMA and the Minister is doing, in essence what the chairman and the minister is doing. However, applications are not being filed and this is deliberately withholding information from public viewing,” Aboud noted.

He also questioned when laws to enforce illegal trawling in the waters to the North Coast would be enforced.

“Along the north coast, if a person is charged and prosecuted even once for shrimp trawling outside of the designated areas, this Government has signed an agreement into law that this person will be banned permanently. Yet this act continues, unabated. Last year, three trawlers were detained. But when they arrived at the coast guard base they were released with their catch. Months later and still this matter has yet to be brought before the courts. So we want to know if there is one law for the politically connected and another for the law-abiding citizens? Our members are simply trying to follow the law, but it appears that the Government is unwilling to enforce the law that they themselves were a part of implementing,” Aboud said.