The  saga involving the scrap metal trade in Jamaica continues , this time with new players getting involved . As is customary in Jamaica nothing works  well, so if a policy decision is taken  that actually is the correct one, one can rest assured  there will be  thunderous howls  of condemnation from all quarters .  The latest  player to enter the non- debate is Earl Witter the Public Defender.

Now just for transparency, let me  declare, I was never a fan of  that office, and I am absolutely not a fan of  Earl Witter the head of that Agency. Let me clarify my reasons for feeling this way.

(1) The office of Public Defender is a duplication of Government functions , a drain on the meagre resources of the State.

Jamaica has a Justice and Attorney General’s Office ,that Office is   designated to take care of the interest of the Public.

Earl Witter ? well some considered him a good Lawyer , not me this Guy was at best a mediocre operative , and this comes from watching him in the Court Rooms of the corporate area for almost a decade.

Witter , not willing to be left off the publicity train, grandly announced  that his office would be launching a probe of the Ministers actions .

Here’s the story courtesy of the Jamaica Observer:

PUBLIC Defender Earl Witter yesterday described as unfair the Government’s decision to shut down the local scrap metal trade, and said his office would be embarking on a month-long investigation to determine whether the ban is justified.At a press conference at his Harbour Street office in Kingston, Witter contended that the move had put legitimate dealers out-of-pocket and that findings from his probe would be used to help the authorities correct problems being experienced in the industry.(Jamaica Observer)

I did tell you this Witter was mediocre right ? well here”s  the evidence  from our friend Jamaica’s Public Defender Earl Witter. If Mister Witter has already concluded that the actions of the Minister of  Industry and Commerce is as characterized, “unfair” why bother with an enquiry?  , The correct thing to do would be to send a letter to Minister Tufton , detailing his contention and affix the suggestions he supposedly have, that will fix the problem as he asserts. This would save valuable tax dollars for the people’s business.

Secondly , how can any person having an understanding of  how Investigations are done, conclude with any certainty ,that the investigations would last for a specific period of time , one month , according to Witter ?  But Witter wasn’t done.

We are interested in the honest dealer, gatherer, and honest exporter who plays by the rules and who may have been, by this act of the minister, shafted. And we do that because we have a responsibility to look into this whole business,” said Witter, adding that vandals must be infected with a “disease of the mind”.

“A way has to be found to suppress effectively that kind of activity, and under our present system of government it is the duty of the Government to do that and to put in place the system which can work the results that we seek,” he said.

Witter said that he had been in dialogue with members of the Scrap Metal Federation — which represents licensed exporters and dealers — and said that the organisation has decided to seek legal recourse independently. He, nonetheless, extended his invitation to the body, but noted that his primary concern was with regards to the gatherers.

“We desire to let it be known to any plain and honest dealer who complains to this office that by being put out of business… by this decision taken by the honourable minister, has the right to complain to the public defender, who has the right to investigate his complaint and seek the appropriate remedy,” Witter said.

According to Witter, the findings of the investigation will be submitted to the industry ministry within weeks.

In the meantime, Witter said that he will also be investigating the processes employed by the police in the seizure of goods from hawkers and peddlers in the Corporate Area. According to him, confiscated items are not being appropriately logged and secured, and thus unlawfully end up in the homes of individuals.

“As regards to these perishables, what we would be seeking to find out from the police is, what systems they have enforced regarding the destination.     Read more:

Not only  has Witter concluded the outcome of the Investigations not yet done, concluded how long it would take , without knowing the dynamics of whats at stake ,he already has the solution to the problem ,a problem that is a source of great contemplation for the rest of 2.8 million people within the country.
This twit Witter,  if he is to be taken serious, is asking us to believe that his contemplated actions on behalf of scrap metal  gatherers, dealers and exporters will be far removed from the actions of minister Tufton, in calling a common sense halt to the trade.   The actions of the Minister in this regard was a correct first step in the right direction , one  which the majority of the country applauds, and agrees with.
All of this is lost on Witter who have no understanding of the concept ,” the greater good” , This level of lunacy is not conifed or unique to the public defender , it does permeate a vast majority of the Jamaican psyche.
In a Democracy the well-being of all must be considered , however the well-being of those who operate at the tri-tiered system of the scrap metal trade have seen their interests trumped by the National good. And correctly so.
Each and every player involved in the scrap metal trade in Jamaica must have availed him/herself to the fact that they are involved in an unsustainable industry , no disrespect to that industry , but it really is not an industry.
The scrap metal business is hustle that offers those at the lowest end the opportunity to scavenge  the product,  pass it on to a collector, who passes it to the exporter . At neither of the three levels is there any concern as to where the product comes from. That is the nature of the trade, all involved are conversant that it is a finite hustle, understanding that there would be a time when there is no more scrap metal just lying around.
This means that those at the scavenger level would turn to stealing and ripping the Country’s questionable Infrastructure apart.
As a small business owner I  can relate to what it must feel like to lose one’s income, particularly if one is an operative that plays by the rules. Now I am unaware of what it means to play by the rules in Jamaica , or in any area of daily life, as the lines are so blurred and in some instances non-existent.
Just yesterday I watched a video of  a  Government Official  giving testimony in a Parliamentary committee regarding the acquisition of lands for the construction of new roads. I was stunned to discover that there was really no clear pathway , without equivocation, similar to the laws the United States has called “Imminent Domain” that establishes the Governments right to develop the country’s  infrastructure, paying fair market value to land owners for their property when the greater good is at stake, meaning putting in roads, rail lines, etc  that benefits the entire country. The Government Official admitted there were instances where construction began without the compensation process completed. but I digressed.
The Country is having a hard time adhering to tough draconian measures instituted by the international Fund , just so it can draw down on funds to fulfill its obligations, funds by the way that comes with huge rates of Interest . There  is no money to honor pre-existing wage contracts , yet there are numerous duplication in supposed Government services. The Office of Public defender being one of them.
Rather than strengthen the Office of Justice and Attorney General  they Authorities in Jamaica went ahead and created another Agency that is an additional burden on the poor taxpayers .
So  taxpayers are left with another Agency to fund and nothing to show for it, beyond grand standing , posturing, and egomania..I willpost here for your benefit the information regarding the creation of that Office. Ask yourselves , did this impoverished Country need this Duplication.

The office of Public Defender is a commission of the Parliament, established by statute,

the Public Defender (Interim) Act, 1999

(i) (‘the Act’). It is mandated to protectand enforce the rights of “citizens(ii) (My emphasis).The Public Defender is appointed by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. He holds office until the age of seventy years. His status (including remuneration and terms of tenure) is equivalent to that of a Judge of the Supreme Court. In particular, he may only be removed from office by reason of inability to discharge his functions due to infirmity of mind or body or, for misbehaviour. The process of removal commences with a resolution of both chambers of the Parliament (House of Representatives and Senate) that the question of removal be investigated. Thereafter, the Governor General appoints a tribunal of persons who hold (or have held) office as a judge of a court of unlimited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, in some part of the Commonwealth. The tribunal is required to enquire into the matter, report its findings of fact to the Governor General and, advise him whether the Public Defender ought to be removed from office; in which case “the Governor-General shall by instrument under the Broad Seal” remove him from office. (iii) He is not, at any time after he ceases to hold office, (whether by removal or otherwise), eligible for appointment in the public service. Subject to the approval of a Commission of the Legislature (iv)  the Public Defender may appoint and employ at such remuneration and on such terms as he prescribes, such officers and agents as he considers necessary, to assist him in the proper performance of his functions under the Act. (v) By the foregoing provisions, inter alia, the independence and security of tenure  of the Office are institutionalized. The Public Defender is therefore appropriately equipped to commit, fearlessly and unwaveringly, to the conscientious discharge of his mandate. (vi) The Public Defender replaced an earlier commission, that of ‘Ombudsman’, created by an Act of 1978  (vii)  (‘the 1978 Act’) and which, classically, was mandated to investigate complaints of maladministration by public authorities, defined (viii)  to mean a Ministry, department or agency of Government or the police services. (ix) The jurisdiction and functions of the Ombudsman were prescribed in Part III of the 1978 Act. ( 9 page document which may be found online in pdf  format).

As long as Jamaicans are blinded by their continued ignorance and over affiliation with  the green and orange gangs that run the country these duplications will continue and the grandstanding by the likes of Earl Witter will continue, actions that serves no purpose other than to appease those who created him in the first instance. Once again Jamaica loses.

mike beckles:

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