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 jus​ti​fied​.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: http://​www​.jamaicaob​serv​er​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​W​i​t​t​e​r​-​t​o​-​p​r​o​b​e​-​l​e​g​i​t​i​m​a​c​y​-​o​f​-​s​c​r​a​p​-​m​e​t​a​l​-​t​r​a​d​e​-​s​h​u​t​d​o​w​n​_​9​3​6​9​6​3​0​#​i​x​z​z​1​U​4​X​9​N​0k6

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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