Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has described a Government advertisement for the purchase of trucks and skip equipment as an act of intimidation against those in the haulage industry.
Mottley told a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St James South branch meeting on Sunday evening that the advertisement over the weekend could be only intended as a threat to make striking truckers return to their garbage dumping work, since Government had no money to buy the items for which they had advertised.
Further, she charged, that the delivery time for such equipment was so long that it would be ineffective in remedying the current mess caused by a back-up of waste across the island owing to the ongoing strike by private movers and haulers, who are said to be responsible for over 60 per cent of garbage collection.
Over the weekend the Government has made good on its threat to source new vehicles for the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) in the wake of the ongoing strike by waste haulers.
An advertisement by the SSA appeared in a local newspaper seeking to purchase four skip trucks and 20 skips.
In response, Mottley said: “For the Sanitation Service Authority to be advertising for a tender … for the supply of four skip trucks and 20 skips is really now carrying governance to another level, and that is why I say to the Prime Minister, ‘pull it back, and tone it down’,”
Addressing a political gathering at the West Terrace Primary School, she argued such expenditure was not considered in 2015/16 estimates, pointing out that the SSA had received $9 million less than what it needed last year and only $26 million of the $35 million needed in the 2014-15 budget.
“So on a reduced budget you [are] seeking to increase expenditure to buy equipment that is already in the private sector and owned by the private sector to crowd them out,” she added.
Noting that the lead time to be able to receive that kind of equipment was six to nine months, she further charged that “ the real purpose of the advertisement was, to tell the fellas, ‘cease and settle. Get back in line because we are prepared to buy’”.
However, she asked, “With what money? If they had money there would be no need for the tipping fee in the first place,” she argued, “and if they had money, there would be no need to bridge the $9 million gap that SSA is not receiving from the Ministry of Finance, either in 2014 or in 2015,” the Opposition Leader said.
Just last week, Minister of the Environment Denis Lowe had warned that the waste haulers would not be allowed to hold the country to ransom.
Lowe had instructed the SSA to take care of any idle waste left behind by the protesting truckers.
“I have instructed the SSA to make available our skip services to any of the producers out there who may be having some challenges with having their waste collected. I have also instructed the SSA to, by Sunday, have an ad placed for the purchase of additional skip trucks and skips, because this country will not be held hostage by a group who, on the one side of their mouths said they would work with the Government, and on the other side of their mouths said they would protest and disrupt,” the minister had stated.
Calling the advertisement an act of intimidation, Mottley said:” This is a Government now that is intent on using the powers of the state to oppress, humiliate, and to intimidate those who it believes don’t share its opinion, or dare to have a different voice from them”.
She reported that since the strike began traffic police had been repeatedly pulling over truckers for minor offences and requesting licence and insurance documents that past pull overs show the same drivers to have.
“The truckers and the waste haulers and the waste movers now know what it is to be on the receiving end of the power of the law for offences that they didn’t even know existed.”