Sunday, June 20, 2004

TT: Defence Forces turning a blind eye to Muslimeen operations

So, who is the jihadi in Defence Forces; or, who is the greedy two-by-four who sets his belly higher than national security that he can allow Muslimeen to make millions off of illegal quarrying, from which they will be able to fund another coup to set up an Islamic state in TT?

A group of men purporting to be Muslimeen and who are engaged in illegal quarrying in Valencia, are threatening anyone who attempts to stop their operations, quarry industry sources said.

The men are threatening to kidnap anyone, or their children, who interferes with their activities.

Legitimate quarry operators, energy and forestry workers have been forced to back down even as the illegal operation is set to cripple the quarry industry by putting small, medium and large operators out of business.

The men, some of whom are armed with guns, have also been threatening acts of violence against anyone who dares to stop them, sources said.

One man was even given a sound licking and chased from an area close to the site of the illegal operation.

The man, who was gardening close to the operations, was attacked and chased after he was accused of sabotaging a piece of their equipment.

They then took over the land which the man was occupying and began quarrying activities on it.

Sources said the group of men, whom the army removed from the area last year after it was discovered that they were pocketing millions of dollars through their indiscriminate, illegal activities, resumed operations just three weeks ago.

Quarry operators say when they are fully operational the men rake in an estimated $180,000 a week.

The army was said to be turning a blind eye to the operations, even as they patrol the area on a regular basis. The men boast that they have strong army and Government ties and soldiers can often be seen driving in and out of the area without interfering with the group.

A source said: “While the junior army officers can be seen patrolling the area regularly, we learnt that they are helpless to do anything because they have been receiving certain instructions from their seniors.”

It has been alleged that senior army officials are being bribed by the men. Sources further claim the men are also paying “tax” to a well-known Muslim group with which they claim to be associated.

It was reported that a contingent of police and forestry workers swooped down on the group Thursday morning and stopped the operations.

However, they resumed operations that same afternoon and were at it again on Friday, sources said.

Government, and particularly the Energy Minister, is being blamed for allowing these men free rein, as several informal reports have been made to them about the group, quarry operators said.

Sources said the men have been occupying acres of land reserved by government to carry out their operations.

Government is also losing millions of dollars in royalties, one source said, as the men do not have a licence to operate and so do not pay taxes to the state.

Because the men do not have to pay royalties, they are able to sell the quarry material (pitrun/gravel) for considerably less than the market price, concerned quarry operators complained.

“While legitimate quarry operators offer their material for $15 a yard and upwards, these illegal operators are offering the material at $8 to $10 a yard,” one angry operator said.

The situation has become so grave that even large, reputable quarry operators have resorted to buying material from the illegal operators.

“The legitimate operators have found themselves in a situation where they cannot compete with these men. It would cost them a lot more to quarry their own material, it is just not economical, so they prefer to buy from the illegal operators.”

The quarrying by the group is being done on such a large scale that on some days they require the services of three excavators and two bulldozers to handle the work.

Sources say between 20 to 25 trucks can be seen at any given time throughout the day waiting to fill up on the material, which goes for almost half the market price.

One operator said: “I feel the Government should step in. It is the people who are trying to make a decent living within the law who are feeling the pressure. Especially the small and medium- sized operators.

“Now people are being threatened, their lives are at risk when they question what is going on. We need serious intervention by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Energy, the army.”

In February last year, Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday alleged the PNM Government had put the Valencia quarry in the hands of the Jamaat as payback for its support in the 2002 General Election.

An investigation by the Sunday Guardian last year revealed a group of men in Muslim garb were pocketing close to $24 million yearly from illegal operations in the Tapana Quarry in Valencia.

Energy Minister Eric Williams, contacted shortly after 6 pm on Friday, said he could not comment on the issue based on the time he was contacted, but promised to look into the matter.
If PNM think they can dance with the devil without losing their heads, they must be mad.

By allowing the Muslimeen to quarry illegally, Manning is sowing the seeds of TT's destruction. For, the Muslimeen have already declared their intention to turn TT into a Muslim state ... whether the people in the country like it or not. With Muslimeen members like Olive Enyahooma-El already before the court facing extradition charges to the U.S. for arms smuggling, amongst other things, it is not necessary to think too hard to know what the Muslimeen will do with their ill-gotten gains.

PNM must ask itself what price power; the answer which they provide will determine whether TT is ruled by a legitimate government with respect for the rule of law or by a bunch of Muslim thugs whose idea of governance is the oppression of Shari'ah.


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