Monday 30 November, 2020

Le Hunte defends seizure of farmers' water pumps

Photo via Pundit Satyanand Maharaj.

Photo via Pundit Satyanand Maharaj.

Farmers who have had their water pumps confiscated by officials at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) have filed legal action against the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) over the confiscation of water pumps. 

However, Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte said he supports seizures made by WASA police, saying the farmers did not obey the law.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday in response to urgent questions, Le Hunte said the seizure was done by WASA officials under Section 54(4) of the Water and Sewerage Act.

He acknowledged that three pumps were seized from farmers in the Aranguez area, who were placed on notice of possible charges.

“WASA has the responsibility as the only authority with the responsibility of extracting water…WASA (was) exercising their job in being vigilant and protecting the interests of citizens.

“They always accuse WASA of not doing their job, in this scenario they were doing their job. They found pumps that were extracting against the law. The (WASA officials) were simply doing their job, of which I have to congratulate them,” he said.

Le Hunte acknowledged that the farmers have since filed pre-action protocol letters against the state and that due to the ongoing investigation, he was not authorised to speak further on the matter.

However Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh asked whether WASA was not required to carry out procedural fairness during their duties. 

It is clear that the law, Section 54(4) that you talk about that gives WASA that power requires procedural fairness….are you aware that the law requires procedural fairness on the part of WASA officers?”

Le Hunte replied however that he had faith that WASA acted fairly according to law.

“I have confidence in the police at WASA in knowing the law and the procedures that are required to exercise charges against someone. I am sure in light of what the potential hazard that was before them, they took action in an attempt to ensure that the law was being followed and to protect the potential danger posed to consumers,” he said.

According to a pre-action protocol letter, the farmers said the incident, which took place on May 11, 2019, appeared to be part of an exercise carried out by WASA among farmers in the North Aranguez vicinity.

Aranguez farmers access water for their crops from the nearby San Juan river. 

Farmers have reported severe drops in food production due to ongoing drought-like conditions in the country over the past five months. 

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It was noted that farmers were not notified that they were contravening any law and said they observed the requirements of the Water and Sewerage Act and the Water and Water Conservation Act. 

WASA Corporate Communications Manager Daniel Plenty said abstraction licenses are issued by the Water Resources Agency (WRA) which permits the abstraction of water from surface and groundwater sources. 

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