MP: Give farmers guns
…At mercy of thieves, says Ratiram
■ Stories by Khamarie Rodriguez
FARMERS throughout the country should be granted firearm user’s licences (FULs) to protect their farms from praedial larceny, according to Couva North Member of Parliament Ravi Ratiram, who called on Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher to issue licensed firearms to those affected.
Speaking at yesterday’s United National Congress (UNC) press conference, Ratiram said the country should equip farmers with the necessary tools to protect their livelihoods and safeguard produce and livestock.
He said the issue of praedial larceny has surged in recent times, farmers often losing thousands and struggling to recover their losses.
An under-resourced Praedial Larceny Squad and a rise in theft, he said, has resulted in farmers who were desperate to defend themselves. And, as a result, a more ‘realistic’ approach is needed in dealing with the issue.
‘I call upon Commissioner Erla Christopher to issue licensed firearms to registered farmers through firearm user’s licences (FULs), granting them the power to safeguard their produce and livestock. This is not a plea, it’s a resounding demand for action, for change, and for justice…Commissioner Erla Christopher, the choice is yours-stand with our farmers or sit back and watch them fall victim to the criminal elements. The choice is clear, and the solution lies in your hand,’ he said.
Ratiram said farmers believed criminals had been targeting their farms based on the prices of their produce. And thefts were not limited to livestock and produce but also farm equipment and systems.
He said the extreme weather patterns and fluctuating prices, coupled with frequent theft, had crippled the farmers’ ability to make a living.
‘I spoke to one farmer who lost approximately nine head of cattle on his farm. We are talking about nearly $100,000. Farmers and fishermen have been asking for this type of relief where the Government cannot protect them, they are prepared to protect their families, their livelihoods, and properties…this is why we have issued these calls. This is something that came about in consulting with our farmers,’ he said.
Ratiram said that while praedial larceny had become the norm, its designated unit remained understaffed and under- resourced and was ineffective in deterring criminals from stealing from farmers.
He said despite the promises of Minister of Agriculture Kazim Hosein to engage in an all-government approach with police and the Ministry of National Security in dealing with the issue, the squad’s southern unit had collapsed and was recently combined with the Central Praedial Larceny Squad, located at Carlsen Field.
He said the combination had made it ‘practically impossible’ for the unit to patrol its designated land space. Additionally, approximately three to four constables were working per shift at the unit, which at times had only one working vehicle available.
Shiraz Khan: Give everybody guns Shiraz Khan, president of the Trinidad Unified Farmers Association, told the Express yesterday that he agreed with the call but added that the country’s gun market should be opened so that anyone can purchase a registered firearm.
‘If you want to do something for the country, give all of us arms. Let everyone have a gun and you will see how the crime will drop,’ he said in a telephone interview.
Khan said his farm had suffered from serious larceny in July, having lost approximately $140,000 worth of animals.
The issue of theft from farmers, he said, was so frequent it had left many in fear and frustration and farmers had felt abandoned by the relevant authorities in dealing with the issue.
‘Just recently, a farmer in Soogrim Trace, they held him up at gunpoint three weeks ago, took his heifer, spray cans and the little money he had. If I start telling you I would have to wait until tomorrow to finish…it is a regular thing. Just last year, a 70-year-old man was beaten by bandits and up to now they don’t know who did it. It is ridiculous how we live, like burglar proofing is jail just waiting for someone to come and kill us. We are just sitting ducks waiting to be picked on. We continue to suffer at the hands of these bandits. Our life has challenges every day to live and survive, to be able to produce something for the benefit of the public. It is a frightening situation,’ he said.
‘We are facing people coming to take out animals every night…’ Khan said he feared the farmers’ plight would not be given any attention and called for action from the Minister of Agriculture.
The Express contacted Agriculture Minister Hosein yesterday to enquire on the status of the Carlsen Field Praedial Larceny Unit but no response was received.
MP: Give farmers guns