'Watch it, Audley'

Shaw says he received warning his life could be at risk over sugar stance

Friday, September 14, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Industry, Commerce and Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw said yesterday that his tough stance on the importation of white sugar for reasons other than manufacturing has led to a warning that his life could be at risk.

“You know what somebody tell me one time? Watch yourself, you know, Mr Shaw! Mr Shaw, watch yourself, you know! This is big business and big money, yuh life could be in danger...,” Shaw told a Sugar Industry Authority post-crop seminar in Mandeville.

“I am saying it publicly; people are telling me that if I rock this boat too much my life could be in danger. Well, so be it, so be it. Thousands of people's lives are already being compromised.

“The future of the sugar industry is virtually being compromised and I am to sit around as minister, cower in a corner, saying that I am protecting my life, while I allow a few greedy people to continue to wreck what remains (of the sugar industry) in Jamaica today? Unacceptable,” Shaw said.

“And that's why I am saying all of this in public. I am saying to everybody who hear or see anything that's going wrong that is compromising this industry, you have a duty and a responsibility to get that information to me as fast as possible,; (tel) 336-2245, WhatsApp it to me,” Shaw said.

Last night, Shaw told the Jamaica Observer that he wanted to make it clear that he was not accusing the manufacturing sector of making threats on his life. He said, though that there are players who are not manufacturers who are making big money from importing granulated sugar and that the system that enables them to do that is corrupt.

The minister said it was incumbent on all Jamaicans to be prepared to stand up for their country or run the risk of losing it.

“Let me tell you something, if we don't grab a hold of our country, and grab a hold of our future, we all will haffi run weh lef' it and leave it up to the scammers, leave it up to people who don't put the country first, don't put the citizens first, but put their own selfish and corrupt ends first. Together we can clean up this industry,” he told the meeting yesterday.

Shaw was giving an update on a recent meeting with the manufacturing sector following his threat earlier this month to slap upfront duty on the importation of white sugar used for manufacturing because of the alleged illegal importation of the product for other purposes. Sugar producers say the imported sweetener is flooding the market and making the business uncompetitive.

“There is no other way (imposition of duty). That is the way to begin to rescue this industry,” Shaw had said earlier this month.

However, yesterday the minister said that after discussions with the manufacturers he “decided to do further study of the situation before taking any action”.

Shaw said the manufacturers told him: “Mr Shaw, if we are called upon to pay 280 per cent duty up front it is going to put some of us out of business, even if you give us a guarantee that we get it back within 30 to 45 days, which is a guarantee that would have to be kept.”

The minister said the study would not be the end of the matter. “Some are saying I don't have the evidence, I only have some information. Well, I want to say these are the steps I have taken so far: I have instructed the sugar industry chairman, who has already commenced discussions with the manufacturers, because I am insisting that we must put in place a transparent system of monitoring the imports of sugar by the manufacturing sector. It can't be a free-for-all... (with) everybody importing what they want; nobody is monitoring, nobody is guaranteeing that what they importing is going into manufacturing. The Customs department does not have that capability to monitor...”

Shaw said he had been told that “amicable” meetings were taking place between the Sugar Industry Authority and manufacturers and that “they are working out a formula for the careful monitoring of the imports of white sugar”.

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