The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has been called on to justify the actions of its estate police officers who seized water pumps from two Aranguez farmers over the weekend.
In a letter sent to WASA’s corporate secretary Dion Abdool yesterday, lawyers representing Ishwah Singh and Hansraj Moonilal gave the authority until 4 pm tomorrow to give a detailed explanation over the controversial seizure.
The duo’s lawyers also gave WASA the option of immediately returning the equipment to avoid legal proceedings.
In the letter, attorney Kiel Taklalsingh claimed that when WASA personnel arrived at his clients’ gardens at 11 am they did not indicate what laws or regulations which his clients were allegedly in breach of or the authority they were using to seize the equipment.
“Respectfully, it is our considered view that the summary seizure of private property from a citizen, in the absence of expressed grounds, rhyme or reason is not only unlawful, oppressive and arbitrary but plainly cannot be tolerated in a society that respects fundamental rights, freedoms and democratic values,” Taklalsingh said, as he claimed that they should have provided written reasons.
Taklalsingh claimed that in the absence of reasons from WASA and based on its employees’ conduct, he advised his clients that the authority contravened their constitutional rights.
“Further, given the paucity of information surrounding the seizures and the fact that farmers within the community of North Aranguez have been targeted on a whim, it seems that WASA may have exercised its power in a discriminatory manner,” Taklalsingh said.
He also suggested that even if WASA had the discretion to perform the seizures, it should have tempered its response.
“Our clients are industrious, honest and hard-working farmers that have endured the brunt of administrative insincerity for too long. WASA’s inexplicable actions on Saturday have exacerbated this onslaught against a class of indigenous entrepreneurs that should be facilitated and encouraged rather than penalised,” Taklalsingh said.
The farmers are also being represented by Jagdeo Singh, Dinesh Rambally and Stefan Ramkissoon.
The issue of the seizure was raised by former Environment and Water Resources minister Ganga Singh in a series of questions to Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte in Parliament yesterday.
Le Hunte was initially guarded in his response as he acknowledged the farmers’ legal letter.
“It is WASA’s intention to prosecute so you would understand my ability to go into greater detail will not be very positive,” Le Hunte said.
However, when pressed further Le Hunte appeared to change his tune as he repeatedly defended WASA’s Estate Police, who did the seizure.
“We always accused WASA of not doing their job. In this case, the WASA police were doing their jobs in the exercise,” Le Hunte said as he claimed that they were being vigilant in their duties during the ongoing water shortage.
Asked whether WASA had notified the farmers before seizing the pumps, an adamant Le Hunte expressed confidence that the correct procedure had been followed.
“I have very much confidence in the police at WASA knowing the law and in knowing the procedures that are required to exercise charges. They took action in an attempt to ensure the law was being followed and also to protect from the danger that was being posed to the consumers,” he said.
Under the Water and Sewerage Act, which established the authority, industries and farmers must obtain a licence before abstracting water from a watercourse.
- by Derek Achong