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'Shut your mouth!' - Seaga demands James back up claims about illegal sugar imports

Published:Thursday | December 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Metry Seaga

Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), wants Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales Limited, to stop whining and come forward with evidence to support long-standing claims that manufacturers have been illegally selling refined (granulated) sugar on the retail market.

"Shut up! Put up! For 30 years you've been threatening to blow the whistle. Blow the goddamn whistle and shut your mouth!" Seaga challenged James in an interview with The Gleaner.

"It really is annoying. It's frustrating, and we really want them to stop it now. Bring the proof so we can help you lock up the people. We want to be a part of that, but what we want you to do is stop crying wolf.

"What good purpose could there be for you to have the proof and not bring it forward?" Seaga asked of James.

He was responding to a statement from James that he plans to name and shame some of the manufacturers guilty of abusing their import licences for refined sugar.

"You going to hear names eventually," James told The Sunday Gleaner in an article published on December 11 in response to questions about the company's failure to implicate guilty importers, despite the long-standing claim by sugar industry stakeholders that there has been wide-scale abuse of the system for years.

Touched a nerve

"It touched a nerve," Seaga shared with The Gleaner.

"We keep hearing the same story and we find it irresponsible. We find it disingenuous; we find it troublesome. What we are saying is that if you are aware that there are people doing this, then we are demanding that you state who is doing it and provide the proof for it and let the relevant agencies take the necessary action."

He added: "We, for sure, will ensure that if any of those persons are our members, we will take the necessary disciplinary action against them. We do not want members who are misusing any privileges given to them by the Government - and this is a privilege - and we are saying to Mr James, either put up or shut up!"

The JMA president accused James of tainting the reputations of people of high integrity who have never been otherwise accused of improper business practices, a situation that has been allowed to continue for too long without a shred of evidence.

"We have sat with the Sugar Industry Authority, the Government, with a view to getting them fixed. We have proposed the remedies, and the lack of implementation of those remedies is why we continue to have the problems, we assume," a frustrated Seaga disclosed.

matter of concern

James declined to comment further, pointing out that the issue has emerged as a matter of concern for Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, who spoke on the matter during a December 13 press conference at his New Kingston office.

"I am determined to go to the root of this problem, where the allegation that manufacturers are importing, as raw material, sugar, and passing it through to the consumers, through supermarkets, thereby avoiding the appropriate tax that should be paid on it," Samuda declared during that press conference.