Vacate Sidewalks or Face Prosecution.
By Kingsley Emmanuel
STREET vendors in Vieux-Fort town have been given an ultimatum to vacate the sidewalks and occupy the Vieux Fort market or face prosecution.
The ultimatum was given to the vendors by the Vieux Fort police at a meeting between them and the Vieux Fort South Constituency Council, where accusations flew back and forth. Also at the meeting was the President of the Castries Dry Goods Vendors Association, Peter “Ras Ipa” Isaac, who offered the vendors some tips on how to go about forming an association and the role they play in the development of the country.
“We want you to leave the sidewalk by March 1. We don’t want to arrest anyone, but if you insist…we will do what we have to do,” Superintendent Moses James of the Vieux-Fort Police Station admonished the vendors.
He quoted a section of the Criminal Code of St. Lucia to let the vendors know that they were committing an offence by vending along the sidewalk.
The fine for such an offence is $1,000.00, according to the criminal code.
The vendors who were irate and very vocal, did not mince words in expressing their disappointment in the way the situation was being handled.
But the superintendent insisted that the police would not budge from their position.
“The law is the law. We have to enforce it. We just can’t allow such an offence to continue and do nothing about it,” Superintendent James emphasized.
According to James, a number of persons in the community, including business owners, have been bombarding the police with complaints that vending along the sidewalks was affecting them.
“Up to last week we had complaints of fish blood spattering on buildings in Vieux Fort,” the Superintendent said.
According to James, he too has had first- hand experience with the problems vendors create on the sidewalks, stating that on several occasions he almost caused accidents driving along Clarke Street as pedestrians suddenly leave the sidewalks and jump on the roads.
“They also (fish vendors) leave the place unkempt after fish vending. The place stinks….” he said.
James said in order to deal with the situation, the police have decided to work in partnership with the vendors.
Isaac called on the vendors to band themselves together in order to ensure that their interest is taken care of, adding that there is strength in unity.
“You need to form an association so you can have a stronger voice in matters that concern you,” he said.
Isaac said the meeting between the council and the vendors was a move in the right direction, adding that there needed to be continued dialogue between the two parties.
According to him, vendors play a very important role in the development of the country and their contribution should be appreciated.
“You create employment for yourself and add to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. You don’t have to depend on the Short Term Employment Programme (STEP) to be employed. You should be proud of that,” he told the vendors.
The vendors identified some of the reasons why the Vieux Fort Market was unsuitable for vending including lack of storage facilities, a leaky roof, inadequate space and the refusal of minibus drivers to transport them to the market.
The mayor of Vieux Fort, Winhall Joshua, refuted these claims. He however added that if additional space was needed in the market area for vending, it will be provided.