Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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I must start this by saying that I am in firm agreement with the removal of the vendors around the Massy area in Arnos Vale, however, I am not in agreement with how it was reportedly done- especially with the lack of accommodation to house these displaced vendors. 

The Government’s swift and apparently non-communicated action in Arnos Vale (on Monday 6th June, 2022) was one that should have been handled much better. All that was needed was planning, timely communication and dialogue with all the necessary stakeholders involved (vendors, businesses, etc.), followed by expected and communicated action. 

The Government surely had enough time to find or create accommodation for the vendors before and after the creation of the removal letter from the Physical Planning department, on July 9th, 2020. The acquisition of land to appropriately house the Arnos Vale vendors was entertained by the Prime Minister on July 12th, 2020. However, it seems that such accommodation was not found or, dare I say, even considered based on feedback from the affected vendors and lack of feedback from the authorities.

What was so difficult with having a discussion with the affected parties to address any potential teething problems and the possible actions which will be taken?

What was so hard in finding out how long it will take the vendors to sell the current produce that they have before the authorities take action?

Is communication and dialogue so hard? We are dealing with human beings who ply a trade to make a living. Surely an elected Government owes its citizens that and not just around election time. 

I know that there will be some who say “the Physical Planning issued a removal letter almost 2 years ago so there is no need to communicate to them”. I respectfully disagree with such thinking. Time is just as important as action and action is just as important as communication.

If the authorities had torn-down the vendors’ structures immediately following the removal letter, then the actions would have been timely, just and properly communicated. However, if action is not executed in a timely manner then the vendors will feel that they were issued an unwritten letter to stay and sell, as opposed to pack up and leave.

I am not saying that staying and selling is correct because it is not. However, the lapse in time and tardy action by the authorities will embolden and encourage these vendors to continue their operations. That is how some human beings think, and it is a Government’s job to understand that and to find appropriate ways to handle this sensitive situation. Learn from the lack of communication with the people of North Leeward and the Quarry operations. Communication and timely execution are key.

I liken the 2020 letter of removal and the 2022 execution of the that letter to a guy who proposes to his girlfriend on July 2020. He has an intent to marry.  In June 2022 (almost 2 years later), the guy shows up at 6am in his wedding garments and tell his fiancée it is time to get married.

So, what is the problem? 

The problem is that he never told his fiancée anything about marriage except when he stated his intent almost two years prior (when he engaged her). There was no planning, no effective communication and no dialogue about the wedding. There was just a 2020 proposal and a 2022 execution, with nothing inbetween. He just pops up and decides today is the day.

A day that should have brought order and appeasement is now one of disorder and anger. These things could have and should have been handled much better. Surely an elected Government owes that to its citizens. 

Where are the displaced vendors to ply their trade?

Who will compensate them for the lost produce and destroyed stalls?

Are they supposed to sell from home or online until the Government finds suitable accommodation for them? 

How will they pay farmers for the produce which they did not sell?

I pray that they do not turn to a life of crime to make ends meet. If they do (which I hope they do not) then the victims of those crimes will most likely be the normal citizens of this country. Let us think on these things.

Maybe now is the time for these vendors to get creative in this digital age, until the authorities are able to place them somewhere that will be suitable for them and other stakeholders. Hopefully this adequate housing or a piece of land will come sooner rather than later, and hopefully not as late as 2025.

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