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Lawyer files injunction blocking removal of Massy vendors

Lawyer files injunction blocking removal of Massy vendors
Left to Right: ROMARL JOHN & KAY BACCHUS-BAPTISTE

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ANY PUBLIC SERVANT or police officer who tries to remove vendors stationed outside the Massy Stores supermarket in Arnos Vale may be breaking the law.

This, as lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste has filed an injunction blocking the move by the Physical Planning and Development Board to have the vendors removed from the area.

“I hope that no civil servant will be so stupid to try to move the vendors in the face of an appeal,” Bacchus-Baptiste told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday morning.

The vendors who ply their trade outside the Massy Supermarket in Arnos Vale had until yesterday, Thursday, July 16 to find an alternative location.

In a July 9, 2020 letter, the Physical Planning and Development Board asked the vendors to remove their structures or face having them demolished. Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on radio last Sunday that the vendors were being removed because of issues related to sanitation and congestion in the area.

The vendors are being removed in accordance with Section 18 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1992. But Bacchus-Baptiste said she thinks the move is political as one of the vendors, Romarl John has been campaigning with her as she prepares to contest the West St George seat for the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in the next General Elections.

She said the appeal, filed on Monday on behalf of five of the vendors, should in law, operate as a stay of the removal and if the removal goes ahead the government will be opening itself to a lawsuit.

She said one of the grounds of the appeal is that the Physical Planning and Development Board’s letter of removal is illegal and not supported by law because no enforcement order was served on the vendors.

“They are supposed to do that (serve an enforcement order) according to law and they said one was served, but they are not telling the truth.

“In any event, even if they had served one, it is out of time according to law because it should have been served within five years of the business being set up,” Bacchus-Baptiste explained.

Some vendors who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT last week said they have been in that position for more than 10 years.

Bacchus-Baptiste said the appeal was also filed on the grounds that the move is political malice and therefore discriminatory and against the Constitution. She said also that no alternative location was discussed with the vendors, all of whom use their trade at the location as their only form of income.

“As far as I am concerned, I can say as a fact that no one discussed with them anything about relocation. They were told to move, or they will destroy the stalls.

“It is absolutely untrue if anyone including the Prime Minister said that they discussed relocation with them,” Bacchus-Baptiste said while adding also that nothing was said to the vendors about the area being unsanitary or that they were traffic nuisances.

“That was not put in the letter as far as I am concerned and if they try to move them it will be lawsuit and I am convinced they would have acted earlier if they are doing it for the reasons they say they are,” the lawyer said.

She added that another ground for appeal is that before things of this nature are done, the law says the government should look at the economic benefit of the business because the Act mandates that they should take into account the economics of the situation.

“In this time of COVID-19 they want to do that? This is more political than anything else,” the veteran lawyer commented while adding, “We need to settle it amicably.”

She noted also that if the reasons are that the place is unsanitary or that it is a traffic issue, those can be easily dealt with.

“If it is because some supermarket is upset, I say tough luck, because you have to live and let live. Measures can be implemented if it is traffic. If they used the parking at the back there, there would be no issue of traffic,” Bacchus-Baptiste offered, while stressing that removal should come with a permanent home for the sellers.

She said she has taken up the fight pro-bono as she has been doing on similar issues for the last 20 years.

“I am really incensed,” the opposition senator stated.

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