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Arima vendor takes legal action against mayor, CEO

Published: 
Sunday, August 12, 2018

RALPH BANWARIE

Arima Open Market Vendors have taken legal action against the mayor of Arima and the chief executive officer of the Arima Borough Council after they failed to respond within the seven-day period to a pre-action letter from the vendors’ attorneys.

Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, adviser to the Arima Open Market Vendors’ Association, told media representatives present at the Arima market on Friday that the vendors would be taking the mayor and CEO to the High Court.

Kublalsingh initially faced some difficulties with the Arima Municipal Police who advised him that they could not have any meeting on the compound of the market without permission and to remove all posters. This was later settled and the meeting began.

He said on July 26, 2018, the vendors’ association delivered a pre-action protocol letter to the mayor and CEO asking them to deal with measures affecting the vendors otherwise they will take them to court. The attorneys representing the vendors are Lennox Sankersingh and Mata Sharon Maharaj.

The letter addressed the following: destruction of private property without lawful process, financial loss and hardship, frustration of the legitimate expectation of vendors, and arbitrary use of power by a public authority.

They claimed that on May 7, 2018, the mayor and CEO instructed the police to enter the market and destroy most of the vendors’ stalls. Most of the vendors in the Arima market are middle aged women. The authorities did not leave the stalls on the outside of the market, but took it to the landfill site at Guanapo and bulldozed it, despite the women’s pleas. They claimed they have suffered enormous hardship, stress, and financial losses and are filing for compensation.

“Their constitutional rights have also been affected and the authorities ought to understand that you cannot destroy the private property of an individual without legally due processes, so this action has been taken regrettably to protect the constitutional rights of the vendors and to protect them from further arbitrary and haphazard actions,” Kublalsingh said.

“This is very important because we need to protect the integrity of the market. Vendors are feeding fresh food to the nation and most of the food here are not imported but locally grown. Feeding people fresh and healthy food is important, we need to protect the authorities who are against the legal vendors.”

Kublalsingh said the seven-day deadline given to the authorities to address the problems has expired. “Neither our attorneys or the association received a reply to their letter.”

Lydia Victor Mark, a vendor, said the 300 vendors have legitimate rights and if we look around T&T, vendors are people who are not appreciated. She said the vendors were pleading with the mayor and CEO to listen to their problems, but all went on deaf ears.

Mark said it was time vendors come together to have the relevant authorities listen to them.

“We had a situation in Arima on May 7 where vendors were victimized because we were standing up for our rights. Why are we being discriminated for standing up for our rights?

No one wants to hear or listen to vendors’ problems. This market has been here for more than 31 years and look at the condition, we still don’t have a proper facility, we support the local farmers. All we were asking for was that the mayor, CEO, and authorities listen to us and hear our plea.”

Lisa Morris-Julian, the mayor of Arima, could not be contacted for comment as she was in a meeting and was unable to answer her phone.

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