Garnett Roper | If the shoe were on your foot, Mr Tucker
in order to set the record straight in response to a letter titled ‘Shame on Samuels for misguiding shoemaker’, written by Glenn Tucker, I insert myself into the story because I have always been involved in the Constant Spring Market tragedy. I met with the vendors in February 2018, who were being forced out to allow for demolition and the realignment of Constant Spring Road, and convinced Bert Samuels to advocate on their behalf. Bert Samuels not only did so but did so pro bono.
Finally, when Lloyd Livingston indicated that he had refused the ‘relocation grant’ on the basis that it bore no relationship to his loss of income or the value of his assets, I once again directed him to Mr Samuels, who has sought to plead with the deaf ears of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) on behalf of Mr Livingston.
There is no shame on Bert Samuels for seeking a just and better outcome for a citizen whose right to earn a living has been trampled upon. There is no shame in advocacy or the pursuit of social justice. What shame there is in the matter of the displacement of the Constant Spring vendor is on the Government and, in particular, on the KSAMC.
Precedent has been ignored. In this instance, no fair or proper process had been created to assess the loss, the displacement of these small operators and see to either their compensation or relocation.
At every other instance when market vendors have been displaced by development, the practice has been to consult with them, compensate them and/or relocate them. This has not been done.
The Constant Spring Market vendors made three requests of the KSAMC: that they be allowed to remain where they were, to the rear of the original market, since the alignment only required 13 feet of the 262 feet of the market; to be relocated to another proximate location so that they could be allowed to continue to earn a living and keep their customer base; and that compensation take account of the years that they had operated in good faith at that location. (Some of them had been there before the market was built in 1965.)
In the case of the shoemaker, he had been there for close to 47 years and, with the permission of the KSAMC, had built his establishment on the premises of the market.
After a year of negotiation and two injunctions secured in the Supreme Court, the vendors were offered random sums as relocation grants, which they received on condition that they sign a letter prepared by the KSAMC firing their attorney. Mr Livingston rejected that dictate as inappropriate.
Perhaps if Mr Tucker had been a Bible reader, he would have recognised certain unmistakable parallels in the flow of events in the treatment of the humble shoemaker, Mr Livingston. Unlike Esau, Mr Livingston refused to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage.
The Government, with the local authority in tow, must stop treating the rights and dignity of the citizens as obstacles and inconveniences. The right to earn a living must be sacred. It must be protected and, where necessary, ensured by the State. It cannot be simply abrogated and persons reduced to becoming mendicants.
A community is not built with concrete and asphalt alone. It must be built with the total development of the people in mind. The Constant Spring, Market was an economic, social and cultural space providing vital services to the area.
There was an affordable meal, a breakfast, a lunch that workers, gardeners, and domestic helpers could rely on. It was a place to shelter from the rain and to meet and talk. In their contempt for the people and their shortsightedness, the planners failed to take them into consideration, and the local authority has cast the vendors and service providers on the scrap heap. We are the poorer for it.