‘We are not trying to remove anybody’
Shaw says People’s Arcade vendors will not be evicted, but they must contribute
TRANSPORT MINISTER Audley Shaw has declared that vendors now occupying shops in the People’s Arcade in Montego Bay, St James, will not be removed by the Government or the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC), on whose property the facility was illegally constructed 26 years ago.
Instead, Shaw said the Government will continue to take steps in making sure that their operations are regularised.
However, the minister, who has portfolio responsibility for the JRC, is adamant that those wishing to continue operating their businesses at the location must be prepared to pay a fee.
“We are making sure that everybody is properly organised, no matter how small the contribution, they need to make a contribution to the proper running of the place,” he said while making reference to the commercial operators, including a number of informal garages on the JRC land.
“It is basically an illegal set-up, so what we want to do is to see how we can help to straighten out the place (People’s Arcade), rebuild where we have to, and bring some formality over there so that it is properly run,” Shaw added as he toured the area earlier this week.
“We are not trying to remove anybody, but everybody must work under the rules. Let me warn you from now, illegal things will not be entertained in that facility,” he continued.
Supporting the decision to allow the vendors to remain is Homer Davis, state minister in the Office of the Prime Minister – West, who noted that when the facility is upgraded, it will be void of residential spaces.
For several years, persons have taken up residence inside the arcade, from which they reportedly plan and carry out criminal acts.
Back in 2015, the police linked the space to several murders, robberies, rape and prostitution. With those activities still unfolding in the arcade, it was one of the places targeted under the ongoing public order operation in the parish.
“Those who are using it as a place to live cannot continue. It is going to be used for its intended purpose, and there is no compromise on that,” argued Davis, who also battled with the issue when previously served as mayor of Montego Bay.
Social activist O. Dave Allen, who has been representing business operators at the People’s Arcade since 1996, welcomed the decision to not evict the vendors, noting that it represents a departure from their previous pronouncements for the greater part of the last 26 years.
Allen noted that he had long advocated for the protection of medium and small business operators in Montego Bay, who are being squeezed out of the economy because of the increasing cost of real estate.
“So any opportunity to integrate the small and medium-sized businesses in the development is welcome,” Allen reasoned. “Clearly, the arcade cannot continue as it is, and therefore, for any plans for its upgrade and integration into Montego Bay, we would like to be part of that discussion.”