Sat | Sep 24, 2022

Letter of the Day | Eat-a-food culture breeds lawlessness

Published:Monday | June 3, 2019 | 12:00 AM


I travel through downtown Kingston very regularly and as such, I often witness police officers confiscating the goods of vendors who ply their wares in no-vending zones.

Often, as I watch the vendors bundle their wares into tarpaulins, and dispiritedly load them into the carriage of police vehicles, my heart melts with sympathy.

The pained look of defeat on the vendors’ sable and sweating faces can easily sadden anyone. Knowing, too, that their ‘hustle’ is for their families, particularly their school-age children, can make one all the more tearful.

Despite my sympathy, however, I can never intervene and plead on their behalf. I must respect the law and the officers’ efforts to enforce same.Some argue that everyone needs to ‘eat a food’ and so they should be left to peddle their wares.

“It better than dem go kill and rob people,” some have even stated.

However, we very often forget that the ends should never justify unlawful means. When we have people cramming our streets with their merchandise, public safety is gravely compromised.

Usually, when the sidewalks are overcrowded, pedestrians have no choice but to walk into traffic to avoid toppling over or stepping on vendors’ goods. Any such misstep can have you confronted with the most colourful Jamaican expressions! Furthermore, pickpockets ‘eat a big food’ in such crowds!

Unregulated street vendors also tend to leave behind significant waste. Consequently, the roadways are often littered with plastic wrappers and putrid spoils. Nearby drains are then repeatedly clogged with refuse, and so the mildest rainfall leads to flooding.

Sellers who operate within the designated vending areas and pay for such accommodations also suffer tremendous losses at the hands of illegal street vendors. Naturally, those on the sidewalks are more visible and are the first to attract consumers, thus obviating the need for arcade shopping.

When all these issues – public safety, theft, inequity, disorder, and flooding – are considered, I must support the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation’s move to clear the streets of illegal vendors.

Garth Rattray, in his recent piece – ‘Eating food vs eat a food’ – published on May 27, 2019, in The Gleaner, has rightly said it all: “The eat-a-food culture starves Jamaica of discipline, safety, and justice”.

Fellow Jamaicans, moneymaking should never trump discipline, order, and safety.