Last week the Royal Barbados Police Force instituted Operation Recapture Bridgetown, a move the constabulary said was to “clean up” the City and “make the area sterile again”.
Without even a hint of reservation, we support the police operation.
Over the weekend Opposition Leader Mia Mottley spoke on the issue and expressed concern about the aspect of the police operation that targeted vendors, in the process suggesting that more needed to be done by authorities to regularise and create more legal avenues for vending in Bridgetown.
Again we agree.
We are comfortable taking this position because we hold the view that cleaning up the nation’s capital and promoting the interests of a class of Barbadians who have contributed immensely to our society for many years, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Quite frankly, the police operation has been long overdue — and we have said this already. There is far too much lawlessness taking place in Bridgetown, particularly on evenings and weekends, which act as a turn-off for persons wishing to conduct business there.
And perhaps most disgusting of them all is the sidewalk drinking, which too often leaves the pavement strewn with empty bottles, after the consumption of their contents had been used to create an atmosphere of intimidation for those who would prefer a more peaceful journey through some of our City streets.
The police had a duty to act long ago, and we hope that what occurred last Friday does not turn out to be a seven-day wonder with the status quo returning before an appreciative store clerk can tell her shoppers: “Have a nice day!”
As we have said before, Bridgetown, even with its UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site, can be dirty, smelly and uninviting, and our vendors, along with a few store operators, contribute in a major way to this.
While they are operating during regular business hours, the various contraptions from which they sell their ware seem far more appropriate for a shanty town than a world heritage site. Then once the day has ended and the fruit, vegetables and whatever else they peddle, have been removed, what is left is a haven for the breeding of all manner of vermin.
Better can be done, and this is where the Opposition Leader’s concerns come into play.
We firmly believe that while the cops are doing their legitimate duty, the other relevant Government departments and ministries also have a responsibility to act. Vendors, especially during these strained economic times, in many cases have no other options for obtaining an income and to prevent them from earning a living by plying their trade will create social dislocation.
We hold the view that once the produce is legally obtained, then vendors should be facilitated. They are only illegal because they don’t have permits, and the issuing of a permit is not rocket science — and obtaining one does not come with the prerequisite of a masters degree in physics.
Perhaps the Superintendent of Markets, or whoever else is responsible, can put in place arrangements for the issuing of daily or weekly permits by roving inspectors, for a nominal fee. This, we suspect, would take far less state resources than chasing away those selling legitimate stuff.
Persons who blend home-made drinks, or grow a few heads of lettuce, cabbage or Chinese cabbage, for example, really have no need of a permanent or annual permit, but that does not mean they can’t be facilitated.
It is not beyond us to create a clean, orderly City — even if it is not sterile, since we don’t believe that is exactly what we seek. We sincerely hope our authorities will come up with a mechanism that will give legitimacy to those who really seek to make an honest living.