Unruly vendors force St Peter’s Church to suspend cruise passengers’ visits

HORACE HINES Observer West reporter

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny - THE over 200-year-old St Peter's Church, the
main tourist attraction in historic Falmouth, remained closed to
visitors yesterday following threats to harm two members of its
congregation recently, allegedly by one of the craft vendors who ply
their wares at the entrance to the church.

"Some members of the church were threatened, that is what forced the
closure. But it's stemming from just a few of the ones [vendors] that
are there," Custos of Trelawny Paul Muschett told the Jamaica Observer
West, adding that the attraction has been closed to visitors for roughly
three weeks.

"The church did a good thing reaching out to the residents of
Falmouth, trying to help some of them and to me it's a slap in the face
carrying on like this".

Nevertheless, the Anglican Church in western Jamaica said it remains
receptive to accommodating the steadily swelling group of craft vendors
who operate in the area designated for parking at the Falmouth monument
on condition that vending operations are regulated.

Justin Nembhard, the archdeacon of Montego Bay, told Observer West
that plans are being worked on to implement a licensing system in an
effort to streamline the operations of the vendors.

When the system is implemented, he noted, a small number of the
vendors will be displaced, as only 10 will be authorised to operate at
the entrance of the church, located along Duke Street in the Georgian

"We did not want to deprive the vendors of the opportunity to make a
living. [But] there were too many of them there crowding the situation
and we had to limit it to the number who could be accommodated there,
and we went through our authorities at different levels and arrived at a
situation where we would allow about 10 persons to vend there under the
prescribed position ... in a sort of licensed situation,"
said Nembhard.

"We had meetings with the vendors and they understood that, that kind
of regularisation had to take place because they were sort of over each

Nemhard made it clear, however, that the attraction will not be opened until the new measures are implemented.

According to the Anglican archdeacon for the Montego Bay Region,
which encompasses the parishes of St Ann, Trelawny, St James, Hanover
and Westmoreland, it became necessary to restrict the number of traders
in a bid to secure parking space for persons visiting the church, which
is significantly curtailed on days when vendors are on the job.

"So the whole effort is to attempt to do that, and of course we have those hiccups along the way trying to straighten it out."

Since the March 2011 opening of the Falmouth Cruise Pier, craft
vendors have been converging on the church's parking space, where they
pitch their sales to cruise passengers who visit the historic church,
completed two years after it began construction in 1794.

The decision not to allow cruise passengers to visit the church, one
of the few attractions in the town, has reportedly caused a downturn in
business for the vendors.

The need to reopen the attraction prompted the convening of a meeting
between Nembhard, the vendors, Mayor of Falmouth Garth Wilkinson,
Custos of Trelawny Paul Muschett and Superintendent Wilford Campbell,
commander of the Falmouth Police Division on Monday.

Custos Muschett expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the meeting.

"The meeting ended on a positive note. We are trying to reopen the
church because it is unfair to everyone when the church remains closed."

When Observer West visited the site of the church on Tuesday, traders
were seen conducting business with cruise passengers in the church's
parking area.

However, most of the vendors were unwilling to speak to Observer West arguing that they feared reprisal from the church.

One vendor expressed concern about losing the "space" she had
occupied for the past four years, when the new system takes effect.

There were also whispering among some that church members were getting preference to operate among the selected 10.

Meanwhile, Nembhard stressed that the licensing system will be
implemented soon, adding that since last year there have been complaints
from the church about the poor behaviour among some vendors at the
entrance to the place of worship.

"I am aware of the unruly behaviour over a period of time and in fact
I figured that may have been part of the reason why it became so
overwhelming that the church authorities had to seek to regularise the
presence of operation of the vendors at the entrance," he argued.

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