Gov't finally to regularise operations at People's Arcade
Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw (right) leads a discussion as a delegation of several stakeholders assess lands belonging to the Jamaica Railway Corporation. At second left right is minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister Homer Davis.

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw has given a commitment that the Government will regularise operations at the problem-plagued People's Arcade in Montego Bay. What exists at the facility now, he said, does not conform with the law.

"We know what has happened there, it's basically an illegal set-up, so what we want to do is to see how we can help to straighten out the place, rebuild where we have to rebuild, add on where we have to add on, and bring some formality to over there so it is properly run," he said. "We are not trying to move anybody but everybody must work under rules — and when you have rules then you're going to have proper order."

The arcade, which sits on land owned by the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC), evolved when vendors displaced by the construction of the south gully were accommodated there in 1996 in an effort to get them off the streets. The number of stalls has mushroomed over the years but the supporting infrastructure has not kept pace. For years the police and local authorities have warned of problems at the facility, blaming if for everything from crime to sanitation breaches. The vendors, meanwhile, have been critical of the State, particularly the JRC and the St James Municipal Corporation, for their failure to maintain the arcade.

Minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister Homer Davis has now given the clearest indication yet that the Government has a plan to deal with the facility which was described in 2015 by the then commander of the St James Police Division as "a ticking time bomb".

Davis said the squatting and illegal activity now taking place there will have to end.

"Those who are using it as a place to live cannot continue. It's going to be used for its intended purpose …no compromise on that," he declared on Thursday during a tour of the facility. "Those who are doing illegal things must stop; it's not going to be tolerated."

While advocate O Dave Allen, who has spoken on the vendors' behalf for years, agreed that the commercial facility should not be used for residential purposes, he pointed out that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.

"Some people have some real cause — house burn down and a man have nowhere to go — they come inside of the arcade. These are facilities that have always been used for transition into Montego Bay. We don't welcome it and we don't agree with it but that is the situation," he said.

He is pleased that the vendors will not be removed from the location.

"This is a welcome departure from previous positions held by the Jamaica Railway Corporation. When we started out they suggested that we should go to cane piece, so this move by the minister is welcomed to incorporate the micro and small business sector in the development," he said.

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