Sav mayor refuses to evict squatters
Mayor Bertel Moore (left)) and MP Moreland Wilson address members of the media at the construction site for the Negril Fruits and Vegetables Market.

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — Adamant that he will not upend the lives of squatters who have taken over land earmarked for a long-awaited fruit and vegetable market in Negril, Mayor of Savanna-la-Mar Bertel Moore says he will not evict the vendors until they have somewhere to go. Those calling for them to be removed from the site, he intimated, are being insensitive.

“On Thursday the Minister [of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie] was here and he spoke without understanding the plight of human beings,” Moore, who represents the Negril Division in an Opposition People's National Party-controlled council, told the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

During last week's visit, McKenzie blasted Moore for the protracted delay in getting the project off the ground. President of the Negril Chamber of Commerce Richard Wallace also weighed in after Moore expressed concern that no plan was available for the project. Wallace promised that it would be available next month and said other aspects of the project could proceed in the meantime. Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Western Morland Wilson also expressed disappointed with the pace of the project.

But Moore is digging in his heels, determined not to move, at this time, against the vendors who have erected shops on State-owned land.

“We started some discussions on the way forward and [McKenzie] said he has made some funds available to build a market in Negril. Our way forward was that the Chamber in Negril was to do the site testing and the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation would do the surveying, which we have both done. Now they want us to give notices and I am of the opinion that you cannot give notice unless you find some place for them to go,” he insisted on Monday.

“You cannot disrupt people's livelihood for 18 months or 12 months. If you do that, they will not be able to send their children to school and I don't believe in that. What I discover from the MP and the Chamber too, they want to disrupt those people's livelihoods and I am not prepared to do so. I am preparing somewhere for them [vendors] to go,” the embattled mayor added.

He said after consensus was reached with the Chamber, he sent a letter to the Ministry of Housing last December to seek a temporary place to house 25 vendors while the market is being constructed. 

He said the housing ministry has since advised that his request is being considered and would ultimately need the approval of Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Once he clears that hurdle, Moore said, he will have a meeting with vendors and the Chamber.

- Daina Davy

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