A notably upset Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste told social media audiences, on July 9, of her intention to appeal an eviction notice that was fielded to several vendors who ply their trade just opposite Massy’s Supermarket in Arnos Vale.
According to the NDP senator and prominent lawyer, “one of the main problems that we face with this government is victimization. I am really seething tonight. Seething.
“There’s a young man, he’s in the audience here tonight, Romal John, who has decided that he can’t take the situation in St. Vincent anymore and he’s going to speak out. He has been at every single village meeting I have had and he’s been at the virtual meetings also,” as she addressed another virtual constituency meeting published on Facebook last Thursday evening.
Earlier this year, John made his debut political speech in support of Bacchus-Baptiste’s bid to represent the West St. George constituency at her first public event at Gomea. Since that speech where he was said to have spoken “from his heart,” the young entrepreneur evidently “got the powers that be upset.”
Senator Bacchus-Baptiste continued, “within days a policeman was at his house, arrested him [and] took him to the Calliaqua Police Station. Ostensibly for a debt that he owed – some debt? How many persons in owe debts? I eventually got him out the police station. This is no joke you know my people; and how many of us suffer this victimization because we dare to speak out.”
This alleged State sponsored ill-treatment continued when John, who runs one of the fruit and vegetable stalls that sprang up along the road across from the Massy Supermarket with his twin brother Jomal, was ordered to cease their vending operation; although no formal notice was presented to them at that time.
“A few days ago I got a call from him… they all of a sudden decide that he must be moved. They said 3 days – Monday they tell him by Friday ‘you have to move!’ So I said, ‘did you get a letter? Where is this coming from?’
“No letter. So he said ‘I’m going in to them to find out.’ He went in – no letter. Today [July 9] he gets a letter.”
Bacchus-Baptiste proceeded to read from a letter that was dated July 9 and captured the Physical Planning and Development Board’s explicit intention to execute a demolition exercise on July 16, 2020.
The letter also referred to an enforcement notice purportedly served on the brothers “on the 23rd of February 2018.” The PP&D Board granted the vendors “a period of 7 days dated from the service of this notice to remove the unauthorized structure” even as they warned that, “failure to comply with this notice would result in the demolition of the unauthorized structure by an agent authorized in writing by the Physical Planning and Development Board.”
The Johns were not the only vendors affected by the Board’s decision to exercise its powers as bequeathed under the Town and Country Planning Act but Senator Bacchus-Baptiste is adamant that this ill-fate only befell that community of vendors because “they want to spite and victimize a young Vincentian entrepreneur.”
She offered as supporting evidence for this particular view the fact that none of the other vendors’ letters named any of them as was the case with the letter sent to the Johns. Additionally the enforcement notice, a prescribed requirement by law, was purportedly served on the other vendors on February 23, 2020 – according to their letters.
“Well my research says that absolutely no enforcement notice was served! This is a wicked government. You see the Town and Country Planning Act prescribes that you must serve an enforcement notice and you must serve it within 5 years of when you start your business. Romal has been there for over 8 years going into 9 years. And they put this lie in the letter that they served him a notice – when? – on the 23rd of February 2018. This is a figment of their imagination.
“Because they want to go back and say if you’re there, let’s pick a date and say you were served with a notice so you cannot say that the notice is illegal because no enforcement notice was served. But the other letter say that the notice was served on the 23rd of February 2020.
“These people have been there for over 5 years – all of them! If you’re going to serve a notice in 2020 – what yo telling me? You know the 5 years gone! None of them could move! But Romal was served – I am angry!
“Romal, they say, was served in 2018. They are meaning to say we served you it in time and you did nothing. They are going to get a hell of a fight on their hands. Tomorrow DV [July 10], I am lodging an appeal under the Act. I am lodging an appeal under the Act! They must stop victimizing our Vincentians.” Bacchus explained to her audience.
Asbert News Network reached out to Senator Bacchus-Baptiste for further clarity regarding her allegation that her supporter was being unfairly targeted by agents of the State.
The learned barrister contended that the fictional enforcement notice was never transmitted to the Johns and that the backdated reference listed in the most recent communique was merely a ploy to satisfy the very explicit guidelines stipulated in the Act.
Further, she noted, the “alleged enforcement notice” that was presented to the other vendors allows them some measure of defense against the Board’s proposed actions whereas that courtesy was denied the twin brothers. This Senator Bacchus-Baptiste said was due to the supposed date that their alleged enforcement notice was dispatched.
“They are wrong on all counts and I’m not going to let them victimize him and get away with it,” she shared while pointing to the fact that the brothers were operating a business they registered since 2013 and as such are entitled to the economic protection that is also enshrined in the said Act.
Romal John was the subject of much ridicule from the Unity Labour Party supporters and radio show hosts, Bacchus-Baptiste reported. This was due to his grammatically incorrect though passionate political speech.
The promised appeal which would be made on behalf of 5 vendors was already prepped on Friday and is expected to be lodged on Monday. The issue would not be ventilated in Court but the hoped for outcome is a speedy response to the mounting crises.
In the meantime Senator Bacchus-Baptiste has urged all affected parties “to stay there and ply their trade once they know they have been there for over 5 years because then this notice is void and besides it’s not even a proper notice, it’s just a letter. My instructions are they never got an enforcement notice which is what the law says.”