Two quotes to begin with:
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a country of laws.” — NDP View, May 2021
“We are a nation of laws” — Ralph Gonsalves, press conference, October 2022
That’s just two of the many times those phrases have been used, perhaps conveniently. Here’s what I wish to ask, however: is SVG really a country of laws? Once again, during the past week, I saw where vendors were being rounded up by the police, and seemingly having their goods confiscated. It appeared to be vendors who were pushing trolleys on the public sidewalk in Kingstown.
What law is guiding the police in the conduct of its duties in this regard, and what is the legal penalty for breaking this law? Have we ever seen or heard of anyone being charged and brought before the court for illegally vending in Kingstown or anywhere else in the country? Is there some sort of vendor license that they must have, but don’t have, which, therefore, causes a violation? Has anyone ever been issued a ticket, for which s/he must appear before the court?
Here’s this from 2001. Senator Gerrard “Rasum” Shallow speaking in Parliament:
“Just the other day, Mr. Speaker, I came up Middle Street and met one big crowd of people chasing down through Middle Street. I did not know what was happening, all I did I just had to turn and join the crowd running. Only to learn that it was the police and the big animal truck arresting and seizing people’s goods.”
So, since 2001, and possibly before, we’ve had the police apparently involved in these activities. You mean to tell me that since then, not one person has been brought before the court for what appears to be an unlawful activity if the police have to be constantly getting involved like this?
It can’t be that the police are being used to enforce a Town Board policy that seemingly flares up in the dull period of the electoral cycle. The police service is not a policy enforcement service, where public property, including easements, are involved. They are LAW enforcement officers. They are not feelings enforcement officers either. LAW!
If the country is indeed one of laws, the society must be guided by laws. If the society is lawless, it either means the laws that should guide the conduct of the society do not exist, or they exist but are not being enforced. Regarding vending, which one is it? If the laws do not exist, I can’t imagine that the parliamentarians are so afraid of the electorates that they refuse to put their names on record in Parliament in establishing the legal framework that should guide this activity in the public space.
Mind you, this has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting Kingstown to be clean and orderly. Instead, it has everything to do with principle and the rule of law. We can’t on one hand decry the police when we believe certain citizens, like protesters, are being mistreated; yet on the other hand remain silent at what happens to other regulars like vendors. We must always be guided by principle; otherwise, it’s clear as the darkest tint of night that not only justice, but the execution of law and order indeed possibly has three to four faces, metamorphosed by an unprincipled and emotionally guided society.
To end where we began: if SVG is indeed a country of laws, what law is guiding the police in relation to its conduct with vendors in public spaces in Kingstown? What is the legal penalty for breaking this law and has anyone ever been brought to the court for such violation?
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
Quite a profound question! It certainly brings into question the high-handed nature in which the police carrie’s out its duties and functions! In most instances, the police acts like judge and executioner!
They do act like judge and executioners.
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