MONTEGO BAY, St James — Members of the business community have thrown their full support behind the operation being spearheaded by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that is seeking to restore order in the city of Montego Bay.
The initiative, dubbed ‘Operation Restoring Paradise — A Public Order Reset’, began Monday and has seen the police and other state agencies clamping down on illegal taxis as well as illegal and unsanitary vending.
Thirteen agencies, including the National Water Commission (NWC), the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, and the Transport Authority (TA), have partnered with the police.
Though announced as a 14-day push, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) Oral Heaven — who described the initiative as timely — is hoping it will go beyond two weeks. He told the Jamaica Observer that many of the MBCCI’s members have been negatively affected by illegal vending in the city, so “as a business community we want to see public order”.
“The members pay their subscription annually for membership with the chamber of commerce; we work for them and that includes lobbying the authorities to ensure that the streets are clean. We have members who can’t even go into their stores because of public vending and that is disorder,” Heaven said.
“When you have public order it reduces criminality because… people can do a crime and hide in the overcrowded spaces. The members of the business community want public order and I personally would think that, as a law abiding citizen, you would want public order around you because that is conducive for an environment that will help businesses to strive,” the chamber president continued.
Similarly, chief executive officer of Chukka Caribbean Adventures John Byles told the Observer that he believes every citizen should support the police in their pursuit of public order in Montego Bay.
“I believe that it is something that we all have to support. The traffic congestion of trying to get through the city where people are breaking the laws and blocking up the place is an ongoing problem that we have,” Byles said.
He commended members of the security team for work carried out since the operation’s launch on Monday, citing its importance to not only the parish’s booming tourism industry, but the welfare of its residents.
“What the police are doing is highly commendable and anywhere that is being properly run is not just good for tourism, but is good for us all,” the businessman added.
While noting that the police’s efforts cannot go unrecognised, head of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Clifton Reader told the Observer that he is echoing the call for the operation to be continued in Montego Bay and extended across the entire country. At the same time, the JHTA president believes provisions must be made by the Government for the vendors who are being displaced during the initiative.
“I believe at some stage it should be throughout the country, so that all citizens can be safe and we restore order in all areas. We need to get back to a kinder, gentler Jamaica,” Reader said.
Ensuring the safety of all citizens, he pointed out, will ultimately improve the country’s economy as additional tourists will be encouraged to vacation here.
Eron Samuels, superintendent of police in charge of operations in St James, told the Observer that the police have received the cooperation of vendors and taxi operators since the start of the operation on Monday. Noting that there has been no resistance or skirmishes, Samuels said the operation has shed some additional light on the issue of illegal vending in the town.
He pointed out that there are a lot more sellers in Montego Bay than there are prescribed spaces for vending. Samuels said the police, too, are hoping that the operation can be continued after the 14 days have ended. But, he told the Observer, they will require the help of state agencies.
“What we are looking on is the continuation of this after the 14 days, which is basically the question on everybody’s lips. We will seek to ensure that we continue to monitor and have a presence within the space. We will also have what we call enforcement days where we will partner with these same agencies to continue enforcing the law,” said Samuels.
The superintendent added:”Part of the issues that we have always faced with these multi-agency situations is that a lot of the agencies start off with us but taper down, so we want to encourage them to keep that momentum going with us. As long as they keep working with us we will be able to have that force multiply.”