Joel Martinez

Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez

PORT of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez said yesterday vendors on Charlotte Street are likely to return by January 16, when the city corporation would have completed its annual registration to “legitimise” such persons.

Martinez also denied claims by some vendors that they were told they may not be allowed to return, saying he intends to register all vendors in the city in 2020.

The absence of vendors on Charlotte Street since the start of the new year was as a result of their annual contracts with the corporation coming to an end on December 31.

Martinez had introduced a registration programme for the vendors whereby they are required to re-register every year, in order to “legally” sell on the streets through the Hustlers and Peddlers Act. He noted that street vending in Trinidad and Tobago was illegal but the corporation programme allowed vendors to continue to make a living, without fear of removal of them and their goods by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

The vendors would have been advised that they must complete the process before returning to Charlotte Street, though Martinez noted yesterday that some had disregarded the agreement with the corporation and turned up with goods in the past two weeks.

“Those vendors have disrespected the city,” he said.

Martinez said re-registration in previous years had taken months, whereas this year the corporation was prepared to have the vendors return on January 16.

Included in the agreement are terms mandating the sellers to accept some responsibility for occupying spaces in the city. They must be diligent about cleanliness and safety and must not encroach on the sidewalk and roadway, the Mayor said.

Martinez, who spearheaded the installation of towering, Chinese-tribute arches at the top and bottom of Charlotte in dubbing it “Chinatown”, also disclosed that the city was expecting a lot of visitors this year.

He said among the large foreign groups expected were 4,000 hashers, who will be based in the city, 2,000 Youth Commonwealth athletes and some 70,000 cruise visitors.

Saying Port of Spain must be upgraded and restructured, Martinez said he intended to register all vendors as means of allowing those persons to earn a living while giving the Corporation control over how city spaces are used and kept.

Some vendors who yesterday defied the corporation’s orders to turn out with vegetables and dry goods, said they were left no choice, as January was “a hard month”.

“I didn’t come out the first weekend after Christmas but it is hard to lose more sale than that,” said one vegetable vendor.

“You will see that we didn’t come out with the normal amount of goods because the police could chase us and take everything. But this is a kind of hard month, you know? I had to spend a lot of money on my children for Christmas. You see there are a lot more people on Charlotte Street than last week, because people have to come out and buy foodstuff and so on that finished after Christmas. This was a good week to get some sale.”

When asked, the woman said she was aware that the corporation had banned vending until registration was complete.

“It is hard. Some of us need the little sale,” she said.

Most vendors said yesterday they had applied to be re-registered, with a few grumbling about the allocation and use of spaces.

“They have to police everybody,” said another vendor.

“You can’t be harassing some vendors to stay in their space and others are spreading in the road.”

The vendors said they had become concerned that development of Charlotte Street and the city would mean the demise of street selling.

“There are always rumours that they won’t let us come back, it causes some stress,” an elderly vendor said.

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