Member of Parliament for St. Catherine North West, Hugh Graham, said he does not support the beating of vendors off the streets of Linstead in his constituency, adding that a better solution should be found to the perennial issue of illegal vending.
He made the comments after three vendors, as well as a 12-year-old boy, complained about feeling pain after allegedly being beaten by officers during a clampdown on illegal vending.
Some of the vendors, who were pepper-sprayed and beaten, were caught on camera resisting arrest. They eventually were charged.
The clampdown, which was carried out last week Friday and Saturday, was conducted by the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation police, along with members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
Graham, who was elected a first-term MP less than a year ago, promised to discuss the issue of illegal vending with the different stakeholders, including the JCF and the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation.
He noted that the long-standing problem needs to be addressed once and for all.
Graham said: “To me, that (beating of vendors and seizure of goods) can’t be the future; it can’t be just a reoccurring decimal; there has to be a solution. At which point is that going to stop happening? Are we going to carry it to our graves or in perpetuity? Now, we have to find a better way forward. We are talking about violence; violence begets violence. Maybe the whole society is too violent.”
Graham, who also is Opposition spokesperson on commerce, urged law enforcers to exercise lenience.
He noted that vendors also have been affected negatively by national restrictions, including curfews, that have been imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Graham told The Beacon: “With the whole COVID situation, the people only have a small window to operate before the curfew. I think that some leniency or some discretion should come in… We have to find a way to live until we find a way to organize ourselves better. But beating the people off the streets can’t be the solution – not in a progressive society.”
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