Vendors at two public markets today complained to Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir of chaos and poor security ruining business for them.
As the minister toured the Six Roads and Eagle Hall markets, vendors painted a picture of a “free for all” at the state-owned markets where anything goes – from homeless men using them as sleeping facilities to drug abuse.
At Six Roads, one vendor told Barbados TODAY that alcohol and marijuana abuse were rampant on the premises, leading to further misuse of the market’s facilities.
“People come across here and roll their spliffs in the open. Then people come from all over and drink alcohol and when they get drunk they lose their aim and ‘pee’ all over the bathroom. You have people parking where and how they feel like. You have to bring back discipline in this place or things going to soon get out of control,” said the vendor, who did not want to be identified, saying that those who complained in the past were threatened.
Vendors who ply their trade at Eagle Hall told a similar story of poor supervision of the premises. Vendors complained that their concerns were by no means new, blaming successive administrations for failing to tackle issues at the market on the outskirts of the capital.
Two years ago, a middle-aged, homeless St Michael man was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service for defecating in the market while in the nude. The man was asleep on a box when the caretaker at the market spotted him on his morning rounds. The caretaker left to report the matter to the police, returning to find the man had gone, leaving behind faeces and urine where he had been sleeping.
This morning the vendors told Barbados TODAY that nothing had changed and that the market continued to be thoroughfare for the homeless.
Vendor Sheila Greene said: “Everyday you come you find people sleeping in the market and leaving the things they ate and slept in in the market. They leave all of the containers leaving the place in a mess. So there is definitely a need for security.” She also complained that the market had no storage area for vendors’ items at the end of the workday.
A fellow vendor, who referred to herself only as Margaret, also said nearby residents were dumping their garbage in bins designated for market use.
“Young fellas sleep in here and when you come you see the garbage and they even empty the garbage from the cans all over the place. At night we definitely need a watchman. When people come they say the place smell awful because people from all up the gap come and dump their garbage in the bins outside or wherever they want to put it,” she said.
Following the tour, Weir pledged to address the vendors’ concerns, especially the issue of security.
“We have to look at security within the markets and some of the things that have been raised with me,” the agriculture minister said. “The one that stands out is security, to make sure that people can come to the markets in a very safe environment. People must feel comfortable and don’t feel as though the markets, especially given the current conditions on crime, are a risky place to come to.”