By Kinnesha George-Harry
Discrimination and victimisation! This is the claim by Eileen Yorke-Robinson, a full-time vendor at the Scarborough market, who cried as she told how she was allocated less than ideal space and location at the temporary market facility at Shaw Park.
An anguished Yorke-Robinson said she was being targeted and penalised by representatives of the Division of Food Production and that favoured persons were being given the best spots at the new facility.
In an interview at the Scarborough Market facility on Monday, she said the Division’s market clerk ignored written instructions pertaining to space allocation.
“I went down to the temporary facility about three times with the market clerk, they gave me one small stall. I went to her (market clerk) and I talked about it, she ended up giving me another one. The letter I have says three stalls, but after they are despising me so bad, they put two,” she said.
“They are doing favours as far as I see… they like you, they put you up front; they hate you, they victimise you and put you in the back, so you must not get any sale when the day come. Wherever they put me, I am not going to get any sale when the day come and that is unfair.
“Who in here selling, when the day come supposed to get first preference to get a proper stall… this is really victimisation, it could never be right. I am selling when the day come, and it done hard for me already, I am a single mother…
“We are selling every day and them who not selling every day, they put them up front and I selling every day and they put me quite down in a corner with the clothes vendors, which that is not right. I called the market clerk to talk to her, enquiring why they put me with the clothes vendors; she pulled the form out of my hand.
“It have people who owe, who have not been paying up their dues. I don’t owe them nothing, yet I am been treated like a total dog and that is not acceptable. I am very displeased about it and I am very hurt.”
Yorke-Robinson said when she visited the temporary facility a few days ago, she asked about the finishing works to be done to the stalls and that she was told by an official that the Division would be responsible for that. She said that on Monday she was told by the same official that she would have to do all the cosmetic work herself.
“After we pay for the stalls, we still have to pay to pay to fix up the stalls and that is unacceptable, that is not right, it could never be right. As far as I see, that place is not ready yet, but they just want to force people to occupy that market,” she said.
Another vendor, Jennifer Noel, said that she couldn’t understand why the Division was rushing the move, that it was disrespectful to both the vendors and customers.
“They need to take their time and finish that place, make Tobagonians feel good, make them feel welcome when they visit the market. They want us to come and carry down our stuff to the temporary facility and when people come, work still ongoing, so it doesn’t give people the encouragement to buy.
“The place not ready, what you forcing it for. Yes, we want to come out of here, we want to move because we want our market renovated, and bring us back,” she said.
The vendors who were told last week that they were to move over the last weekend up to yesterday, were then informed that this was postponed to May 20-22.
Noel also noted comments by persons that the temporary facility at Shaw Park would turn into a permanent relocation, saying the vendors were holding the THA to its 18 months timeline to complete the Scarborough market.
“We are hearing word on the ground that we’re not coming back to Scarborough… they told us temporary but what that means in the Tobago context? Temporary could mean five years, ten years… they have given us no timelines,” she said.
Noel also hit out at the lack of communication between the Division and vendors, noting that at this time, she didn’t even know where she was going be placed at the new site and what fee she would now to pay.
“We pay a fee here in Scarborough, we don’t even know what the fee is down there, they kept so many meetings about this move but the issues that are relevant we don’t know.
“They said that there is a Vendors’ Interim Committee … I honestly don’t know the committee. We don’t know who the committee is, the committee never came and kept a meeting with us…I don’t think that there is really a committee, if there is, this committee needs to come forward,” she said.
Another vendor who didn’t want his name used, said he has visited the temporary facility and it is nowhere near to being ready for the vendors. He also claimed there were many safety hazards.
"They are not being totally honest at all… they are saying that the reason for the postponement is because of our protest, in which we requested additional time to capitalise on the Mother’s Day sales, but I doubt that very much. There are still workers on the compound… on the weekend hey brought in about four pallets of concrete blocks.
“They have some holes dug out close to the fence, like that is for drainage and they are running pipelines. They still have a lot of cosmetic work to be done on the inside, there is no way that place could be ready by the weekend,” he said.