Hours after police dispersed crab vendors for selling at a spot in Caroni, MPs have called for more consultation with the head of the police Central Division and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to discuss a way forward for the vendors.
Newsday understands vendors were selling crabs near the Caroni Bridge Roundabout on Wednesday morning, but municipal police told them vending was restricted in that area, referring to nearby signs.
MPs Khadijah Ameen (ST Augustine) and Rudranath Indarsingh (Couva South) arrived during the confrontation and spoke with vendors who raised their concerns.
Ameen reportedly called on the public to come out in support of the vendors.
This prompted a media release from the CoP, who knocked Ameen for acting irresponsibly for encouraging a public gathering.
He also urged the public not to be lured into breaking the public health regulations by attending a protest.
He wrote: "The commissioner wishes to advise MPs, politicians, and other public figures that the law is crystal clear and the public health regulations speak for themselves.
"Therefore, should any citizen have concerns, the CoP has set up hotline numbers to deal with any issues that may arise. The alleged conduct, namely, the invitation of the public to gather as a consequence of any such concerns is totally irresponsible.
"The commissioner calls on citizens not to be lured or baited into breaching the law, but rather, complying then complaining, by seeking the relevant clarification, if necessary."
But Ameen said there may have been some miscommunication, as she had merely invited the media to come to report on the removal of the vendors.
"At no point did I ask the public to come out and protest. So I think there may have been some misunderstanding in that regard. I understand and continue to ask people to obey the public regulations.
"What I did want is for the media to come and give some coverage to this issue.
"The vendors are abiding by the regulations. They are not selling anything that is restricted under the current laws. They have said before that they have no problem being relocated by the regional corporation, but they are being removed by the police all the same."
Ameen pointed out that the vendors sold perishable items which had to be discarded if they were not sold and used within a certain time.
Contacted for comment, Snr Supt of Municipal Police Wayne Mohammed said officers were within their rights to disperse vendors, noting the signs which restricted vending of any kind.
He noted both the municipal police and TTPS were mandated to prevent vending where it was not allowed.
Speaking with Newsday, chairman of the Tunapuna Piarco Regional Corporation (TPRC) Kwasi Robinson said while he did not want to be drawn into commenting on the police action, he felt there should be a more people-centred approach in such instances.
"My position is known on people's livehoods. I think a human approach is needed at this time. But at my next council meeting I will raise this issue with my councillors."
Robinson said there was need to effectively manage the issue of vending while balancing the needs of vendors to earn a living.
In a WhatsApp response, MP for Chaguanas West Dinesh Rambally said councillors and past constituents told him the trend of police moving the vendors has become weekly, and called for clarity and discussion with the police to better manage the sale of goods while obeying the public health protocols.
"It seems that every Monday morning these vendors are somehow afflicted with uncertainty as to whether they can occupy their vending spots and earn their living.
"In light of the events which transpired, I intend to write the head of Central Division Police and copy the CoP as well as the TPRC with a view to eliminating any threat to these roadside vendors whilst at the same time enquiring as to the reasons why police attended this morning."
Rambally also said he hoped to work towards finding solutions to the vendors' problems, but was prepared to explore the options for legal redress if he felt the vendors were being abused.