Market vendors grapple with theft of materials, await Ombudsman report on new construction

Market vendors grapple with theft of materials,  await Ombudsman report on new construction

The 66 market vendors in Philipsburg collectively filed a complaint with the Ombudsman about the ongoing delay of the marketplace transformation.

PHILIPSBURG--The Philipsburg market vendors have pinned their hopes on the Ombudsman, after filing a complaint because of the government’s broken promise of the construction of a new marketplace in 2023. Meanwhile, parts of their makeshift booths are being stolen during the night.

market 3Almost two months after representatives of Philipsburg market vendors expressed their grievances in Parliament about the repeated delay of the construction of a new marketplace, they are still awaiting answers from the government.

The vendors issued an ultimatum to Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) during the parliament meeting on November 7, 2023, demanding answers within two weeks. Despite the ultimatum, the awaited response from the Government is yet to materialise, leaving the vendors in a state of uncertainty regarding the fate of the new marketplace.

Construction of a new marketplace was first announced to start in April 2023, after former TEATT Minister Roger Lawrence had secured NAf. 600,000 in funding from cruise line Royal Caribbean Group the previous year. The groundbreaking ceremony was then postponed to June 2023, but did not take place.

Minister Lambriex announced on August 1, 2023, “After much anticipation and hard work, the new marketplace development is finally on track. It will soon be officially announced, pending the completion and sign-off of the final steps for the building permit with the Ministry of VROMI [Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure – Ed.].”

    Lambriex said he could already sense the excitement building in the air as the groundbreaking and commencement of the project drew near. “For far too long, the existing marketplace has been an eyesore and inconvenience, not only for our dedicated market vendors but also for the visitors who come to experience the beauty of our island," he said.

    He said he had made the redevelopment of the marketplace one of his top priorities on entering office. “The upcoming transformation promises to be something we can all take pride in, setting the stage for a brighter future for our community.”

During the November 7, 2023, Parliament meeting, Member of Parliament Rolando Brison assured the three representatives of the 66 Philipsburg market vendors, mainly single women, most elderly, who depend on the market for their livelihood, that the construction of the new market would start no later than December 2. However, nothing has transpired since then.

The vendors filed a complaint with the Ombudsman on November 23. They submitted a November 20 letter to TEATT Minister Lambriex for consideration. Vendors are adamant about holding accountable those responsible, including the TEATT Minister, VROMI Minister Egbert Doran and Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion.

The vendors, who are also taxpayers contributing to TEATT, appeal to the government for fulfilment of promises made since April. Compounding their frustrations is the alarming occurrence of theft during the night, when sections of their makeshift booths are being stolen. This unfortunate development not only adds to the challenges faced by the vendors, but also raises concerns about the security of their property.

In a more dis-concerting revelation, vendors have reported sightings of a white pickup at the marketplace during the night on several occasions. Witnesses have observed an individual loading plywood from the vendors onto the pickup, sparking concerns of unauthorised and potentially illicit activities.

As the vendors await answers from the Government, the continued delays, theft incidents and reports of suspicious activity underscore the urgency of resolving the situation. The market vendors, predominantly vulnerable individuals, are left in a precarious position, grappling with both the uncertainty surrounding the construction project, the ongoing theft of their essential infrastructure, and now, potential unauthorised activities in the vicinity.

The Philipsburg market vendors reiterate their plea for prompt action, a clear response from the government to address their concerns, restore security and expedite the construction of the much-needed new marketplace.

The Daily Herald

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