Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
VENDORS at Festival Place yesterday expressed fears of job security and suggested victimisation ahead of lengthy renovations to the roof and floor of the tourist attraction.
Several vendors at the downtown marketplace, who requested anonymity, said they were concerned of not being allowed to re-enter the Prince George Wharf attraction because government officials had not delivered on the promise of contracts to secure stalls and a laundry list of other improvements before the facility is closed this Friday for a few months.
However, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe dismissed the concerns saying that while the vendors are required to leave the facility for a dry run on Tuesday, all of their requests will be fulfilled while renovations are completed.
“Everything that they are supposed to have they will have,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “That’s the reality of the situation and we wouldn’t hurt anyone. That is not who I am and it is not my style.
“There are one or two of them that are really never satisfied, but Festival Place has to be renovated and there is no way around it. The plans underway are not with a view to hurt anyone. The claims are foolish.”
The vendors further complained that government officials had not adequately communicated the proposed plans for Festival Place and the temporary accommodations were not sufficient. The temporary facility is located at Prince George Wharf, near Festival Place.
“Festival Place is supposed to be closing for renovations of the roof and floor,” the vendors said in a statement. “The estimated time of renovation changed from six months to one year while Bahamians suffer outside in the rain during the hurricane season, in little booths with rain coming in from the front and through little slits in the back. How inhumane.
“We have had two meetings with the government. The last one was May 2 and there was a promise to us of contracts to ensure our return into the building. There has been talks of Bay Street merchants coming into Festival Place when it is reopened, and not the Bahamian artisans, which is the original purpose of the opening of Festival Place.
“There was also the promise of 24-hour security but to the contrary, a memo was sent out about two weeks ago stating that security will be only be from 7am to 7pm. Without that it is slave labour to tote things to and from every day. Additionally the bathroom facility is sub-par but because it is cleaned every morning and used a lot in the night it is extremely rank when we report to work. And generally there isn’t proper lighting for security purposes.
“We also need repairs, the doors are already falling off the hinges and they swelling because they are made out of pressed wood.”
Mr Wilchcombe has promised to give further updates to the media on the upgrades to Festival Place as changes unfold.