“We closed down the megaphones, and we were able to have dialogue,” was how Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell described a meeting he had yesterday with vendors who had picketed his office.
The day before, their unannounced placard toting at the ministry drew the police, who moved them off the compound and to the street.
They’ve been protesting for about a month to ensure that a 100-million-US-dollar proposal to develop a Beaches Resort at Long Bay would not prevent their earning a living on what is one of the most popular beaches in the country, and when pickets at the beach in the far east of Antigua did not work, they moved the action to the capital on Thursday winning an audience with Lovell yesterday.
He acknowledged that the protests might have been shorter lived if he had spoken to the vendors sooner and said that all it took to satiate them was a discussion in which misconceptions on both sides were dispelled.
“We were able to have dialogue, and I think this is something that was definitely necessary, and it certainly served its purpose,” Lovell said after the talk, which also involved vendors from Jolly Beach and the Vendors Mall.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Tourism Policy and Planning Director, Cortwright Marshall, was also present.
Lovell also said, “I have constantly sought to reassure the vendors and all others that we’re going to make sure that their interests are looked after and that every person can legitimately earn a living and continue to support and maintain their families.”
Earlier in the day there was chanting by about 20 people bearing placards reading,“Save Long Bay beach from the Beaches brand”; “Lovell, you are not to be trusted. You must go”; and “The beach is not for sale”.
The issue, however, is not quite settled because no one in yesterday’s meeting could say for sure what hotelier Gordon Butch Stuart of Jamaica hopes to do at Long Bay as his drawings have not yet been produce. Lovell could not say exactly when he’d have those in hand, but he said there will be a follow-up consultation with the vendors in about a week.