One of the main groups representing small businesses in Jamaica is not ruling out legal action to recover losses suffered by its members as a result of disruptions caused by road projects in the Corporate Area.
The Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) made that clear on Sunday evening when asked to respond to two attorneys suggesting that the affected business operators could have a legal case against the State.
Significant concerns have been raised over the last week about Portia Simpson-Miller Square in particular where vehicular access to the location has been cut off, leaving businesses there, with little or no patronage.
SBAJ President Hugh Johnson told RJR News that legal proceedings were being contemplated, but only as a last resort for the Association, preferring dialogue with the government first.
“To be out on your back flat is unacceptable and I think compensation should be awarded to businesses along the stretch (which) have been so affected,” he declared.
To accomplish that though, he said dialogue with the government was the preferred option, “because I believe the worst compromise is better than the best lawsuit.”
“It is not leaving a good taste in our mouth for the NWA to be saying that they have had meetings, as an excuse, or they have called meetings, because no matter how may meetings they would have called couldn’t fully explain or rationalise this debacle that we have come up on, and I think it is a combination of government ministries that has caused it to be happening this way, even though we believe the work is necessary at this time, but it could be better structured to have ease of commerce and also to facilitate some level of business,” he said.
Advertising support “to drive back some businesses to their establishments in short order” is one option that should be considered by the government, he added.
Regarding the feasibility of legal challenges being successful, two attorneys have offered the affected business operators some hope, saying that a case could possibly be made out.
“There are concepts, for example of malfeasance and nonfeasance, in terms of the government doing damage or not acting in a way that it ought to have acted. But I think we must have the discussion about, and do a lot more research on the extent to which the person can bring a claim,” attorney at law Nicole Gordon said Sunday afternoon on RJR’s That’s a Rap.
Her colleague, Clive Munroe Jr., suggested that those business operators who have lost access to their properties could possibly seek a remedy in the Constitutional Court.
“Under the new Charter (of Rights in Chapter III of the Jamaican Constitution) there’s an expressed right to property, and part of your right to property is actually your ability to access that property, and for some of these places, they seem not to be able to access the properties at all, so if it is that you are boxed off on all sides and you can’t actually get it, perhaps there is a remedy there,” he said.