A BREWING social media firestorm, replete with claims of racism and elitism, was doused on Monday by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith after police stopped the sale of pre-packaged doubles at a gas station in Port of Spain.
Griffith apologised on social media for his officers’ action and said it was a mistake.
Andre James, general manager of St Christopher’s Service Station on Wrightson Road, confirmed that police visited the gas station and told him the sale of the doubles violated covid19 regulations on the sale of processed meals.
Contacted for comment, James said the police were “very gracious,” and he and his team were “happy to comply,” with their request. He said the police allowed the gas station to sell out the remaining stock on Monday.
The police also permitted them to continue selling other pre-packed meals, including sandwiches, wraps, pastries and fried pies.
In an official statement, James said, “In keeping with the regulations directed by the TT Police Service, St Christopher’s Service Station…has been asked to suspend the sale of our fresh and tasty Original Fat Boy Doubles until the stay-at-home order has been lifted.”
As news broke over social media of the police’s order to shut down sale of the pre-packaged doubles, a drizzle of condemnation soon turned into a brisk shower and then a hurricane.
One Facebook user cried: “I hope the police are going to Massy and Superpharm and taking away all their pre-packaged foods from them as well! What in real effin hell is this, to go shut down the sale of the pre-packaged doubles. Massy is still selling their rotisserie chicken and other foods. Why should doubles be treated this way? I am ready to believe that the police really out to get the doubles sellers yes. Smdh.”
San Juan MP Dr Fuad Khan issued a statement at 4.27 pm,on Monday roundly condemning the police action and blaming the government.
“The latest reports regarding the cease and desist order presented to St Christopher’s Gas Station regarding the sale of deconstructed doubles and other food items is not only necessary, but is quite frankly ridiculous in the face of what is occurring in our country at this time,” Khan said.
“Global history is replete with examples of industries that used crisis and catastrophes to adapt and evolve in a manner that benefited us all, yet, the mere contemplation of such a thing is immediately shattered by this PNM administration. This is a prime example of the type of backwards thinking that Keith Rowley and his comrades have been criticised for the past four years, and they appear to have no intentions of changing even at the end of their term in office,” he continued.
“Had the PNM employed the same type of vigor and urgency to other matters of state, as they have been doing with regards to the doubles industry, our country would not be facing the looming collapse of the economy as we are today.”
However, at the same time Khan was issuing his release, CoP Griffith was doing likewise via his Facebook page.
The top cop said that in addition to shutting down the sale of the pre-packaged doubles on Monday, police also visited the kitchen at Massy Stores on French Street, Woodbrook and ordered the kitchen closed and the sale of pre-packaged foods stopped.
Griffith then apologised on behalf of the police service, saying, “This was done in error.” He said upon realising what was done, he reminded the officers in question of the regulations of the Public Health Ordinance, which allow for “the preparation and sale” of pre-packaged food items.
Griffith’s statement also said according to regulation 10 of the public health regulations implemented to curb the spread of covid19, it was street vending of food and beverages and all retail food services (including restaurants’ in-house dining, delivery and take-away services) that were to be closed.
Social media users were grateful for Griffith’s apology with many praising him for recognising the police’s error and acting swiftly to remedy the situation.
The pre-packaged “Fresh and Tasty Original Fat Boy Doubles” project was a collaboration between the St Christopher’s service station and Ronald Pyango, who has been selling under the name Original Fat Boy doubles and pies for over 30 years in St James and Petit Valley.
James said Pyango approached him with the idea of selling his doubles as a pre-packaged meal. Pyango said since the launch of the product last Friday, it has been flying off the shelves. “Everybody liked it,” he said.
On hearing of Griffith’s apology, Pyango said he was pleased.
“That is great,” he said with a laugh. “I’m really happy to serve the people again.”
James issued a statement on Monday afternoon, after Griffith’s apology, saying the pre-packaged doubles will be back on sale from 6 am on Tuesday.
Contacted for comment on Monday, a representative from Sauce Doubles, which was shut down in mid-April and has not reopened since, said what happened at St Christopher’s was unfair.
“(Fat Boy) had his innovative way of making an honest dollar in this hard time. It wasn’t harming anybody,” the Sauce Doubles representative said ,adding that she wanted to publicly commend the Police Commissioner for correcting the situation.
“Everybody deserves their fair chance in life,” she said.