Businessman hopes peace meeting brings change to Central Kingston
Gang war between the Wellyskelly gang of Wellington Street and Water Street in Central Kingston have forced Timothy Stewart, operator of Big T and Sons Restaurant and Jerk Centre, to close the establishment for close to three years.
Stewart's business is located on the corner of Victoria Avenue which borders the warring gangs' turf. Last Friday, the 71-year-old reopened his doors and is hoping that a peace meeting between the warring factions will bring an end to the bloodshed.
"Believe mi, outta di 30 years where mi have da restaurant here, I don't get one year straight to open because of the war. Sometimes as yuh put the pot on fire and take it off the shot dem start fire and yuh have to give way everything. Mi close it three years ago after dem kill a girl in the shop. Mi really hope this peace thing will work because everybody tired of the war," he said.
Residents of Central Kingston have been begging for peace following the shooting deaths and injuring of dozens of persons over the past four years. The war stretches back for decades, and in 2008, Stewart nearly lost his life after he was hit by a stray bullet. He told THE WEEKEND STAR that he was unable to walk for more than a year. He said he was not the only one who felt the piercing feeling of a bullet as family members and staff have also been hit.
"Dem shoot mi wife one day when she pull di gate and a go out and two a mi worker dem get shot and dem shoot mi inna mi side. Even one of my sons got shot and injured as well. Mi never know mi woulda live and it was one of the most difficult time a mi life. Mi diabetic and that make it worse," Stewart said.
He said the building was valued at millions of dollars but there is hardly anyone brave enough to rent it.
"It cost mi over $1.3 million to fix this place before I reopened because all the roof start crack up. Mi guh through some rough times right here but mi can't give up. Nobody don't want this building to rent because it on a border line and nobody nah buy it, suh mi have to brave it and open back the business. This building value about $27 million but who ago come down here and spend $27 million?," Stewart said.
"This place could be great but the gunmen nah give it a chance. Mi reopen on Friday because mi can't sit dung. Sitting down not in my vocabulary. I cannot work for people again but business not good as before. One time I used to sell 100 pound a rice a day and dem time deh mi use to open until midnight, but as 8 p.m. mi lock now," Stewart added.
The peace meeting was held on Thursday. Like other residents in the warring community, Stewart is hoping that it will bring an end to decades of continuous bloodshed.
"The initiative is good but yuh see the youth dem, 90 per cent of dem can't write dem name and a deh so the problem come in. If one say jump, the next one nah ask why. One time badman nah walk and make a big person see dem with a gun, but dem one here a walk brawling," he said.