Searching for a solution

Guyana Chronicle
October 11, 2000

THE search continued yesterday for a resolution of the problem of where to place the vendors the City Council has evicted from Regent Street after it won a court battle that had been pending for years to remove the sellers.

There have been views from many quarters on the issue but the overriding factor is that the decision of the court has to be upheld, even by the government.

The rule of law has to be paramount in a democratic, ordered society and the vendors must be commended for so far not going overboard in their street demonstrations to draw public attention to their problem - finding a place to continue vending.

They have heeded the calls of the police monitoring their protests to stay in line and they have been seeking meetings even with the President of the Republic to discuss a possible solution to their rift with the City Council.

While no one can deny the right of anyone to making an honest living, there are rules that have to be followed.

When these rules are broken, pure chaos results.

And that is what has prevailed for years on Regent Street and other streets in Georgetown with the vendors - people not adhering to the rules.

The phenomenon of sellers taking over the pavements of streets and claiming the fronts of established stores as their territory had been allowed to go unchecked for too long.

Regardless of the contributions of the traders to keeping a whole range of goods flowing in those best forgotten days when Guyanese were short of everything from toilet paper and matches to flour, chicken, eggs and medicines, sellers should not have been allowed to take up roots and sprout on the pavements of main city streets.

They started out in small numbers and might have even been encouraged by some in authority for a variety of reasons but there was no reason for them to take over, as they eventually did.

That vendors takeover gave Georgetown a kind of notoriety it could have done without.

It has been transformed from the Garden City of the Caribbean to the Garbage City of the Caribbean and it had become common for visitors who had seen the street sellers phenomenon to wonderingly ask Guyanese they met overseas whether the vendors were "still there".

Groups of these sellers had taken to virtually living in the semi-permanent quarters they established at their selling posts on the sidewalks.

Even some banks were not safe from the incursions by the vendors and the Automatic Banking Machines (ABMs) some offer away from their main offices, have been a major blessing for customers, sparing them the stress, fear and harassment of having to move through the vendors outposts to get into and out of some banks.

Sellers stationed near to and around banks must be unique to Guyana's capital city.

Previous initiatives to move sellers from off the streets to quarters not far from the commercial centre of the city have not been successful but a solution has to be found to the satisfaction of all concerned.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, with some of his Cabinet Ministers, acted as a `facilitator' yesterday at a meeting to explore possible solutions between the City Council and representatives of the vendors.

Some proposals have been put forward and business people, citizens of the city and many others will be watching closely at how these latest plans unfold.

The desirable outcome is giving back the freedom of the pavements to pedestrians and shoppers and their storefronts to the store owners.

The best possible way towards this is dialogue and we welcome the continuing efforts at talking to find a satisfactory solution.

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