PNC/R seeking to stall Water Street vendors relocation
- PPP/C claims

Guyana Chronicle
August 16, 2001

THE governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) claims the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) is seeking to stall the relocation of vendors on Water Street, Georgetown.

In a statement yesterday, it also accused the PNC/R of attempting to misrepresent the amendment to the Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act.

"There is nothing sinister about the simple amendment. The PNC and its cronies' objections are clearly for a political purpose, i.e. to frustrate the Government's resolve to solving the chronic problem of street vending", it said.

The amendment comes up in Parliament today but the PNC/R yesterday said it will boycott the sitting, claiming the Government was using a "legal sledge hammer" to acquire the vacant site owned by Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) on Water Street to put the vendors.

The vendors, blocked from selling on the street by a court order, have supported the proposal by the Government to shift to a Vendors Arcade on the vacant plot.

The PNC/R charged that the administration was seeking to expropriate the land from Toolsie Persaud "under the guise of providing a venue for the Water Street vendors", rather than negotiate in good faith an agreement acceptable to both sides.

It claimed this was a "dangerous assault on the fundamental right to private property which is enshrined in the Constitution, and must be protected from capricious acts by the Government."

The PNC/R said it was firmly committed to a sustainable solution which entails the provision of purpose-built modern facilities for the Water Street vendors to pursue their legitimate livelihood, adding that it is not opposed, in principle, to the acquisition of the TPL land or any other land to provide accommodation for the vendors.

It called on the Government to give a clear assurance that, whatever happens, it would erect proper physical facilities for the vendors.

The PPP/C said the relocation of the vendors can lead to orderliness in the central commercial area of the city and will benefit storeowners, the vendors, shoppers and the Georgetown community as a whole.

It said the Government is proposing a simple amendment or a clarification to the existing legislation that has been in existence since December 17, 1914.

"Those who seek to give the amendment an `anti-investment' spin are mischievous. The PPP/C Government's track record on creating an investment-friendly climate as well as the innumerable policy measures and facilities offered to the private sector, reveal the true picture", the governing alliance said.

It noted that an Investment Code was last week tabled in the National Assembly, providing greater protection and ease for investors to conduct their business here.

The Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act and the proposed amendment is similar to what obtains in many other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, the PPP/C said.

"Unlike the practice of the PNC, the PPP/C Government has not nationalised or confiscated any plot of land. One glaring case of the PNC confiscation of land was when it took away a large tract of land from one private holder and handed it over to one of its cronies", it said.

The records will show that whatever properties were acquired under the PPP/C Government were for public purposes - bridges, drainage and irrigation structures, schools, health centres, among others, it said.

The PPP/C added that owners and/or occupants were adequately compensated as catered for in the laws of the country.

The PNC/R said the PPP/C must respect the Opposition and the National Assembly by ensuring that the institutional mechanism of the All Party Management Committee is used, as intended, to manage the business of the National Assembly.

It accused the PPP/C of disregarding the consensual approach to the ordering of Parliamentary business, claiming this was preventing a culture of political cooperation from being developed in the country.

But the PPP/C said the Opposition party was "being economical with the truth" by claiming the Opposition was not consulted on the amendment.

It said Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. Reepu Daman Persaud, had contacted a representative of the Opposition on the All Party Management Committee on the same issue and a copy of the proposed amendment was sent, in advance, to the Leader of the Opposition.

It said the stand on the issue by the PNC/R and others was retrogressive.