PM's vendor relocation proposals 'nonsensical'

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
October 4, 2000

Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green has described as "nonsensical" proposals by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds for resolving the Regent Street vendors' issue and said the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) would not back down from restoring order to the city.

The Prime Minister's proposals that open spaces such as Independence Park, the John Ford Car Park and the St Phillips Green be used to relocate the vendors and for mini-bus parks did not go down well with Green.

Hinds, in a statement issued on Monday, had urged that the vendors and other stakeholders consider the levelling of empty lots for temporary use. He had also suggested arranging the John Ford Car Park between Church and Middle streets for vending in the avenue.

Hinds also recommended for discussion combining mini-bus parking and vending in one area. He said Independence Park on Middle Street could be used for mini-buses from the East Coast, Berbice and as well as around the town buses; St Phillips Green on High Street could be used as a park for mini-buses from Mahdia, Linden, East Bank, West Bank, West Coast and around the town buses.

But the Mayor, at a press conference he hosted yesterday at City Hall, castigated the Prime Minister for the proposals and stated that the country's second in command was not properly advised.

Green said it was a personal insult that the Prime Minister had suggested Independence Park. The Mayor noted that earlier this year, the sod was turned on this very area for the construction of an emancipation monument in honour of his (Green's) slave ancestors who were put to death there following an uprising.

He said he could remember that some time ago when the idea of placing vendors at the St Phillip's Green surfaced, the Anglican Church had expressed alarm; and since an application by a developer for the John Ford Car Park was being considered by City Hall, this proposal was also out.

The Prime Minister, in his statement, had said he had found direct and indirect "sympathetic support," in varying degrees for the above proposals from leader of The United Force Manzoor Nadir, Deputy Mayor Robert Williams, businessman Stanley Ming and others who he said could be the core of a working group to immediately consider and implement solutions.

However, Williams said yesterday that he had had no discussion with the Prime Minister on the issue of the vendors.

Green suggested that the Prime Minister could use his authority to solicit the use of the portion of land on Mandela Avenue where several heavy-duty vehicles were parked.

Asked what if any alternative arrangements were being made for the Regent Street vendors, Green said the council was open to discussions. However, he said, he would not speak with punks and hooligans, "like the kind who tried to overturn the Town Clerk's and my car."

He said any discussion with vendors would be within the framework of the larger plan to make the city viable. In admonishing the Prime Minister, Green said his proposals were not in keeping with the Town Plan, which was soon to be approved for implementation.

Consultant to the Ministry of Housing, Akhtar Khan, had developed a draft Town Plan, which was currently being discussed and reviewed.

Green complimented the Sunday Stabroek for an editorial on the desecration of the Promenade Gardens by the construction of the National Bank of Industry and Commerce building on New Market Street just opposite this landmark. The mayor accepted part of the blame for the approval of this construction. He said it was a prime case of not having established space for specific purposes.

He said discussions on the Regent Street vendors would not be simple and the answers not clear-cut. He said that he would speak with any group of citizens who wanted to negotiate serious issues.

Green said he knew that there were vendors who were decent and honest who kept within the framework of the M&CC. He also expressed sympathy for the female vendors who were affected. He said, historically, in making changes and setting things right there were and would be casualties. But, he said, the council would have to ignore the emotional aspects. He said that in the past he as mayor has been described as being "too soft, lenient and Godfather of vendors."

City Hall would continue to bring order to the city, he said, adding that the vendors' misguided use of the court as a marshalling point brought an end to the negotiations they had with the M&CC for vending on Regent Street.

He said vendors in the municipal markets with large overhead expenses had complained to City Hall about the unfair competition from the street vendors.

The Merriman's Mall and the Stelling View Market were two areas where vendors had refused to take up positions. He said the vendors wanted to stay on the pavements blocking legitimate businesses, adding that some spent all night at their stalls, cooking, watching television and playing cards.

Meanwhile, the vendors who had been staging marches on Regent Street and around City Hall, changed tactics yesterday. A crowd of them descended on a store at the corner of King and Robb Streets and forced employees to remove items displayed for sale outside the store.

This done, they moved to Vintage Store on Robb Street and forced owner Robert Bristol and employees to remove items from in front of the store. The very vocal crowd, shouting: "We can't sell. They can't sell," even removed items that were hanging on and above the door of the store.

The vendors whose numbers swell in the afternoons then took up positions along the pavement on Regent Street between King Street and Avenue of the Republic. A large number assembled in front of the Acme Photo Studio.

There was a smaller number of police present yesterday and ingress and egress from City Hall was unimpeded.

And some store owners have expressed satisfaction with the council's actions. Some claimed that business had picked up since the pavement was cleared.

The Clerical and Commercial Workers Union has also come out in support of the M&CC's actions. According to a statement from the union, the CCWU was pleased with the M&CC's action to clean Regent Street.

However, its General Secretary, Grantley Culbard, pointed out that the M&CC should go further and take similar action against the Water Street vendors. The union said it was concerned over the ugly spectacle that obtained in the city with regard to vending on the pavement.

CCWU said this topic would be debated at its adjourned 5th Biennial Delegates Conference, which will resume later this month. Culbard is of the view that the M&CC should provide a proper facility to house the vendors who are being removed so that they could continue to ply their trade.

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