Removing the vendors from Regent Street

By Miranda LaRose
Stabroek News
October 9, 2000

The man/woman in the street this week comment on the removal of vendors from Regent Street by the city council following the discharge of an injunction by the High Court. Should the vendors return to Regent Street? Their views follow:

Victor McAllister - taxi-driver: `It wasn't a bad idea to move the vendors off the streets but they should have been given notice. I think that the Mayor and City Council [M&CC] acted rashly because they have thrown hundreds of households into disarray. There is a human side to all of this. In addition, the vendors support storeowners. The vendors buy wholesale from the stores who retail to consumers. No, I do not think that the vendors should be allowed to return to sell on the streets. However, I would suggest that there be a `Vendors Day' on Regent Street probably a Sunday when Regent Street would be opened to them to vend their wares. The street could be blocked off to vehicular traffic. In this way, the City Council could earn revenue and authorised vendors would benefit. In other parts of the world it is done. This could even be an attraction for tourists who may have only a Sunday on which to do shopping.'

Tilak Dharie - public sector employee: `No don't bring back the vendors on Regent Street. We have had enough problems on the street with them and others who sheltered under the umbrella of vendors. The street belongs to honest hardworking taxpayers. No selling should take place on the pavement. Some of the vendors actually beat people when they touch their goods. You could not even park on the street because the vendors would complain that you are interfering with their sales. The way they behaved is that ordinary citizens had no right to the street or the pavement. I agree that people have to make a living but government and the municipality should ensure that certain open places could be made available to them as shopping malls. South Ruimveldt Shopping Plaza for instance should have been a shopping mall. What is it now? Nothing but residences for a number of people. Make the shopping plaza what it was intended for. In addition, all new housing schemes should make provision for shopping areas so that the problems of the vendors do not resurface. I also do not agree with the suggestion that the vendors should be relocated to John Ford Car Park. There is the Winfer Gardens school nearby and that could be a hazard for the children.'

J. Lewis - engineer: `To find the solution the Mayor and City Council needs to set up a body which will include an engineer, an architect, a town planner, a city council representative, a government representative and a vendors' representative to find the solution to the problems and they will come up with solutions. There should be no lawyers or politicians as they are the ones who are causing the problems. The whole of last week, lost in protesting up and down the street, should have been spent finding the solution. Everybody likes the street clean but the vendors still have to live. Someone I know suggested covering over the canal on Avenue of the Republic but if that is to be done it would call for regular maintenance and vendors would have to agree to shut down at least once every three months. I would suggest removing the Central Fire Station and placing staff and resources at Alberttown, Campbellville and Ruimveldt thereby improving on service as well. This area south of Stabroek Market could then be increased to accommodate the vendors. Even the ministry could be relocated to stop blocking Stelling View. This means that Stelling View could become a thriving area as well.'

Anthony Joseph - unemployed qualified accounts clerk: `As much as there needs to be law and order on the streets, I would not comment on whether the vendors should be brought back on the streets or not but I think that Mayor Green should have given the vendors notice so that they could have made alternative arrangements to relocate. It is hard for the vendors because they have bills to pay, loans to pay back, children to send to school and generally families to upkeep. What I don't understand is why the City Council took rent from them and insisted on identification badges if their action of occupying the pavement was illegal. The Christmas season is coming up. What will the vendors do? After that the elections will be on and we know that there is generally a decline in the economy of the country after elections. Vending was a solution to unemployment. Right now the unemployment rate is high and finding no alternative accommodation for the vendors will add to the unemployment situation.'

Asgar Alli - fish vendor: `Regent Street looks beautiful right now and it should remain this way. The removal of the vendors off the pavement is probably the best thing this current council has done. The City Council is cleaning up the gutters and this will improve sanitation in the city. Removing the vendors will help in preventing bandits and choke and robbers from harassing shoppers and workers going about their business. I do not think it is the duty of the City Council to find employment or a place for the vendors. But government and the City Council could work together to find an alternative accommodation for them. Once the injunction brought against the M&CC by the Water Street vendors is thrown out I think that the City Council should clean up Water Street. The vendors there should start finding alternative accommodation. I think the City Council needs support from citizens who want a return to normality. No one is saying that the vendors do not have a right to live but they have a right to live within the law and ensure law and order. They must do it legally. After all, everyone has to earn a living.'

Sharon Allicock - private sector employee: `To be honest the situation is a scary one for me. Before the mayor moved the vendors a place should have been found for them. Everybody got to make a living. Now sales in stores on Regent Street have dropped. People are afraid to come on Regent Street to shop because they are afraid the vendors might resort to looting and other illegal practices. If no proper place could be found for them maybe the best thing to do would be to bring them back on Regent Street until a permanent place is identified for them.'

Alvin Punch - public sector employee: `I do not support bringing back the vendors on the street but at the same time I do not agree with the Mayor and City Council's action in moving against the vendors as they did. They should have given them at least one week's notice and then move to break down whatever structures they had on the streets. Hamilton Green should have remembered that the vendors were the same people who put him in office. Green actually sanctioned them being on the streets by giving them identification cards. I work right here on Regent Street and I know the confusion that existed on the street before the vendors were removed. I would suggest that the mayor find place for them on the Merriman's Mall.'

Alexis Gonsalves - computer student: `The street looks tidy and it feels good walking the street without feeling anxious about security and all that. But I am somewhat disturbed about the vendors not having a place to sell at this time when they have expenses including children to send to school and bills to pay. Many of them are single parents. Where will they find employment? I do not think that the issue of finding a place for them should be left on the City Council. Neither do I think the City Council should ignore them. Government and the council should meet and find a solution to this problem. They need to act urgently or the city will find itself with other social problems on hand.'

Angad Amirally - self-employed: `The street looks better than it has in a long, long time. Now is the time for the government, the mayor and members of the private sector to find a permanent place for the vendors. Bringing them back on Regent Street is not the solution.'

Veronica Bagot - housewife: `The Mayor and City Council and the government have to find places to relocate the vendors. It must not be done arbitrarily by the council or the government. I know some of the vendors are very hostile. For instance I recall just a few days ago my head touched an item while I was walking down the street and a female vendor asked me if `you blind.' I feel good walking down Regent Street now. The place looks decent and clean. It is so refreshing. There are places in the city where they could be relocated to but they may not be in central Georgetown but if you want the doctor bad enough you go to the doctor. Don't you?'

Othello - political activist: `Before the Mayor and City Council issued the order to remove the vendors off the pavement they should have put something in place to accommodate them. I do not agree with the mayor's action. The vendors should have also been notified. Other than that I have no comments as to whether they should return to sell on the Regent Street pavement.'

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