Stalls must be removed after 6 pm
- CJ rules

By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 21, 2000

The Water Street vendors were yesterday given one month to comply with a licence drafted by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) some five years ago which allows them to hawk their wares between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm, once they remove their stalls at the end of the day.

The order was made by Chief Justice Desiree Bernard who along with Justice Oswell Legall presided over the matter in the Full Court.

The Full Court heard the application by the vendors for a continued stay of execution of an injunction granted to the council in January this year by Justice Desmond Burch-Smith restraining vendors from operating after 5:00 pm and ordering them to remove their stalls. The vendors had appealed and the matter was heard by Justice Nandram Kissoon who ordered that they sell between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm thus giving them one more hour.

The application was filed by vendors; Grantley Lewis, Anne Payne, Gopaul Ramdas, Shyam Ramsingh, Samuel Mc Intyre and Sonia Mc Kenzie on behalf of some 400 Water Street vendors.

Appearing for the vendors was attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes, who is also counsel for the Regent Street vendors; appearing for the M&CC were Senior Counsel Keith Massiah and attorney-at-law Robert Ramcharran.

After lengthy arguments back and forth between the two sides Chief Justice Bernard arrived at a decision which both sides grudgingly agreed to.

In his initial arguments Hughes said that the application had a broader parameter than the vendors complying with the terms of the licence. He argued that since the licence was drafted exactly five years ago, on October 20, 1995, the vendors had constructed stalls that could not be dismantled and added that the M&CC could not on February 1, 2000 seek to dismantle the stalls after it had sat and watched the said structures being erected. He noted that the City Council claimed that it was never in agreement with the permanent structures being built, but he was advised by his clients that then mayor Ranwell Jordan had held discussions with the vendors on what type of stalls they should build.

Even before Hughes completed his argument, Massiah was on his feet retorting that the lawyer's argument made no sense to him since the licence which the vendors oppose clearly stated that the stalls must be dismantled at the end of a day's sale.

Hughes responded by pointing out that the stalls the City Council had suggested the vendors build could not contain the wares it authorised the vendors to sell.

During the heated debate between the two lawyers, Justice Bernard interjected that the vendors were not being prevented from any economic activities, but they must comply with the licence. "I don't see any problem with this issue," the judge said.

Hughes suggested to the court that bearing in mind that the Christmas season was close and the vendors had loans to repay as well as find money to rebuild their stalls, they should form a committee and meet the City Council to agree on what design the new structures should have.

He further suggested that the parties report back to the court in one month, armed with the design, but this suggestion did not find favour in the eyes of Justice Bernard.

The judge said that while she was aware that many of the vendors had children and could not be thrown to the wolves, that did not preclude them from complying with the by-laws of the city.

"The only issue is getting structures that can be moved and all parties must make an effort to put things back on track," Justice Bernard said.

Massiah suggested that the vendors be given one week to erect movable structures, but the judge told him a week was much too short and that it was unreasonable. The judge said that the problem was not only a legal one, but also a social one and the only solution was for the vendors to resort to the terms of the licence. She appealed to the 20-odd vendors present in court to make a special effort to comply with the city's by-laws.

She further suggested that the vendors and their counsel meet the City Council in two weeks' time for them to agree on a storage place for the stalls, since Hughes pointed out that 'Donkey City' in Lombard Street where the vendors were originally to store their stalls lacked security.

Street vendors have been in the news recently following the discharge of an injunction by Justice Carl Singh which enabled the city council to dismantle all stalls on Regent Street. The street has since been cleared and vendors have been agitating daily to be allowed to return to their previous positions. The city council has said it is sticking by its decision to keep the street clear.

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