City Hall's stance on Regent St vendors wilting under pressure

City Council Round Up
With Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
October 23, 2000

City Hall's resolve to enforce a court order against the vendors on Regent Street seems to be wilting under pressure from a group of "small entrepreneurs" intent to stand their ground in defiance of the law.

Last Saturday after some three weeks during which shopping on Regent Street and on the pavement was no longer a hassle the situation changed for the worse as some vendors took up positions outside certain stores and brazenly displayed their wares. Those who did not set up makeshift stalls occupied whatever vacant fence or wall was available.

Using the condemned building site at the corner of Regent and Wellington Streets as the centre of their operation a group of vendors refused to heed the warning of the City Council, that the structure is likely to come crashing down on them at any time.

When I walked there around midday the defiant ones were being entertained with music and dancing on Wellington Street. From newspaper reports the city police were forced to back off in the face of threats and the throwing of missiles.

With just two days more to go before the hearing of an appeal by the vendors against former High Court judge Carl Singh's decision preventing them from selling on Regent Street, the mood of the street sellers was frightening to say the least.

The City Police The city `fathers' and `mothers' must now be prepared to undertake an immediate review of the operations of the City Constabulary, from the Chief Constable to the lowest ranks. Undoubtedly over the past three weeks members of the constabulary especially the lower ranks have been under heavy strain having to face up to hostile and sometimes menacing groups of vendors. The question can be asked, where were the senior officers and the chief constable in all of this?

Yes, it is for the troops to be on the battlefield, but in this existing scenario the visibility of the top brass is not only reassuring to those below, but would send a message to the defiant ones who are bent on making trouble.

The Legal Affairs and Security committee of the council headed by attorney-at-law councillor Llewellyn John, should tell councillors what functions are being performed by former assistant Police Commissioner Fredericks who was employed some two years ago as a consultant to the Chief Constable. Is the constabulary making any use of his police experience and expertise...?" I know when he first took up the job he had difficulty in being provided with the basic necessities such as a desk. Why is it that Mr. Fredericks' office is on Water Street, and the Chief Constable is based in the City Hall compound at headquarters...?

The members of the city police will soon be given additional duties ensuring that an order by the Chief Justice against the vendors on Water Street is carried out.

These vendors have been given one month from October 20 to reconstruct their stalls in keeping with a decision by the City Council in 1995.

Make no mistake, the Water Street sellers are looking on with interest on how the Regent Street issue is going to play out and how resolute the city `fathers' and `mothers' will be in giving the necessary back-up to members of the City Police as they monitor the two areas.

Action now Following Justice Carl Singh's decision there were reassurances from the Mayor's office that the Merriman's Mall between Cummings and East streets is being considered as one of the places where some vendors could be accommodated.

Another alternative was Bourda Street, utilising the eastern portion of the street.

Up to last Saturday small vendors selling fruits, vegetables, coconuts and even a variety of home-made oils, such as crab oil, not forgetting a wide variety of groceries were being sold on the mall which according to a release from the Mayor's office was exclusively for wholesaling.

I met and spoke with one female vendor who was displaying readymade clothing on a makeshift stall with no protection from the elements. Nothing was happening there... come on city hall your credibility is on the line...

Unfinished business Chief constable, why are persons allowed especially on Saturdays to sell readymade clothing from boxes and a hand cart on the Main Street pavement just outside Guyana Stores... Is someone getting `cheese'...?

To the Medical Officer of Health... Dr Shury... people are still selling food and pastries on the Regent Street pavement outside Courts. Is your department aware of this flouting of the by-laws? This is for mayor Hamilton Green: what is so important and necessary at this time that a motion dealing with a street name change ... in fact it's not a street, but a `place' should form part of the agenda for the last statutory meeting of this month?

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