Councillors united against vending on Regent Street

City Council Round Up With Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
October 30, 2000

Whatever the court ruling today on the fate of the Regent Street vendors, in the aftermath of the scenes of lawlessness and violent behaviour on the street, city 'fathers' and 'mothers' at their last statutory meeting resolved to hold the line and support members of the city police.

With the exception of the People's National Congress' Patricia Woolford, councillors to a man and woman not only backed the city police in their confrontation with the vendors, but were sympathetic towards a proposal from deputy mayor Robert Williams, for the beefing up of the constabulary in material.

In a lively debate during which Good and Green Guyana (GGG) councillor Shirley Shepherd, delivered her maiden speech after sitting on the council since 1993, the soft-spoken councillor Woolford had another view.

Said she... "Instead of arming the constabulary, the council should look for places to accommodate the vendors." These people are seeking to make a living, she added. As if on cue, the GGG's outspoken councillor Patricia Chase-Green reminded the meeting that it was the street and pavement vendors who had caused J.P. Santos to close down resulting in some 60 persons losing their jobs.

"We must not allow these people (the vendors) to get their own way, this is not a political matter." Councillor Chase-Green argued that if the council yields to the vendors on this issue, it would be better for the officers and councillors to resign.

"We must show them who is running City Hall."

The leader of the People's Progressive Party/Civic group on the council, councillor Fitzgerald Agard congratulated members of the constabulary for holding their own against tremendous provocation and personal attacks.

GGG councillor Shepherd who was greeted with cheers and table thumping by other councillors, related how she was personally abused by a vendor outside a city market while walking along the pavement. Her mistake was to have disarranged clothing which was hanging along the footpath. "We must not allow them to go back on Regent Street."

Another GGG Councillor, Llewellyn John said he took exception to councillor Woolford's remarks, on spending money on the constabulary. "The city police must be respected." GGG councillor Anson Sancho asked "Who is running the city of Georgetown?" He called on the council to strengthen the constabulary in all possible ways so as to confront "this lawlessness and hooligan behaviour."

In the absence of the leader of the PNC group councillor Oscar Clarke and councillor Moses, whose absence was felt during the debate, the other party councillors showed no inclination to prolong the exchanges. It ended with former PNC Mayor Ranwell Jordan, taking over the "chair" in the absence of Mayor Hamilton Green who went to a funeral service and deputy mayor Williams who had to rush to a meeting of the Elections Commission.

The vendors' demand The last statutory meeting was told that some Regent Street vendors who have refused to accept a number of compromise sites offered them by the council to sell their wares came up with their own plan.They want to sell outside Demico House on Croal Street, to be allowed to take over the old Bettencourt building site at the corner of Water and Commerce Streets, or occupy the old Bourda cemetery on Regent Street.

Meanwhile, the council's option for alternative sites for vending is still on the table. These are the Merriman's Mall, as well as Bourda Street and Orange Walk.

During his occupancy of the mayoral chair, city businessman Compton Young had initiated moves to extend the Bourda Market and there was talk about making use of the Bourda cemetery in this exercise. This plan was "shot down" by a group of do-gooders and others who felt that the dead should not be disturbed if even to make way for the living.

The next battle area There are already rumblings, according to this newspaper, from those vendors on Water Street, who will have to comply with a court order delivered by Chief Justice Desiree Bernard earlier this month.

The vendors who have installed several permanent structures on the pavement on Water Street from Commerce to Robb Streets have been given one month to "comply with a licence" entered into between the appellants/plaintiffs and the respondent/defendant, that is the council and the vendors involved.

Under the order the vendors will only be permitted to carry on business between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. They will only be permitted to erect stalls that can be removed after this period. The deadline is one month from October 20th 2000.

The city council is faced with two major problems. Firstly, whose responsibility is it for finding a place for these Water Street "entrepreneurs" to store their goods; secondly, finding the manpower to constantly monitor the situation at the end of the 30-day respite. The council must be forewarned and not allow another Regent Street episode to be replayed, this time in the downtown area.

Le me again appeal to the entire business community in this city and especially the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by the enthusiastic Mr Manniram Prashad to join the council and give support to the orders of the Court which are aimed at restoring sanity to our city.

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