Work on alternative vending site to start next week - Mayor

By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
November 2, 2000

Work on the Merriman's Mall, the proposed relocation site for the displaced Regent Street vendors, is expected to begin by next week paving the way for the peddlers to take up spots by the end of the month, according to Mayor Hamilton Green.

Green told Stabroek News yesterday he had spoken to the Office of the President and the Ministry of Public Works and it was agreed that work would begin.

The mayor recalled that at the meeting between himself, President Bharrat Jagdeo and representatives of the vendors it was agreed that the vendors would not return to Regent Street but would be relocated to a part of the mall. The work on the mall will cost approximately eight to nine million dollars and will include the grading of the site to increase its holding capacity thereby preventing flooding. Mayor Green said that the survey, drawings and the drainage work had already been done.

Meanwhile, about fifty vendors and a few schoolchildren in uniforms bearing placards yesterday staged a peaceful protest in front of City Hall. In addition to appealing for their return to Regent Street the vendors are calling on President Jagdeo to order a public enquiry into the circumstances that led to the violent confrontation between them and members of the city constabulary on October 24.

On that date vendors and members of the city constabulary had several confrontations which resulted in a few members of the constabulary being injured and several vendors charged with various offences. One of the constables was seriously stabbed and had to be hospitalised. A few days later, a vendor was shot by a city constable after he attempted to evade arrest.

It has been thirty-two days since the vendors were removed from Regent Street and according to spokeperson for the vendors, David Cave, they are appealing to the authorities to allow them to sell on Regent Street until the end of the year. He said that following discussions the vendors are willing to be relocated to the John Ford Car Park between East Street and Quamina Street. It is also being suggested that the Fire Station be relocated to a more central point in the city so that the vendors can use the building to hawk their wares. Cave said the vendors will continue the peaceful protest until someone in authority hears their voice and intervenes in the matter.

Other than the early morning protest the Regent Street area was quiet yesterday and some vendors still continued hawking on the pavement while a few others chose to showcase their goods under the dilapidated building at the corner of Regent and Wellington streets although its owner has fenced the yard.

The vendors were removed by the city after Justice Carl Singh discharged an injunction the vendors had gotten against the Mayor and City Council.

And the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) on Tuesday urged that both the city and the vendors desist from acts that might result in breaches of the peace, injury, loss of life and disruption of normal life in the capital.

A release from the union said that the standoff between the city council and the vendors, while offering no solution to the problem, has been allowed to persist without any serious intervention by the relevant authorities. The release noted that a fair and just resolution of the issues associated with vending in the city must take account of a number of factors, including the livelihood of vendors and their families.

The GTUC contended that it is not sufficient for the authorities to focus their effort on policing the streets to ensure that they are kept clear of vendors since "it is eminently possible to make adequate provision for the vendors to ply their trade within the ambit of the law."

The GTUC added: "while it is recognised that vending must be pursued within legal confines, one cannot help but ponder the irony of a society in which persons who enrich themselves by illegal means appear immune from legal sanction while the full force of the law is unleashed against persons who have chosen to earn an honest living".

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