Regent St vendors to occupy mall by Monday

By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
December 7, 2000

An impromptu meeting convened by the Mayor & City Council yesterday saw tempers flaring and angry words exchanged, but in the final analysis a common consensus was reached, that the displaced Regent Street vendors would be relocated to the Merriman's Mall by Monday.

According to Deputy Mayor, Robert Williams, who acted as the mayor in the absence of Mayor Hamilton Green, the meeting was summoned specifically to deal with vending during the festive season. This, he said encompassed all vending in the city.

He said that after a meeting of the Town Clerk, Clerk of Markets and City Engineer's Department, two documents were drafted and circulated to all councillors--one headed, 'Relocation of Vendors' and a supporting one headed, 'Vending - Christmas period'. As a result, he said, the meeting was called so that the councillors could peruse the documents and reach a consensus.

The first document, in keeping with the meeting held with President Bharrat Jagdeo, stated that a return to Regent Street by the vendors was not a matter for consideration and their relocation to the mall between Orange Walk and Cummings Street, and a small section beyond, should begin from early this month. The proposal recognised that the wholesale vendors were the initial vendors there and that provision would be made for them. The council was expected to meet with the wholesalers today to sensitize them on the issue.

The document proposed the relocation of the approximately 248 Regent Street vendors to the mall on stalls 6' x 8' in two sections facing each other with appropriate space in the centre for consumers. The number of vendors was in accordance with City Hall records and cards issued in 1995. According to the document City Hall would also ensure that the 60 vendors from Regent Street, who will occupy stalls in Bourda Street and Orange Walk did not utilize other vending spots, either directly or by proxy. However, this issue required the speedy discharge of the injunction obtained by Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) against the council.

Urgent discussions must now take place with the vendors' committee or representatives on suitable structures to ensure uniformity, while maintaining the aesthetics of the area. It was decided that initially, movable stalls could be used. The question of orderliness and sanitation would also be addressed.

Williams said that if the council did not meet the vendors by today, it would work in accordance with the list it had on the allocation of stalls and would ensure that the proposal was implemented.

PNC councillor, Desmond Moses, was the first to rise to his feet asking the question "where do we go from here?" He contended that it was not clear whether the mall would be ready for the vendors and said that council ought to be sympathetic to them. He recalled that the council had passed a motion proposing that the vendors occupy a few properties in the city. However, Moses said that the Local Government minister's reply to the motion indicated that there was no sympathy towards the vendors or the council. He suggested that the council help the vendors to sell at specific locations, but not allow them to erect structures. He noted that there was a husker's licence that could be issued to them permitting them to walk and sell and not be harassed by members of the City Constabulary.

A Good and Green Guyana councillor, Patricia Chase-Green, in an angry rebuttal to Moses's remarks, pointed out that the council had in no way stopped the vendors from walking and selling. She said that the vendors had been blatantly walking with their benches and sitting on the pavement for hours and this was not in accordance in the ruling of the court. She admonished Moses not to take politics into the council. "Deal with it in a professional manner, don't play politics," she warned.

Leader of the PNC councillors, Oscar Clark suggested that there be a temporary rearrangement facilitating the vendors to sell at this time of the year. He commented that it was unfair to put them out of business at this time, and appealed for them to be given an "ease".

PPP councillor, Parabhadial Sattan, noted that Moses had not been travelling along Regent Street or he would have noticed that some vendors still had stalls in front of Acme Photo Studio. He made it clear that he would not support anyone who did not respect a court order.

He also said that Moses must not have read the minister's letter thoroughly or he would have seen that the minister said that one of the property owners had already visited his lawyer in objection to the vendors occupying his property.

Town Clerk Beulah Williams noted that according to the city by-laws even if the vendors did walk and sell they were not allowed to disturb anyone using the pavement. She said that they should have small trays hanging around their necks and no one should push a perambulator unless there was a baby in it.

It was also decided that for the Christmas season, in an effort to satisfy additional items on display and sold in municipal markets, the council would accommodate sellers in certain sections and open spaces including wide passageways in the markets. It also extended the opening hours of markets from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm from December 7, to 15, and to 6:00 pm from December 16 to 22. On December 23, the closing time will be extended up to 8:00 pm and on December 24 to 10:00 am.

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