Surveying begins on Water Street vendors' site
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2002

THE Government has commenced surveying on the Toolsie Persaud site in Water Street, Georgetown, which it has identified for the relocation of Water Street vendors.

Officials from the Ministry of Public Works were at the site a week ago, conducting a surveying exercise under the supervision of Technical Advisor, Mr. Walter Willis.

Mr Willis said that work on the structure to accommodate some 400 vendors will commence immediately after the surveying exercise.

After identifying the spot, the Government had projected a September 1, 2001 deadline to relocate the vendors. But that date did not materialise because the owners and the administration could not agree on a price.

Government subsequently moved to acquire the plot through the amended Acquisition of Lands for Public Purposes Act 2001, which was approved in the National Assembly on August 16 last.

The amended Act paved the way for Government to lawfully acquire land for public works whether or not there is any building or erection on the land.

The acquisition of the plot has its genesis in a specially-convened meeting President Jagdeo had with the vendors on June 19, 2000 at City Hall, in a bid to find a solution to the decade-old problem, which at times had resulted in serious clashes between members of the City Constabulary and the vendors.

The vendors, who have been engaged in a long Court battle with the Council, were ordered by the Court to remove from the pavements by June 13, 2000, but were later granted an extension.

It was after the extension was granted that the President met with the sellers and floated the idea.

The proposal by the President to approach Toolsie Persaud Limited for the land to use as an alternate vending spot was widely accepted by the vendors, some of whom braved the inclement weather to accompany Mr Jagdeo on an on-site visit.

The acceptance was a vast contrast to the earlier rejection of two proposals by the City Council -- the preparation of a section of Merriman Mall, between Cummings and Light Streets for which $8M was expended, and the abandoned Stelling View Market, also known as `Donkey City'.

At that City Hall meeting, President Jagdeo told the vendors that he was prepared to "disregard protocol, disregard all those little petty rules that are there if it means solving people's problems". And he pledged to work along with the City Council to find a definite solution to the problem.

He noted that the `patch work' done over the years in attempting to find a solution did not work, adding, "We have to find a solution that will allow people to continue with their livelihood, and at the same time bring some law and order and respect for the rules and by-laws of the city."

The Stelling View Market facility, described as a `white elephant' because vendors have abandoned it claiming that it does not generate business, was one of three shopping facilities constructed by the previous administration in a bid to eliminate vending on the city streets.

The others, which are functioning, are the original Vendor's Arcade or `Cheap Street' obliquely opposite the soon-to-be-established site, and Merriman Mall.

Other proposals, which were floated and rejected, included acquiring the former Guyana Stores building in the said vicinity and converting it into a two-storeyed shopping mall, and to allow vending across the canal in Commerce Street. (WENDELLA DAVIDSON)