City demolishes Camp St structure
Vendors moved from near hospital By Edlyn Benfield and Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
May 18, 2002

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The City Engineer's Department yesterday demolished a section of a partly constructed building owned by RNK Investment Ltd at 241 Camp Street and seized the property of 16 vendors in front of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

Speaking to Stabroek News moments after the demolition and removal of sand and stones by the M&CC, R.N. Khan said that he had received clearance from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) and had only just commenced building. He said that in January he had started to build but stopped after a little while because he was experiencing problems accessing a plan. Khan said that on Thursday he was given the go-ahead by the CHPA and began work immediately. "I know that I was given the go-ahead by the CHPA so I didn't go the Mayor and City Council (M&CC). But today they come and remove all the stuff. I wasn't informed of anything," Khan said.

He disclosed that the building was to accommodate a gift centre, offices and living quarters. Khan also said that the stone and sand that were removed by M&CC was valued some $100,000.

The M&CC workers descended upon his building shortly after 10 am yesterday and during their operation curious bystanders stood at the corner of the street, observing. Three members of the City Constabulary, armed with long guns, stood guard in front of the premises while the operator of the bulldozer did his job.

The contractor for the building told this newspaper that his men were at work when the contingent from City Hall arrived and ordered them to down their tools forthwith. The contractor said his men complied and shortly after the bulldozer drove up and started to demolish the building and remove the sand and stone.

The contractor and his workers lamented what they described as an unprofessional move by the council, stating that they should have at least notified the owner of the building.

Meanwhile, at the GPHC, a few vendors related that at about 10 am, ranks of the City Constabulary descended without warning and carried off most of, and in some instances, all the belongings of several vendors.

"Everybody hustlin' fuh a dollar and they jus' making it hard," one woman who told this newspaper that she had been selling at that location for more than five years, complained.

The woman, who sells soft drinks, said that the city police had taken away the freezer in which she kept the drinks and all its contents.

"Dey don't want people fuh make a 'onest livin', we must starve or t'ief," another angry vendor declared.

Another vendor complained that any attempt to claim the seized products from the City Constabulary was likely to result in that vendor being placed before the court and charged with "encumbering/blocking a public pathway", and thereafter being placed on bail in the sum of $5,000 or ordered to pay a fine in the said amount. The man said that if that vendor was unable to raise the stipulated sum, the city police would confiscate goods valued at that amount.

Stabroek News also learnt from a food vendor, who had also been selling there for over four years, that a great number of the hospital staff including doctors, nurses and administrators purchased meals from them. They indicated that they had to remove their stands some distance from where they had originally been located and continued to sell their food.

"We can't take it back home and let it spoil. They [the city police] being very unreasonable," the woman said.

Meanwhile, the vendors disclosed that according to what they had learned, taxi drivers were soon to be targeted.

Morris Braithwaite, a vendor, told this newspaper that the vendors provided an invaluable service to patients and visitors to the hospital. He said that some of the vendors had managed to save their stock by acting quickly on seeing the city police.

Some hospital staffers expressed resentment at the action taken by the city police as they said that the vendors provided a relatively creditable service, since the GPHC lacked the convenience of a canteen.

GHPC Public Relations Officer Kwame McCoy said that management had repeatedly expressed its disgust about the vending and parking nuisances outside the hospital. The PRO said that in keeping with the institution's moves to improve facilities, a meeting, attended by 11 persons including representatives of the GPHC, City Hall, the Guyana Road Safety Association (GRSA), and the traffic headquarters of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), was convened in the GPHC boardroom.

According to McCoy, acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the GPHC, Mahase Pertab, had explained at the meeting that the hospital had no objection to vending and parking in principle, however, it had become necessary to have the vendors and taxi drivers removed, (particularly from the entrances), as traffic taking patients in and out of the institution was often impeded. He said that the officials present from City Hall, the GRSA and the GPF (Traffic) had then assured the management of their willingness to cooperate by playing their respective roles in ending the nuisance.

McCoy also stated that occasionally horns would be sounded in what was strictly a silent zone and heated verbal exchanges between vendors and/or the vendors and their customers resulted in unnecessary disturbance to some hospital staff and patients. Attempts to contact City Hall public relations officials Stephen Hall and Orin Richardson proved unsuccessful but another official stated that even if central government had granted permission for construction, approval still had to be sought from City Hall and inspections carried out by the relevant health and sanitation agencies.