President intervenes in Water Street vendors’ issue
- Temporary storage facility to be provided

Guyana Chronicle
June 21, 2003

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(GINA) -- President Bharrat Jagdeo, following representation by various groups, vendors and the Leader of the Opposition, has once again come to the rescue of Water Street vendors in the City.

At a meeting with Mayor Hamilton Green yesterday, an arrangement was reached on the way forward.

Following a Court order, the vendors selling on Water Street were forced to vacate the pavement with their goods and stalls by 18:00 hrs daily.

Failure to do so results in the City Council seizing the stalls.

The vendors’ response has been a loud outcry about the need for a Storage area after closure time.

“We reached an agreement that the vendors would be allowed to store their goods and stalls temporarily at the Stelling View site, pending other arrangements being put in place, so that they can store their goods and stalls… I think this would give us some breathing space as we try to definitively resolve this issue,” he said.

During the interim arrangement, the vendors, President Jagdeo emphasized, will be responsible for the security of their property. The Court order will still be carried out.

The President has again been asked to intervene in the matter by the vendors and Leader of the Opposition Robert Corbin, and he reluctantly agreed.

“Guyanese should be allowed to earn a livelihood and I am very concerned, especially the plight of the small vendors and those vendors who are single parents and that is why I reluctantly got involved again,” he said.

Following the Court’s decision just over a year ago, in favour of the City Council to have the vendors leave the pavement by 20:00 hrs, the Municipality took stringent measures to enforce the Court’s ruling. The vendors strongly opposed the enforcement and sought the President’s intervention in the issue.

President Jagdeo attended a meeting at the City Council building and spoke to several of the vendors. All parties agreed on an arrangement that was expected at that time to resolve the issue.

According to the President, he said he expressed his willingness to help, on the condition that the vendors accept that this is a City Council matter and that Central Government does not have jurisdiction to preside over it.

In this context, the President sought the Council’s cooperation not to strictly enforce the Court’s ruling, but rather to show some degree of leniency. Subsequently, arrangements were made to acquire a plot of land for the vendors to store their possessions, namely the plot of land on Water Street owned by Toolsie Persaud Limited.

“We tried to negotiate a purchase price from him but he was very unreasonable. The Government in 1989 sold this plot of land for $2.7M. Today he wants in excess of $400M for the same plot of land and we thought that he was being very unreasonable. We offered a very substantial price for the land, and after those negotiations broke down, we moved to the Court,” he said.

The matter is still pending. “I am very very disappointed that until today the Courts have not dealt with this matter the way that they should have dealt with it. The Chancellor and Chief Justice must take some steps in this regard as far too long, many national issues are lying in the Court. I keeping hearing that there are not adequate numbers of judges and magistrates, but yet there are a series of postponements and adjournments given by judges. Where issues of national concern are involved, they should have an expeditious hearing,” he stressed.

The Head of State clarified that he is not seeking to prejudice the Court’s ruling into the matter, but is very disturbed at the pace of the court proceedings.

“I am not asking for a particular outcome of the case. I am asking for an expeditious hearing. But this matter has been languishing in the court for too long,” he asserted.

“We are still moving ahead and that property will be acquired,” he added.

On Wednesday a group of vendors went to the Office of the President to seek an audience with President Jagdeo. However, he was unavailable and they met Minister within the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development Clinton Collymore and Information Liaison to the President Robert Persaud.

The vendors contended that their key concern is a place to store their goods and stalls after 18:00hrs and hence, the meeting with the Mayor was arranged to arrive at some solution that would bring relief to the vendors, and at the same respect the Court’s decision.

“I am very concerned that people say the Government does not care. We are very concerned about the vendors too. We are concerned about law and order.

That is why the Government has taken significant steps to acquire at a substantial cost this property from Toolsie Persaud so that can be there…and I still hope that the courts will take expeditious action in relation to this matter- the acquisition of the Toolsie Persaud land,” the President said.

Mayor Green explained that the Municipality is very concerned with enhancing the appearance of the City and hence, the Court Order must be enforced.

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