Court of Appeal ruling against vendors poses dilemma for city
City Council Round-Up
By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
May 5, 2003

Related Links: Articles on Georgetown
Letters Menu Archival Menu

The city council has found itself between a rock and a hard place following a judgment recently in the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court has ruled in favour of the council in the matter between the municipality and Water Street vendors.

Some 50 vendors had appealed a decision by the Full Court in May 2001 ordering them to remove their goods and stalls on Water Street at the close of each day of business.

The vendors had entered into an agreement with the council under which permission was granted to them to sell their goods on stands in Water Street between 7 am and 6 pm each day... "in consideration for the sum of $500 per week to be paid by each stallholder." This was on condition that as licensees they should ensure that the stalls and every vestige of trading activity are removed from the area at the close of each day of business.

During 1995 to 1996 the vendors began to leave their goods and stalls on the pavements and parapets of Water Street and on February 2000 the council informed the vendors by way of written notices that all structures found on the parapets or roadway after 6 pm would be removed.

Action was taken by the council to remove the stalls that had been left standing after 6 pm. On March 16, 2000 the vendors filed an action against City Hall, obtaining an ex-parte injunction from former High Court Judge Desmond Burch-Smith. Since then the matter had been engaging the attention of the courts including the Full Court.

In the Court of Appeal judgment, which has been circulated to city 'mothers' and 'fathers' Justice Ian Chang drew the court's attention to a case in India in 1993, where it was held "that the right of trade on the streets did not extend to a citizen occupying or squatting on any specific pitch, but merely permitted a citizen to hawk on street pavements by moving continually from one place to another..."

At last Monday's statutory meeting of the council, Town Clerk Beulah Williams in a memorandum to all councillors outlined what she sees as the likely problems for the council to enforce the Appeal court's decision.

These are: the council lacks the human resources necessary to fully enforce the decision and over the period the situation on areas of Water Street has become more crowded. The council lacks the storage facility required in the event of seizure of commodities and lastly the council lacks the equipment and vehicles to deal with the removal of structures and large quantities of goods.

The Town Clerk has recommended that the council should serve notice to vendors giving them a month's notice to comply with the licence, that the constabulary be given one month to put up a proposal to address the situation as it relates to the court action and that the city engineer's department also be given one month to address the situation in the event of non-compliance by vendors as it relates to the removal of structures and goods. Deputy Mayor Robert Williams has proposed a special meeting of the council to discuss the Appeal Court's decision and suggested that other stakeholders get involved in finding a solution.

Flouting council's decision

The Town Clerk was on the receiving end of some scathing criticisms over the handling of a newspaper report on the theft last month at the residence of the deputy mayor. It was the consensus that she did not ensure that the council's Public Relations Officer (PRO) Royston King dealt properly with the matter, after it was agreed by the full council that the newspaper be brought to book.

The cause for concern was as a result of a story in the Kaieteur News last month alleging that thieves had broken into the residence of the deputy mayor who is also chairman of the council's Finance Committee and had stolen money and vouchers belonging to the council.

At the statutory meeting on April 14, 2003 the deputy mayor Robert William explained that no money belonging to the council had been stolen from his residence and that the thieves had taken away no more than 3 to 4 vouchers which he had taken home to be signed... a normal practice.

After much debate councillors on hearing an explanation from the chairman of the Finance Committee agreed that the PRO should seek a retraction of the contents of the story from the newspaper.

When the mayor enquired last Monday if this was done he was told that the PRO had spoken to someone at the newspaper while he was in the Town Clerk's office last month, but the Town Clerk was unable to give any details on what transpired... and who was the person spoken to at Kaieteur News.

The plot thickened, when both the mayor and his deputy revealed to councillors that at separate times each of them spoke to the publisher and editor of the newspaper and they were told that no such request was forthcoming from city hall.

The deputy mayor as if in disgust declared... "I am asking that nothing further be done by the PRO on this matter..." while the 'chief citizen' wanted to know if a telephone conversation was the way to handle the matter...

The leader of the People's National Congress Reform on the council Oscar Clarke said he was not impressed with the Town Clerk's explanation... "such matters must be dealt with dispatch..." was his rebuke.

The People's Progressive Party/C's Fitzgerald Agard who is the chief spokesman for his party around the horseshoe-shaped table said all the administration has to do was to issue a statement saying that none of the money stolen from the deputy mayor's residence belonged to the council. The issue remains unresolved.

The truth hurts

PNCR councillor Zaman Ali has a bee in his bonnet over a section of the last City Council Round Up carried in this newspaper in which mention was made of the $30,000 monthly allowance as well as servings of food and refreshment to 28 of the 30 councillors. The PNCR councilor whose rare interventions never fail to get a humorous response from the mayor was of the view that the reference to food and money was disgraceful and "gutter journalism". He called on the council to send a letter to the Editor of the newspaper reflecting his objections. "The points you raised will be taken for notification...", said Mayor Green.

Councillor Ali you'll be well advised to `let sleeping dogs lie'.

Site Meter