Ministry: PNC/R remarks on Water St. vendor issue hypocritical

Guyana Chronicle
August 8, 2003

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The Ministry of Local Government says it is appalled at what it describes as "the blatant hypocrisy" of the People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) over the issue of regulating street vending in Georgetown.

The ministry was responding to remarks the main opposition party made at its weekly news conference Thursday in which it lamented the failure of the Government to reach an agreement with Toolsie Persaud Limited (TPL) over its acquisition of the company's land in Water Street for vendors who have been occupying pavements on both sides of the street.

PNC/R officials at the news conference also called for discussions between the vendors and the Georgetown City Council on the possible development of the area into a modern shopping mall and urged Government to pay full compensation to TPL for its property.

In its response, the Local Government Ministry pointed out that the PNC/R has adopted this posture, simply because the People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government has been able to find a solution to this problem in a meaningful and comprehensive way.

Adds the ministry:
The PPP/C Government takes this opportunity to welcome the decision of the High Court in the matter of the case initiated by Toolsie Persaud Inc. where the Water Street tract of land is concerned. The High Court has handed down a decision to the effect that government must pay the sum of G$250 Mln to Toolsie Persaud Inc for the property.

It should be recalled that widespread street vending lawlessness was nurtured by the PNC regime during the entirety of its undemocratic sojourn in office. Legitimate businesses suffered tremendously under that regime, some of which had to close down, due to the unregulated activity of street and pavement vendors. One also recalls that a portion of Regent Street (from Hinck Street to Water Street) has been closed to vehicular traffic having been converted into a Vendors Arcade.

The Toolsie Persaud tract was originally prime waterfront commercial land owned by the State. Under the undemocratic Desmond Hoyte regime when that administration was in a serious financial plight, it was sold to Toolsie Persaud Ltd for a paltry G$2.7Mln. Despite promises made by the firm to develop the tract nothing was done for nearly two decades. In the meantime, the vending crisis grew to overwhelming proportions.

At this point the PPP/C Administration stepped in to rescue Georgetown from further chaos and to find a place for the street vendors to ply their trade in peace and comfort of mind. City Hall had also written to the Ministry of Local Government, proposing that government take steps to enable the municipality to utilize vacant plots of land in the City for the purpose of accommodating the street sellers.

The acquisition of the vacant property owned by Toolsie Persaud Ltd could be deemed to have stemmed from consistent requests by the Georgetown City Council. There has been no evidence for some three years, to indicate that the PNC section of the City Council was against the decision of the City Council, to seek the acquisition of vacant tracts to facilitate vendors. PNC mouthpieces seem to have very short institutional memories.

Central Government addressing the gravity of the situation set up a negotiating team to open talks with the management of Toolsie Persaud Inc. on the acquisition. An offer of G$100Mln was made to the firm, which countered with a demand for $400Mln. The firm eventually moved to the High Court with several Writs. The High Court has now handed down a judgment, which the Central Government has decided to honour.

It is wickedness on the part of the PNC/R to be fulminating otherwise in the media. The bottom line is that the chaos created by unregulated street vending should be laid at the doorstep of the PNC. And that it is the PPP/C, which is bringing a semblance of order and good governance to the Capital City of Georgetown. This of course is being achieved in full cooperation with the City Hall administration.

The Ministry of Local Government has been in constant touch with City Hall and the street vendors at various levels and a general consensus has been achieved on the way forward. The PNC/R is being downright mischievous.

Order is returning to the City. The least the PNC/R should do in these circumstances is to offer its unstinted support to the valiant and lawful efforts of the Mayor and City Council and the Central Government. The PNC/R's case as propagandized at its weekly show at Sophia on August 7, 2003, teems with inaccuracies, half-truths and outright lies.

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